StartupAUS raises cash, seeks CEO to promote tech entrepreneurs

Startup advocacy groups receives sponsorship from Xero, River City Labs

StartupAUS will raise money and appoint a CEO to better drive its mission to promote startups and entrepreneurship in Australia.

“This is a great time in Australia to be a technology entrepreneur and we want to do everything we can to support it,” according to Bill Bartee, a StartupAUS board member and managing director of Blackbird Ventures.

StartupAUS was founded in 2013 by several big players in Australia's startup scene, including representatives from Google, Fishburners, River City Labs and Blackbird Ventures.

Board members originally served on a voluntary basis, but the group has decided to begin fundraising, Bartee told Computerworld Australia.

“When we started StartupAUS, one of the things we were faced with was, how do we make this an effective organisation? Because there’s plenty of organisations out there that never get anything done.

“We really had to run ourselves like a startup, because we didn’t have a budget – we didn’t have any money.”

Working on a volunteer, unpaid basis has worked well, but the group needs funding and a full-time leader to take things to the next level, he said.

“We got to the point now where we think in order to be more effective we need to bring in a CEO to drive this on a more day-to-day basis, because all of us who are on the board are volunteers and we all have other jobs to do.”

So far, StartupAUS has received outside sponsorship from Xero and co-working space River City Labs, and more sponsorships will be announced later, said Bartee.

“We’ve gone out to the technology companies around the country and we’ve talked to them about what we’re doing. We’ve gotten a fair amount of interest from people who are aligned with the strategy and who are willing to financially help us achieve the goals.”

The yet-to-be-named CEO will act as the spokesperson for StartupAUS and drive the group’s agenda, said Bartee. Responsibilities will include fund raising and lobbying government on policies and legislation, he said.

The CEO will also play a major part in preparing updates to the group’s annual Crossroads report about the state of Australia’s startup ecosystem, and in spearheading the group’s annual Startup Spring event series across the country.

StartupAUS has commenced looking for a CEO and hopes to make a decision quickly, though Bartee said it could take “anywhere from a day to six months” depending on the quality of available candidates.

In addition, StartupAUS plans to soon relaunch its website to provide a more modern and interactive experience for visitors, said Bartee.

The new site will be easier to navigate and more clearly highlight the group’s objectives and what it’s working on, he said. In addition, the new site will include a tool to make it easier to gather feedback from the community, he said.

Bartee said he is satisfied with what StartupAUS has accomplished, but believes there’s still great room for improvement.

“We can do more on what we have been doing,” he said. “Anything that we can do to promote technology entrepreneurship in Australia, we want to do – and do more of it.”

One priority area for 2015 listed in a board update dated 13 February is to ensure “appropriate treatment of Startups by local, state and federal governments.”

Bartee said StartupAUS wants to ensure the legislative framework at both a state and federal level supports – and does not inhibit – growth of entrepreneurs and their companies.

Last year, StartupAUS pushed hard to change tax rules around employee share option plans. The federal government is now preparing legislation on this issue in an effort to make it easier for startups to attract and retain talent.

Also, Bartee said StartupAUS will push for continued support of startups by Commercialisation Australia, or “Accelerating Commercialisation” as it has been recently renamed.

“The government is doing a lot of great things,” said Bartee. “We just want to make sure that there isn’t any silly legislation that roadblocks the growth of this stuff.”

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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Tags startupsfundingFishburnersBlackbird VenturesRiver City LabsStartupAUSStartupentrepreneurshipBill BarteelobbyingGoogletech startupsAustralia

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