Finding investors is essentially the same no matter where you find yourself. The names may change, but the game remains the same. You need a great idea, a strong business plan, some decent salesmanship, and a little bit of luck. Australia is no different.
In every corner of the globe, investors come in basically four flavours: Venture Capitalists, Angel investors, accelerators, and incubators. Let’s head down under and find what you need…
Joining the Community
Australia is big, with a relatively small population. Any community (be it hobbyists, artists, entrepreneurs, or whatever) is generally close-knit as a result. Make sure you are out “there” and part of it.
There are several websites that aim to connect people to the Australian entrepreneurial community. This portal connects entrepreneurs, mentors, startup investors, and incubator firms...all in a one-stop online location. Get out there, participate in relevant discussions, and make yourself visible. AngelEd is an annual (most recently November 2013) conference that aims to put Australian entrepreneurs in touch with the investors they need to take it to the next level. Another great place to look is PushStart (a “community organisation for Australian startups”), which brings people together and fosters new connections.
The same as a VC anywhere, the Australian venture capitalists are in the business of making money, usually for themselves and the people with money in the shared pool. They are looking for exciting, dynamic startups that show tremendous potential. They invest, receive a certain percentage of the overall equity/ownership, and may or may not require a seat on the board and/or veto power. Know exactly what the expectation is before signing off on anything. The Australian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association Limited can help connect you with VC firms all across the country. Their “Looking for Capital” section has invaluable information for any entrepreneur, and walks you through the entire process.
Other Useful Links
Blackbird Ventures (Based out of Sydney and specializing in internet startups with an eye on the global market)
SydVentures (works with both entrepreneurs and investors)
Yuuwa Capital (Based out of Perth)
Wealthy individuals - or more typically a group of wealthy individuals - looking to grow their own portfolio and give back to the industry or community. An angel investor can be very involved, or virtually hands-off...everyone is different.
The Australian Association of Angel Investors is a safe and reliable place to begin your search, as its members have to pay a yearly membership fee (thereby demonstrating that they are serious about angel investment) and agree to a code of conduct and ethics. You can check out their membership listing, read up on recent news and trends within the angel investment community, and generally become better educated and knowledgeable about angel investment in Australia.
Innovation Bay is another fantastic resource if you’re considering this route. In addition to putting entrepreneurs and angel investors in touch with each other, it hosts frequent events (Speaker Breakfasts, Focus Dinners, Angel Dinners) that allow networking with people that can help. Angel Investors tend to invest locally, so best to look in your particular city or area.
Other Useful Links
Western Australian Angel Investors
Accelerators and Incubators
These two options are very similar. You apply for a “spot” within the program, and if you’re accepted, you will likely receive a small seed influx ($15,000 or more), shared space in an office environment with other applicants, some business training, mentorship with local professionals, and the chance to pitch to top level investors at the end of the program (typically 90 days for accelerators, and 6 months or more for incubators). In exchange for all that, you forfeit a percentage of ownership in your company (typically around 5-8%, although it could be more). The number of successful companies that got their start with either an incubator or accelerator is fast growing, and as such, the competition for available spots is fierce. You need to present your “A-game” when it comes to applying for one...hold nothing back. They are available all across Australia, and a Google search for either the term or the name of your specific city will generate at least a few options. Startmate in Sydney is a large and successful example that invests in startups with an eye on the global tech market. Its program includes TWO pitch or demo days - one in Sydney and another in Silicon Valley in the US.
Other Useful Links
VC, angel, incubator, or accelerator. Australia has them all if you know where to look...just don’t forget to start with friends and family first before you go looking for outside sources of capital. Australia has a growing reputation as a great place to launch a startup, and should absolutely be on your radar as an entrepreneur.