Prominent members of the local startup sector say an offer from tech billionaire Elon Musk to fix South Australia’s energy “woes” within 100 days could be the start of “something epic”.
The offer unfolded through a Twitter exchange between Musk and Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes on Friday afternoon, and over the weekend, Musk had conversations with both South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill, and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
“This little interplay could be the beginning of something epic for Australia and certainly South Australia,” says Vinomofo co-founder Andre Eikmeier.
Eikmeier said in a statement that with the support of the right people in business and politics, “big things” can happen.
Musk’s offer has sparked widespread excitement across Adelaide and Australia’s broader startup sector.
“Lack of electricity goes to the heart of every individual in their home, but for startup businesses that often work around the clock, lack of energy doesn’t just wipe out revenue during the blackout, it saps the confidence of customers, partners and suppliers,” Startup Adelaide managing director Jenny Vandyke said in a statement.
Vandyke said the installation would be invaluable for entrepreneurs such as Proviso’s Luke Howes and Happyco’s Jindou Lee who are growing teams in Adelaide.
“Without reliable energy we risk the tide turning the other way,” Vandyke said.
In the same statement, Lee said the offer “spark” needed to put South Australia on the map.
“In Elon Musk and Mike Cannon Brookes we have two world class leaders looking to move the South Australian economy forward in leaps and bounds,” Lee said.
Steve Barrett, director of SouthStart and chief executive of GoReception, said of Tesla and Atlassian’s involvement: “Let them innovate”.
“Tesla and Atlassian are the giants that can move mountains,” he said.
How it all started
On Friday afternoon Cannon-Brookes tweeted out a Fairfax article that reported Tesla’s vice-president for energy products Lydon Rive said the company could solve South Australia’s energy crisis within 100 days by delivering 100-300 megawatt hours of its batteries in the state.
Cannon-Brookes went straight to Tesla chief executive Elon Musk to clarify how realistic this claim was, and the conversation quickly escalated.
For businesses wanting to know how to best market themselves on LinkedIn, now you can get advice straight from the horse’s mouth.
LinkedIn has released an ebook about marketing on the platform, called “The Secret Sauce”, and LinkedIn expert John Nemo has sat down and dissected the ebook to uncover some helpful tips.
“Long story short: LinkedIn wants you doing more business on the platform,” Nemo writes on his LinkedIn Riches blog.
Content is (still) king
Nemo says LinkedIn’s ebook highlights the growing prominence of content from businesses on LinkedIn, which has become much more than a place to only post a personal resume of a company’s description.
“LinkedIn encourages users to post and share content, and it’s working – there are 9 billion content impressions per week on the network’s news feed,” Nemo writes.
LinkedIn a numbers game, but word choice matters
If your business has any juicy statistics to share, LinkedIn may well be the place to share them; according to LinkedIn, content posts that contain statistics received 162% more impressions, and a click-through rate that was 37% higher than other posts.
And when it comes to the words you use in your LinkedIn posts, there are some that are more effective at getting someone to click. For example, LinkedIn says using the word “guide” instead of “ebook” improved the click-through rate of posts by 100%.
Alongside this, Nemo says businesses should use the platform’s in-depth targeting methods to find specific groups of users and then craft posts with words just for them.
“Make sure the headline of your content uses their job title or industry name along with a benefit [the users] want,” writes Nemo.
“For example, if you were targeting business coaches, you could write a headline like this: ‘3 Ways Business Coaches Can Get New Clients Using LinkedIn.'”
Short and sweet
Finally, both LinkedIn and Nemo recommend keeping posts short so users aren’t turned off.
“The plethora of content being shared on LinkedIn right now also means that the busy professional simply cannot digest all the information available to them each day,” Nemo says.
Posts that are “short, sweet and intriguing” will perform the best, Nemo says, drawing on LinkedIn’s finding that status updates with 150 characters or fewer have an 18% higher engagement rate.
“As you craft a LinkedIn status update, think about it similarly to a Tweet on Twitter,” says Nemo.
“Keep it short, concise, punchy and then link to more.”
Queensland startup founder Evie Willsteed is on a mission to create better alternatives for fashion lovers in an industry where the profit of many popular brands come at what she says are “horrifying” costs.
“I watched a few documentaries about the fashion industry and thought: oh, that’s horrifying I can’t partake in this anymore,” she tells StartupSmart.
Willsteed is one of four participants taking on Australia’s $28.5 billion fashion industry in QUT Creative Enterprise Australia’s five-month Fashion Accelerator, which will culminate in a pitch before industry heavyweights like former David Jones chief executive Paul Zahra and Vogue Australia editor-in-chief Edwina McCann.
Willsteed describes her venture, Genkstacy, as “an ethical street wear label”.
The brand takes inspiration from Japanese street style, hip hop and New York fashion but is focused on organic, ethical and sustainable manufacturing processes. It will launch near the end of 2017.
After completing a Certificate 3 in fashion, Willsteed says she became so disenfranchised with the industry that she almost gave up on it altogether.
“At the time, I was quite disillusioned with the unethical elements of the fashion industry,” she says.
“Not knowing how to get around those, I decided I was going to leave fashion for a little bit.”
However, the founder was brought back to the sector while studying fine arts, when a project on organic cotton led her to the discovery of an increasing number of sustainable alternatives in cloth and materials.
Having spent the past year on research, Willsteed decided to apply to the fashion tech accelerator after hitting a wall “on the resourcing side of things”.
But one month into the program, she says she’s confident about bringing the brand to market this year. Other labels expected to graduate with Genkstacy include Suzzi K, Gloria Dulcie and Miss Summer.
With the launch of her brand, Willsteed wants to build a community of followers who share and live by ethical and sustainable fashion.
“Day to day, we’re working on our own businesses and applying things that we’ve learned in our mentoring workshops which we have once a week,” Willsteed says.
“We get these amazing mentors who come in and teach us from their life experience.
“I’m most excited about getting more of a clear direction on where to take my business.”
Two Victorian social workers who are taking on a multibillion-dollar market have expended their TripAdvisor-inspired platform for disability services into New South Wales.
Victorian startup Clickability, founded by Aviva Beecher Kelk and Jenna Moffat, serves two ends of the market: people living with a disability and service providers. After launching in Victoria in 2014, it has now opened its doors in a second state.
People with a disability have choice and control in the services they purchase “for the first time ever”, says Beecher Kelk.
“As a consequence there’s a marketplace,” she says.
Clickability estimates the market opportunity to be in the vicinity of “$40 billion” considering that by 2019, 460,000 people around Australia will have access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), which by that time will have a budget in excess of $22 billion a year.
The idea for the Clickability platform was sparked from a fundamental problem Beecher Kelk and Moffat experienced as social workers when working with clients suffering from mental health issues and acquired brain injuries.
“A big part of my role was to help people link into the services that they needed,” Beecher Kelk tells StartupSmart.
But instead of being able to freely share information about the services available, the pair had to first assess clients for eligibility on criteria like age and circumstance to determine if they should help or turn them away.
“We were gatekeeping information from people … which is a really disempowering way to work with people,” says Beecher Kelk.
Looking at the success of information and review platforms in other industries like hospitality and travel, Beecher Kelk and Moffat realised they could use this model to make information about disability services public and more easily accessible.
After completing a successful trial in Geelong alongside a pilot for the NDIS in 2014, they began growing the platform and team. Beecher Kelk says Clickability is now operated by about 10 volunteers and paid staff from around Australia.
“We built the original site using our personal savings and we received [$10,000] from Macquarie Group through the School for Social Entrepreneurs that funded our pilot,” says Beecher Kelk.
“GoGet contributed $450 towards our transport to and from Geelong during the pilot phase [and] we received a joint Social Change Fellowship from Westpac Bicentennial Foundation, which supported our professional development.
“We [also] have such a huge network of advisors and mentors in the field, everyone from lawyers and accountants to senior management.”
The platform now features 1000 service provider listings and 500 reviews, she says, and it’s visited about 200 times a day.
“We have over three times as many registered users as we did a year ago,” Beecher Kelk says.
Businesses, startups and operators can list on the platform on a subscription basis. Fees are determined by the size and need of each company but start at $460 a year.
With businesses in the care sector now seeing the people they serve as customers, Beecher Kelk says the market is being transformed into one where service providers must focus on building strong brands and valuable experiences for clients.
“It’s a brand new experience to be a customer in this sector and to have customer rights,” she says.
“In the past there has been a huge amount of retribution for giving feedback.”
As the Clickability platform continues to grow, Beecher Kelk says the goal is to feature a wider range of services and businesses that cater to the large population of people living with disabilities across Australia and New Zealand.
“Our vision is for consumer rights to not be a big deal for anyone and for all consumers of all services to have full access to everything that they need and should be entitled to,” she says.
“We’d love to have this directory expand into mainstream services like local pools [and] to advocate for society to be inclusive.”
An Australian medtech startup has entered a four-month accelerator in one of the world’s largest medical centres, after completing the Melbourne Accelerator Program and raising $1 million in 2016.
The Texas Medical Centre in the US spans over 4.6 million square metres, with over 9000 beds across several facilities and 10 million patient encounters a year. Nearly $4 billion ($US3 billion) in construction is underway to further develop the precinct.
Just 25 startups and medtech ventures are accepted into its four-month accelerator program TMCx.
CNSDose, founded by chief executive Ajeet Singh and Dr Harris Eyre, is the youngest medtech venture to be selected from Australia to join the accelerator’s current cohort. Ward Medication, founded by Sue Ward in 1997, and Adelaide-based Personify Care, launched in 2014, were also accepted.
“We have a technology, which is a DNA test or genetic test, which guides people’s anti-depression treatment,” Eyre tells StartupSmart from Texas.
With data taken from a cheek swab, CNSDose analyses patients’ brains and livers to determine what treatment would be best for the person experiencing depression. Because just half of the people on antidepressants get better, Eyre says, it’s crucial that there are better diagnostic tools to ensure patients are set on the right track with treatment.
“Our goal is to maintain ourselves as the leaders in the genetic guidance of anti-depression treatment,” says Eyre.
In the hopes of making CNSDose available across Australia, the US and Asia, Eyre believes entering a world-class health district imbued in innovation and boasting more than 20 hospitals is an important step forward for the new startup.
“It’s not just a precinct but it’s actually a city,” he says.
“With that you have a lot of opportunities as an early-stage medical technology company.
“The Texas Medical Centre also has access to really great mentors, which they access from all over the US.”
Eyre and his team soft launched CNSDose in the US earlier this year. They’re running trials with institutions such as University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and prominent psychiatric hospital The Menninger Clinic.
“We’ve been offering the technology for the past two months in a very measured way to make sure we’re getting feedback from patients, doctors and labs that all of the systems and processes are running well,” he says.
Participating in the TMCx accelerator over the coming months will give Eyre and his team exposure and training with industry experts, as well as pro bono legal advice and access to high net worth individuals and venture capital firms for investment opportunities.
“They help us to get introductions into hospitals,” he says.
“They essentially hold your hand and walk you up to [meet] medical directors and CEOs.”
For now, Eyre will split his team of 10 employees between the US and Australia until the business is in a position to expand into more markets.
“There’s this big need for improved mental health services in the Asia region,” he says.
In the future, he says, they’ll work on expanding CNSDose’s technology for the treatment of other mental health illnesses like Alzheimer’s and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
“We’re the most promising technology [in this] field,” he says.
Artificial intelligence is playing a bigger role in communications between shoppers and businesses, but Facebook is still refining its functionality on this front, with the latest updates to Facebook Messenger aimed at making it easier for customers to know how to kick off a conversation with messenger bots.
On Thursday Facebook unveiled a number of new developer features for its Messenger platform that provide more options for sharing content through Messenger.
The changes let developers add what Facebook calls “persistent menus” to bot functionalities, which will allow customers to choose from a number of menu options to direct the bot to what they to know about, like “Featured Items” or frequently asked questions about the business.
This will give “people a way to find and select from all the features that a bot offers”, Facebook says, rather than users being faced with an open conversation window where they need to type a sentence to the bot in order for it to answer.
Instead of starting a conversation with the AI, the customer can quickly click on whatever they’re interested in and have the information displayed immediately.
The new features also allow a business to customise more messaging and parts of a post for when a user shares something they have received from a Facebook bot with their other Facebook friends.
“Developers can customise the content (image, message, button) that appears when people share a message with friends from your bot and link to a website to the bot itself,” the company explains in a blog post on the updates.
Users that receive messages from a customer service bot will now also be able to share these with their Facebook friends inside the Messenger app, with any shares including links back to the bot itself, so that new customers can discover details about a business when their friends share interesting content.
The changes were announced this week on the US-based “Messenger Blog”, although it is unclear at this stage when the functionality will be available in Australia.
No social media customer service is “set and forget”
Artificial intelligence may be becoming more common in the retail space, but it works better for some tasks than others, as researchers at UCL and the Hult International Business School explained last year.
“For more complex, emotive and subjective buying decisions—like buying gifts for our loved ones—we may still seek that special human touch,” researchers Rikke Duus and Mike Cooray wrote for The Conversation.
Jessica Humphreys, director of Social Concepts Communications, told SmartCompany that while the latest changes are good for Facebook’s engagement with companies as they keep communications with customers on the platform, smaller businesses will need to deploy developers to properly take advantage of the changes.
“From a user perspective it makes the whole purchasing and asking question process much easier,” Humphreys says.
“But I think the concern particularly for SMEs is that while they can customise the services, it’s quite a complicated process.”
However, Humphreys says all businesses should remember that social media is primarily a customer service tool, and improvements to bots will solve initial teething problems for customers that haven’t always been sure how to interact with them.
“Customers can get a bit confused,” Humphreys says.
While customer service platforms like Messenger bots have their place for delivering speedy answers to client questions, businesses should regularly review the performance of all social media tools, even they are “automatic”, says CP Communications director Catriona Pollard.
“What’s great about these bots is you can put standard information up so customers can acess it when they want it — that might be in the middle of the night,” Pollard says.
“From a small business perspective, that’s a time saving mechanism. But I do know that with things like [bots], that are in their infancy, you do need to check it regularly. You need to check what changes have been made, what updates have been made.
“When it does promote itself as ‘set and forget’, that is the biggest challenge. Say for example over Christmas Holidays or over Easter, you change hours — there’s often no procedure in place in a business to go, ‘We’ve got this information in all of these places [including on the bot]’,” she says.
As the market leader, Fitbit has always been regarded as being synonymous with wearables in general.
Its launch as a public company was at a point when the hype of wearables was at a peak with claims of the technology bring about a revolution in healthcare.
Unfortunately, the revolution never happened and Fitbit itself has now hit a wall. Sales are down, and last week, Fitbit reported a financial loss and announced it would be laying off 6% of its staff. Its share price is around 90% down on its peak of US $51 in 2015.
Fitbit doesn’t see its fortunes changing much in 2016 as it competes in a wearables market that is seeing little to no growth. Even this statistic may be misleading however because it combines pure fitness trackers such as the models made by Fitbit, with smartwatches like the Apple Watch which customers may buy for its non-fitness features.
The fact that Fitbit is seeing sales decline is not really surprising. It has not been able to introduce any new advances in its technology beyond the features of counting steps and measuring heart rate. It also hasn’t been able to solve the problem of customers giving up on wearing their devices within a short period of time.
At the same time, there has been a general concern about the security and privacy of data collected by these devices. Programs introduced by employers and insurance companies to incentivise the wearing of devices in return for reduced premiums have been met with suspicion about the potential abuse of this data.
There has also been criticisms about the supposed health benefits that have been advanced by Fitbit and others resulting from wearables.
Fitbit was always going to struggle. It is hard to make huge profits when making commodity hardware. Moving out of the consumer market and into medical devices also carries enormous overheads.
The devices have to be actually tested and certified and it is not at all clear that even the heart rate monitoring functions on Fitbit devices would be reliable or accurate enough to be able to achieve that level of certification. Another consumer wearables company, Jawbone, has thrown in the towel and is allegedly going to be trying its hand at clinical devices.
Those waiting for the major technological leaps that will give us science fiction-type functionality such as Star Trek’s Tricorder are likely to be disappointed. A competition run by Qualcomm with a US $6 million first place prize to find a “tricorder-like” device, required only 70% accuracy of 15 different measurements.
The finalists produced kits that combined existing technologies such as glucometers, spirometers, heart rate monitors, etc and packaged them in one box. Whilst this brought these devices together to function with a single app, it did not fundamentally advance any of the individual components.
Theranos, another company that claimed to have invented technology that would allow hundreds of tests to be conducted on a single drop of blood has failed to bring this to market.
Fitbit is a classic example of a company that would have been better remaining private. It is only because it is a publicly listed company that there are expectations that it should be showing high rates of growth. As it stands at the moment, it is unlikely to show the type of growth that will satisfy the market.
Its immediate problem is to find a way to actually be profitable with a smaller level of sales. Failing that, its only option is, like Twitter and other companies with no business model, to find a buyer. Given the large number of competitors in this market, the technology would not be the reason for another company buying Fitbit, but its client base might well be.
There will always be a market for fitness trackers but they will continue to appeal to those people for whom fitness and activity is part of their everyday lives. It is hard to see how they will ever extend significantly and in a lasting way to a wider audience.
Sadhana Smiles is one of just two female CEOs in her sector in Victoria. But she wonders if she would have gotten there if she’d worn a sari or a hijab. At the launch of the Women’s Agenda Ambition Report on Thursday, she called for workplaces to think about diversity as meaning much more than gender. Below, she shares more on the topic.
This is not another opinion piece about diversity in the workplace. Not as you know it anyway.
You would have to be living under a rock in Australia not to know that gender diversity in Australia’s leadership and the gender pay gap (with the full time total remuneration gap currently sitting at 23.1%, according to Australia’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency) is a hot button in the corporate world.
The media attention this issue has enjoyed and the debates it has triggered are great.
I speak regularly on the subject as a female CEO in a male dominated industry and am passionate about seeing change. I do this from my unique position as one of only two female CEOs in my industry in the country and, because of this position, I get the ears of men often. Men are a key part of this discourse, in fact, without men parity will be impossible.
I am also in the unique position of being a migrant, female leader, (Indian and Fijian born) of which there are even fewer in corporate Australia to lend a voice.
This is the all-encompassing definition of diversity I want to address: are our workplaces and its leaders a reflection of our communities?
Not just female vs. male representation, but the colours of our communities, the disabilities within our communities and the sub-cultures of our communities, like LGBT for instance?
As the ever-important diversity conversation gains momentum, my fear is that the picture of corporate leadership; white, male, 50 years +, is changing to white female which is not the only picture we need to be painting here.
Diversity is actually about people. Australia is a melting pot of races, cultures and ability, and the experience of each of these people is different, yet we talk about diversity from only one point of view.
As Australia’s immigration rates continue to increase and we open our doors to more of the diversity the world has to offer, we need to be able to welcome and encourage these employees in their careers. Employees want to know their leaders understand them and empathise with them.
As a woman of colour, I can tell you that my experiences will likely differ from the leader sitting next to me.
We talk about targets and quotas for the number of women on ASX boards or at directorship level, yet where is the conversation on the diversity of our businesses as a whole?
Who is holding HR and recruitment teams accountable on what the colours of an organisation look like?
Are you, as a leader, discussing the diversity of your organisation with your management team and asking what you need to do to change the status quo to embrace diversity in its entirety?
Perhaps review your leadership or management team cohort on its diversity.
Embracing diversity is a better way to do business
Embracing diversity allows businesses to better connect with their consumers and their communities. This will result in a more relatable or credible brand.
Embracing diversity paves the way for a new leadership
Diverse leaders bring new stories, new visions, new ideas and new empathy to a workplace. Embracing diversity now sets the example for the visionaries coming up through the school system who are looking to business and its leaders today to set their own goals or create their own boundaries for the future.
Embracing diversity allows businesses to gain trust
Today, consumers wish to buy into something that is real, something they feel connected to. Whether that’s a brand that gives back to their community, or a brand that relates to its community through its diverse team, we want to know we’re buying into something or someone that gets us.
We’re slow to change. Nobody likes change. Over the last two International Women’s Days that have brought significant awareness to the issue of the gender pay gap, we have seen no movement in its disparity. People prefer the status quo because they know the outcomes.
So, what is the answer then? I believe it comes down to CEOs and managing directors having the courage to proactively seek change. Start with looking around your office, do you see diversity? The all-encompassing definition of diversity including, men, women, cultural diversity, representatives of the disabled and/or LGBT communities.
If not, talk to your HR and/or hiring team, are you getting diverse resumes? If not, why? If yes, then are they being eliminated through unconscious bias?
As an ethnic woman in business I have had to be very aware of assimilating into a predominant white work force.
I have had to think and act like a white woman, and I have had to work much harder at being accepted. My glass ceiling has always been double glazed, I first had to break through my cultural glass ceiling and then the corporate one.
I often wonder how I would have been accepted and how different my career journey would have been if I had a heavy accent, wore a sari or a hijab.
As a woman, I cherish the conversation Australia is having about gender diversity in the workplace and in corporate leadership.
However, in paying Peter, let’s not rob Paul – diversity is the issue here. Gender diversity is a component of that.
Let’s not forget, or worse ignore, the voice of the migrant female, disabled or gay employee who’s questioning how collective the word diversity is as we know it today.
A massive outage of Amazon Web Services on Tuesday that led to disruptions for huge numbers of cloud-based businesses and websites was caused a technician inputting an incorrect command, Amazon says.
The Amazon Web Services (AWS) facility in North Virginia suffered outages on February 28, leading to a number of websites that rely on its services to slow down or experience intermittent outages.
AWS is one of the biggest providers of cloud-computing services for websites and businesses all over the world.
It offers database storage, on-demand content delivery, and other essential infrastructure services.
Prominent businesses like Xero, Slack and Square were affected by the issue, as were websites like Atlassian’s Bitbucket, Github, and Kickstarter, according to VentureBeat. Hundreds of other websites were also affected.
The services are now back online. AWS released a statement today addressing the cause of the outage, blaming it on an incorrect command that was entered by a technician whilst debugging the company’s Simple Storage Service (S3).
“At 9:37AM PST, an authorized S3 team member using an established playbook executed a command which was intended to remove a small number of servers for one of the S3 subsystems that is used by the S3 billing process,” AWS said.
“Unfortunately, one of the inputs to the command was entered incorrectly and a larger set of servers was removed than intended.”
This caused a chain reaction, where the removed servers had been supporting another set of two servers, which required them both to be restarted.
“While these subsystems were being restarted, S3 was unable to service requests,” AWS wrote.
Companies should implement “control” systems
The company has said it will be making “several changes” such as system safeguards as a result of the incident.
This course of action is essential, says cyber security expert at Sense of Security Michael McKinnon.
“What AWS is doing is implementing a control, which are mechanics [that] companies can use to prevent a certain action from happening,” McKinnon told SmartCompany.
“There was really no protection in place beforehand to stop someone at AWS from taking that certain action [leading to the outage], so now they’re implementing a technical control to prevent it.”
McKinnon believes the nature of AWS’s infrastructure resulted in the significant failure, with the system being built and maintained by the company itself.
“Naturally there will be an occasion like this, an unintended consequence of the system discovered by human error,” he says.
Unfortunately for SMEs, McKinnon says there’s not much to be done about human error, even with “all the systems in place”.
“Human error is human error, and businesses will suffer. You can have all the systems in place, but at some point something will rely on human decisions to be made,” he says.
“You can’t know all the exposure points, even if you do the best brainstorming possible you still won’t identify all of them.”
“Good businesses build systems around people”
In situations like system outages, McKinnon says it’s best to deal with the fallout “swiftly and efficiently” and implement any measures possible to stop it from happening again.
As for what those measures are, “good businesses build systems around people”, McKinnon says.
“Look at these things from the perspective of what the business could have done. Did you provide enough training?” he says.
“It’s best to always build your system to cater to human error.”
Finally, in communicating outages or errors to customers, it’s important for businesses to differentiate the scenario from a data breach or hack, believes McKinnon.
“It’s important to convey is as an outage not a breach, as it’s a common misconception. ‘Oh no they’ve been hacked’ is a default view, so it’s good to reassure people,” he says.
“Paint human error in a way where we can deal with it. It is and always will be a fundamental tech issue, and it’s part of who we are.”
SmartCompany contacted Amazon Web Services Australia but it had no further comment on the outage.
Leading British entrepreneur Eric van der Kleij says he is impressed with the “serious solutions” being built by founders in the local fintech sector, which he believes is on par with the rest of the world.
“The quality of companies that we’ve met here are world-class,” he tells StartupSmart.
Van der Kleij is a special adviser in fintech and blockchain for UK’s Department for International Trade, and is on a mission to help promising Australian startups with a “soft and accelerated landing into the UK market”.
“Having met quite literally thousands of startups across Europe and the US in the last five-six years, I would say [Australia’s startup scene] is vibrant,” van der Kleij tells StartupSmart.
“It’s looking for a couple of additional things to help it really unlock its true potential … such as sufficient risk capital and I think the other thing we’ve heard [is] the appetite and the attitude towards risk from the corporates is something that people would like to see improved here.
“But I’ve been very impressed by the calibre of the solutions and they’re not fluff, they’re serious solutions.”
A notable differentiator in Australia’s fintech sector for van der Kleij is the volume of superannuation funds.
“You’ve got these amazing superannuation funds,” he says.
“Those are very interesting and potentially high value opportunities to help those sectors transform.
“The natural environment is bringing innovation that dovetails with the cultural environment here and that of course creates unique opportunities when you think about how to take these companies international.”
In UK’s fintech sector, van der Kleij says the startups that are thriving are those that are working on compliance and regulation, improving data accessibility and transparency, robo advice, lending platforms and savings solutions.
He says Level39 saw 50,000 people from around the world walk through its doors over a three-year period. But it all began as a result of a grim crisis.
“If you start at the point [of the Global Financial Crisis] that was a very key moment in the UK’s fintech scene because what happened was, which was sad … you had literally thousands of highly qualified people [being] made redundant from their big companies,” he says.
“That unleashed a whole volume of talent into the market.”
At the same time, this gave rise to new issues of adequate levels of capital, transparency and compliance, he says, which the financial sector could only address with technology.
“It created this burgeoning of literally hundreds of startups,” van der Kleij says.
Operating in the era of Brexit
With British policymakers focused on how the UK will separate from the European Union, van der Kleij says it’s understandable that there’s some concern about how startups wanting to break into Europe will be affected.
“Just the UK itself is a huge addressable market, it wouldn’t affect that part of it,” he says.
“Within the UK it’s also interesting because we’ve started to see some interesting messages come from Europe because we think our European cousins will be our best advocates for retaining [access to] the European market.”
Van der Kleij expects initial concerns among political leaders to shift into realistic discussions about “mutual access and trade” over time.
“The sensible voice of trade and access to markets will win,” he says.