Aussie Startups in Aust Financial Review

Renai LeMay did a story on Aussie start-ups in today’s AFR. But, of course, I can’t link to it online, because the zombies running the Fin still have it locked up tighter that a fish’s asshole. Memo to Fairfax – it’s 2008! HELLO?

Anyhoo, the article is also up on MIS Magazine’s website and you can read it here. I love that MIS Magazine is still called MIS, which apparently comes from the latin malum in se “wrong in itself”. So true, so true.

Read the article here.

It’s called ‘Funds drought hurts web hopes” and is basically saying that most if not all Aussie online startups are hurting from lack of funding. I kind of agree and kind of disagree.

Look – sure – if we all had a few million, I’m sure we’d be doing things differently. We could hire more people, invest in better infrastructure, hire some sales people, etc.

However, I’m not sure a lack of funding is necessarily a bad thing.

I’m sure we can all rattle off a bunch of start-ups in the US which raised a bucket load of money, only to be gone a few years later. Why? Because you have to learn to crawl before you can walk. Bootstrapping a startup, with little funds or people, forces you to work on the basics. What service do we provide? Who do we provide it to? What problem are we solving? How do we make money from solving it?

The benchmark that we seem to give to online startups is, I think, unhealthy. Unless they have a constant growth curve that looks like the Mt Everest, and are raking in the cash, we think EPIC FAIL.

However, I look at it a completely different way. I’m trying to build something that I will still be running in 20 years time. Something that can make a difference. Something I can have fun with. Something that will let me do what I want, when I want, where I want with whomever I want.

So check it – I haven’t had a job for nearly four years. I sit at home, playing on my Macbook Pro, talking to cool people around the world and getting paid to do it. I take my kids to school, pick them up, hang out with friends whenever I want – and I have fun doing it. I have zero stress in my life. Sure – I could easily spend a coupla mill. But at the end of the day, when I compare how I’m living today, to how I was living four years ago, I know which I prefer.

So how should we define success for a start-up? Is it a business with a billion dollar market cap, or a business that is doing good work, or a business which is allowing someone to follow their dream or a business which is making ends meet? Or perhaps its all of these things?

Here’s the thing about reading mainstream media – and I say this with all respect to my friends who work as journalists, editors and the like – the MSM does NOT want you to leave your work and build a start-up. They want you to conform – to sit in your little cubicle and live the Aussie dream, working 80 hours a week for the man, not thinking outside the square, not taking any risks outside of your footy tipping, just being a good obedient consumer and doing what you’re told.

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12 thoughts on “Aussie Startups in Aust Financial Review

  1. Tim says:

    Exactly! The American-business-model ideal for the web is to throw money at it, but that isn’t what necessarily works for everyone. Several of my friends have small businesses back in my hometown, they haven’t needed millions of dollars of investment, nor did they need investors; they started up small and are still enjoying their business. Why should the Internet be different?

  2. peter griffyn says:

    Lack of Angel Funding and Venture Capital equals lack of centralisation of the Australian Web Startup Community, in my opinion.

    We could blame our geography, but we are talking about the Internet here, so why is there still no centralised hub on the web for the Aussie startup community? How are would-be investors getting informed? The closest thing I have ever seen is startups.sharmavishal.com.

    So there is a lot of money out there to be invested in tech and it isn’t being invested likely because the investors know little about it. Do we need an Aussie equivalent of TechCrunch? Yes. Do we need the equivalent of Crunchbase? Yes. Will there be many companies to write about and fill up the Wiki, probably not, not at the moment anyway. Apart from educating investors, it can educate the public and provide some stimulation and encouragement for all the young web developers out there to start creating.

    If entrepreneurs, developers and the public can get interested (maybe excited) in what Australian web companies are producing and can produce, then maybe more angels will come out of the wood work. Where’s the Sell?

  3. Bron says:

    Cam, I agree with you that the lack of funding is not necessarily a bad thing and has cultivated a very different approach among web 2.o entrepreneurs in Australia. Most of us have had to boot-strap or sacrifice our own money to get start-ups off the ground, and if funding has been taken it’s usually a small amount to similar ventures in the US.
    I’m glad I left the great Aussie cubicle at The West Australian when I did, but to say that launching a start-up does not have its stresses is crazy. I think the key thing that stands out about those who take the risk to start any company is that they love a challenge. That’s where I get my rush. Every day is a challenge, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Maybe you have mistaken ‘no stress’ for just having a passion for what you are doing and loving that you have the ability to do that? But painting it like a scene out of Friends I think is, well, about as real as canned laughter.

  4. Cameron says:

    Seriously, Bron, I don’t consider the challenges of building a start-up “stress”. I don’t lie awake at night (well, VERY rarely) worrying about things or feeling sick in my gut the way I used to on a regular basis back at Microsoft. I don’t break out in a nervous rash twice a year like I did at Microsoft. The challenges are part of the joy of building something. Solving problems, even the ones that look dire, is, as you say, part of the rush.

    Stress, for me, is when you know it doesn’t matter how clever you are or how hard you work, because you’ve got a dickhead for a boss who has his own agenda of protecting his ass from stupid decisions he made and he’s going to make you the fall guy no matter what you do.

    That is stressful.

  5. Cameron says:

    Peter, that a good argument and I agree with you. We need to build the start-up community. Is Duncan’s new Inquistr.com the Aussie Techcrunch?

  6. Anon says:

    Wow, have you read the comment on that MIS article?

  7. Renai LeMay says:

    hehe completely agree with you Cameron.

    Apart from the bit about mainstream media! There is no such thing as “the mainstream media”. There are only individual writers, editors and journalists etc. Certainly I would encourage anyone to leave their day job and follow their dream — that’s exactly what I did to become a journalist ;)

    Cheers,

    Renai

  8. Cameron says:

    Renai, “There is no such thing as “the mainstream media”.”

    Don’t be so coy! As you well know, we are talking about the media run by large corporations or controlled by the state. In both cases, there is a strong bias in the coverage of the stories. This bias is justified in a number of different ways but it’s a fact. The terms of the conversation are pre-determined by the people who sit on the board. In both cases (corporate or state controlled), the people on the board have power. Their power is determined by the political system we live in. It is therefore in their best interests to discourage any significant changes (or analysis of) the system and so they set deliberate guidelines for the media that the company produces in line with protecting their power.

    Chomsky and Herman explained how the system works in detail in Manufacturing Consent, no need for me to go into it here.

    Glad to hear that becoming a journalist is your dream mate. Good for you. It can be an honourable profession. :-)

    Hey you were the topic of conversation on the 2web podcast today. Hope you get to listen to it (2webcrew.thepodcastnetwork.com).

  9. I disagree about the location.

    I more and more think that we have to focus this on a single city. If it’s Perth, Brisbane or Melbourne I’ll go there, but I think it’s Sydney. I think we have to be in walking, drop in distance.

    The same as I wouldn’t want to have a new startup without the key team (80%) being in the same room.

    More notes here;

    http://www.technation.com.au/?p=27#comment-26

  10. Cam (not Reilly) says:

    Not so sure about Sydney. Melbourne has realestate, carsales, seek and hitwise – a pretty amazing kernel of successes to which a startup scene could attach.

  11. Ben Helps says:

    @Cameron: re stress, perhaps now your “stresses” are so light you don’t notice them, but what about a few years ago when you were still uncertain if your business would be here in a few years – that period is relatively stressful (it’s where I’m at now).

    Having said that, even though we’re still at the stage of worrying we could lose our house, etc, I’d still take this to the 9-5 IT grind of my previous life, any day.

  12. Cameron says:

    Ben, I’m not past the part of the start-up phase where the business could fail. But so what? If you make a decision to close it down, you go change direction or go out and get a job. I’ve never seen it as ‘stressful’ – it’s just a decision. Getting back to what I said earlier, when you are in control of your destiny, making your own decisions, without a boss or a manager to fuck with you, I think that is the ultimate freedom. That’s abolition of wage slavery.

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