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Which MP is most popular with startups? What do they really want from the government? A new survey has answers


The team over at Startup Muster, one of the largest and most comprehensive surveys of the Australian start-up ecosystem, though still buried in analysis of the data they collected in this year’s survey, are excited to share a couple of findings.

When asked to name a politician that has been particularly supportive of the start-up industry, long-time Liberal MP for Wentworth in Sydney, Malcolm Turnbull (pictured) garnered the most votes, named by roughly one in ten respondents (9.9 per cent).

“I’m not surprised to see Malcolm Turnbull is getting the support he’s received from the start-up community,” said one entrepreneur Alex Whiteside of EasyCompanies, a rapidly growing start-up.

“When we’re dealing with the government we’re often using systems older than ourselves,” he explained. “As an entrepreneur himself, Turnbull remains connected to the community and advocates for a future where Australia relies more on our unlimited intellectual and innovation capability rather than our limited natural resources.”

Why is Turnbull Aussie start-ups’ favourite MP?

Turnbull, who is also the Minister for Communications, has in the past pointed out that creating the right conditions to promote innovation and boost productivity is a priority for the government. “We are improving the regulatory conditions that enable start-ups and tech companies to thrive.”

“Part of this process has been unwinding changes to the tax treatment of Employee Share Schemes that were introduced by the former government in 2009 and which effectively brought to a halt the use of such schemes for start-up companies in Australia,” he explained.

Turnbull has also revealed that they are also considering the introduction of smart laws to enable crowd funding as has been done in comparable markets including the US, New Zealand, Canada, Israel and the UK – a move that would be very welcome in the Aussie start-up scene.

“We must get out of the way of business and get the regulatory settings right to ensure that incentives exist to encourage our most promising tech entrepreneurs to turn that great idea into a truly transformative product,” he concluded.

Who is Aussie start-ups’ second favourite MP?

Alex Greenwich, independent Member for Sydney, was the second most popular MP with 2.9 per cent of responses naming him as their preference.

Alex has invested time in understanding and speaking to start-ups, including several weeks spent working from the Fishburners start-up space in Sydney.

“All levels of government need to lift their game in supporting digital entrepreneurship,” he has previously said. “The future growth of our economy will not be dug out of the ground, it will be found in the innovation sector. From education to immigration, governments need to do what it takes to support this vital sector.”

Murray Hurps, Startup Muster founder and GM of Fishburners  says he was impressed with Greenwich when he arrived at Fishburners with his understanding of the issues facing start-ups, and impressed even further by the time he invested meeting with each of the over 100 start-ups in the Fishburners space over the following weeks.

However, in perhaps the most telling finding about how start-ups feel about the government and our politicians in general, it is worth noting that 45 per cent of the respondents answered “None” when asked to name a politician that has been particularly supportive of start-ups  and another 27 per cent were “Unsure”.

So what do start-ups want from the government?

When asked to name the most important thing government could do to support the industry, the most frequent responses involved either increased funding/grants (38 per cent of responses), or incentives for founders and investors to balance the financial risk (29 per cent).

“Matching grant funding from Coalition and Labor governments over many years has been crucial to the success of many Australian companies,” Katherine Woodthorpe, former board member Commercialisation Australia highlighted.

“These include well known success stories like ResMed and Cochlear, and many less familiar companies like Moldflow, OnMarket Bookbuild and GoCatch.”

“Since 2008, funding has reduced drastically and is now at an all time low,” she pointed out. “In a world where we will no longer be able to rely on natural resources for our economic wellbeing, the need for smart companies with smart jobs to deliver our economic future becomes paramount.”

“We need to nurture these companies, and this Startup Muster survey has indicated that government funding is crucial in their success,” Katherine concluded.

Shadow Minister for Communications, Jason Clare seems to agree, previously saying, “Governments don’t create successful start ups. People do that. Smart people. Innovative people. But Government does play a role. And it is more than just getting out of the way.”

“We are a smart country. We have created everything from wifi to the black box,” she pointed out. “But we have lots of challenges. Our venture capital industry is small and not well developed. We still don’t have crowd funding and we are off the pace in R&D. We are also not producing enough workers with STEM skills. We need to fix this and fix it fast.”

Finalizing the proposed ESOP reforms was requested by 13.3 per cent of start-up founders, which should mean a large number of happy start-up founders when changes are implemented on July 1st.

Improving support networks for start-ups (8.5 per cent), reducing red tape (7.6 per cent) and improving education for entrepreneurs and coding skills (6.9 per cent) were also among the top responses.

Furthermore, 4.4 per cent of respondents want government to simply “Get out of the way” and another 4.4 per cent want it to support start-up hubs and coworking spaces.

Photo courtesy of Twitter