Australia could always use more angel investors, says Dean McEvoy, co-founder of the wildly successful group-buying site Spreets.
“Doing a startup in Australia is kind of like growing a plant in a dark cupboard. It’s really bloody hard,” McEvoy said in a talk presented at VIVID Creative Sydney.
Hard, but hardly impossible, he notes. If good ideas or sharp entrepreneurs get decent exposure, the financial backing is there to be had — even if it comes from overseas. And international investors are paying more attention; McEvoy pointed to Aussie enterprise 99Designs as an example of homegrown business that has received significant looks from overseas.
McEvoy guides us through the journey that led to the launch of Spreets in February 2010, on McEvoy’s birthday. The wild-ride includes a side trip to California’s Silicon Valley, where he found a different reception to entrepreneurial spirit than he experienced in his home county. In Australia, he said, he couldn’t talk about failure; it was a conversation-ender. In Silicon Valley, people were eager to hear what he did wrong or right.
“Every step in the wrong direction was a step in the right direction,” he said.
It’s notable that one of the stops McEvoy made as he assembled Spreets was Pollenizer, the “serial co-founder” company that champions the cause of sharp Australian enterprises.
This past January, Spreet wowed everyone with the announced that it had been bought by Yahoo!7 for $40 million. The acquisition capped a couple months of negotiations at the end of 2010.
“It was a pretty crazy Christmastime,” McEvoy said, “and in the end it ended up being a good birthday present again, a year after.”