Guy Kawasaki and Jules Lund


1st December, 2019

Startup Grind 2019: Headline speakers discuss challenges and support for founders

With Startup Grind’s APAC Conference just around the corner, we discuss funding and government support for founders with some of the event’s headline speakers.

Next week, Startup Grind’s 2019 APAC Conference will kick off on Monday at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre in a bid to educate, inspire and connect a new wave of startup founders and innovators.

Billed as the world’s largest independent startup community, which now includes two million entrepreneurs across 125 countries worldwide, Startup Grind provides a platform for sharing great ideas and pulling problems apart.

Presented by MYOB, the APAC Conference will feature a host of internationally recognised speakers, including entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and tech specialists from Australia and beyond. But to offer our readers a taste of what’s to come, The Pulse reached out to several of these speakers to share their thoughts on topics often raised in relation to entrepreneurship and startups.

READ: Silicon Valley heads Down Under for new Startup Grind event

As Ruud Hendriks, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of global startup accelerator Startup Bootcamp told us: “Times have never been better to start a new company, but the challenges will always be there”.

So, if you have plans to start a new business in the future, you might want to consider some of the following advice.

Problem solving is par for the course

Startup Grind’s speakers have differing opinions about the challenges facing Australia’s business founders. But there is one point of consistency: starting and growing a business is never going to be easy or straight forward.

“Finding your product’s market fit while bootstrapping, before finding enough, but certainly not too much, funding – this will always be a challenge for startup founders,” said Hendriks.

Patrick Lee, co-founder of film reviews website Rotten Tomatoes luckily had advice on how to moderate some of the pain of entrepreneurship: maintain a clear, deep focus.

“Startup founders are always trying to do too much, too early,” said Lee.

“The best companies start off incredibly focused; Facebook only launched in Harvard, Google only did search and Amazon only sold books.

“Focus on building one feature in one category, for one market.”

Lee’s advice may be to keep things simple at the start of founding your business, but that doesn’t make the process simple. Challenges and new trends arise constantly, and with every challenge comes the danger of greater complexity.

Cameron Adams, co-founder of online design platform Canva, said new trends can bring new challenges, such as the current push for founders to pay close attention to being socially responsible when launching new concepts to market.

“I think the biggest challenge that a startup should be feeling right now is thinking about how they can be positively impacting the world,” said Adams.

“It’s no longer a sign of success to disrupt an industry or introduce a technology without concern for the ethical implications of what it’s doing.”

Attitudes differ on government intervention and support

To overcome these obstacles, prospective startup founders not only require great ideas, grit and a solid team around them, but also the financial support to get their business launched.

Funding can come from anywhere, and a recurring topic of discussion at events like Startup Grind relates to how much funding government bodies should be able to offer the startup community.

This discussion is likely to be more pertinent this year than ever before, with the news that several private and public incubators have opted to withdraw their support for founders.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government last week announced the creation of a new Business Growth Fund (BGF).

Commenting before the announcement of the BGF, principal at venture capital firm AirTree, Elicia McDonald said that “innovation has not been a priority for our Government in recent times”.

“We’ve seen $4b in cuts from the R&D Tax Incentive across two Federal Budgets,” said McDonald.

“There is continued uncertainty around what software development activities qualify as eligible R&D.

“Startups need to carefully manage cash burn, and the uncertainty around the reliability of this support program is stifling growth and innovation.”

McDonald proposes both that funding be restored to this program, and that the Government could do more to entice skilled migration to our shores to fill the skills gap that has formed.

READ: Pearls of entrepreneurial wisdom from Startup Grind 2018

“Since AirTree was created five years ago, we have invested in 48 startups, which today collectively employ almost 4,000 people.

“To increase the ability of local startups to attract the best talent, we need fewer barriers to skilled immigration and faster processing of applications.

“The recently announced high-skilled migration scheme to fact-track 5,000 visas with a focus on high-tech industries is a positive step in the right direction, but there’s much more to be done.”

To this point, Adams broadly agreed, while he also stated that “Australian and local governments already give a decent amount of support by funding grants and hubs”.

“The one major part they can play in helping to grow startups is access to talent – making it easier to bring people in from overseas,” said Adams.

“They’ve made a couple of missteps on that in the past, but they’ve largely been rectified.”

Hendriks, who has started businesses in a number of European countries, also highlights the importance of some kind of “startup visa” scheme.

“You want startups to be able to hire great people wherever they come from,” said Hendriks.

“Who cares if they’re from the US or Bangladesh as long as they’re doing well.”

But Adams also pointed to the social responsibility angle as another way in which taxpayer-funded initiatives can either help or hinder the tech sector.

“A more negative form of incentive that government can control is the funding of antiquated industries that are preventing progress from happening.

“In particular, the funding and support of climate-damaging industries such as coal mining and its associated electricity producers.”


Want to pose your own questions to some of the world’s premier founders, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists? Get your ticket to Startup Grind today and start arming yourself with the knowledge you need to succeed. You can also pop by the MYOB stand for giveaways and competitions, or snap a photo for your social feeds.