Denham Sadler
June 5, 2017

Targeted grants the Victorian way

StartupLand

Targeted grants the Victorian way

New plan: Victoria has launched a new strategic direction for its StartupLand endeavors

LaunchVic chief executive Kate Cornick says the organisation will dish out more targeted funding more regularly as part of a new strategic direction for its $60 million innovation fund.

The new two-year strategic plan announced late last week will focus on projects looking to help first generation migrants and refugees become involved in the tech and startup community.

Speaking to InnovationAus.com, Ms Cornick said that while LaunchVic had been successful so far in getting more Victorians involved in the startup ecosystem, it needed to do more to put Victoria on the map globally.

“We’ve done a good job of meeting the first goal, but there’s a lot more work to be done to accelerate our ecosystem at a time when it’s growing really rapidly. But there’s a huge amount of competition around the world,” Ms Cornick said.

LaunchVic has completed two funding rounds so far, handing out $11.4 million to 26 separate projects. For these two funding rounds it received more than 700 applications.

Ms Cornick took over as CEO at the start of this year, and one of her first acts was to undertake a large-scale review of LaunchVic’s strategy and the way forward. This involved stakeholder consultations, studies of competing ecosystems around the world, and a review of the state’s “key strengths”.

“That allowed us to map the ecosystem, understand who’s who, what people want to do, and what people are [already] doing. That’s been fantastically useful for us,” she said.

“Like all businesses we should always review our strategy to make sure we’re meeting our goals and servicing our customers.”

Those consultations resulted in the organisation’s new two year strategic outlook, which it revealed late last week. There’s no dramatic change in direction in the report.

LaunchVic will continue to deliver matched grants to projects that build the local ecosystem, rather than specific startups, a policy that is in contrast to most other jurisdictions in the country.

“There’ll be much more frequent funding rounds, specifically targeted in areas where we know we can do better work and really change the dial,” Ms Cornick said.

“We will be truncating the distance between funding rounds much more and it’s not inconceivable that we’ll run concurrent funding rounds,” Ms Cornick said.

The review identified a need to do more to assist existing founders in growing their companies, rather than focusing on getting more people to enter the sector.

“Rather than thinking about bringing new people into the ecosystems, we want programs to help existing founders do better. That’s a bit of a new focus for us,” Ms Cornick said.

In order to differentiate the Victorian sector from its global rivals, LaunchVic will also be aiming to assist one of the state’s already existing key strengths, the health and wellbeing sector.

Other areas of focus in the next two years would be connecting startups with corporates, fostering the angel investor sector, and improving diversity and inclusion.

“While we have a vibrant and active startup community, we need to do more to achieve our global potential. LaunchVic’s role is to help grow and assist Victoria’s startup ecosystem to achieve its potential as a diverse and internationally recognised centre of startup activity,” the report said.

“We want to see more founders with big ideas that have global reach; we want to develop a stronger investor community; we want to work with existing founders to ensure they have maximum chance of success; and we want startups to do better connecting to corporates.”

LaunchVic was officially announced as the organisation that would be overseeing the distribution of the state’s $60 million innovation fund in November 2015, and was incorporated in March the following year.

It handed out its first round of grants in August last year, and its second in January. Applications for the third round are now open.

The organisation has lost its two key leaders in its short life, with inaugural CEO Pradeep Philip standing down late last year, replaced by Ms Cornick, and chair Ahmed Fahour resigning this year.

The government is still yet to announced Mr Fahour’s replacement.

But Ms Cornick said this churn of leaders has not impeded the organisation’s operations.

“I don’t think so, not at all. My predecessor did a fantastic job of establishing the company, and we’ve taken that good work and driven it home,” she said.

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