When Springboard Enterprises founder Kay Koplovitz was asked to bring her development program for female entrepreneurs to Australia nine years ago she thought it was pointless.
“I said there’s no venture capital in Australia. You can’t teach people to raise something that’s not there,” Ms Koplovitz said.
But eventually she was convinced to bring the world-renowned program to Australian shores. Since then Ms Koplovitz has witnessed the local innovation and venture capital ecosystems thrive and rapidly develop.
Speaking at InnovationAus.com’s Women in VC event in Sydney last week Ms Koplovitz described her journey of bringing Springboard Enterprises to Australia, and how she has seen VC grow from an external point of view.
“Five years ago we couldn’t find $25 million in the country that was being invested in early stage companies,” Ms Koplovitz said. “This is a country enormously wealthy in assets, but different kinds of assets like mining, not the innovation economy.
“So we talked about what you can do here and what the government can do to help this and shine a light on innovation.”
But in the five years since the VC market in Australia has rapidly evolved, and there is now nearly $1 billion on offer for early-stage tech companies.
“That’s really important, that we have the investment dollars here if you want to keep your company here and grow it. It’s exciting now, and there are more opportunities,” she said.
“There was already amazing entrepreneurs. We’re proud to be a part of building the economy here, to be bringing this expertise to people here and sharing it with others.”
Ms Koplovitz founded Springboard Enterprises in 1999 after becoming frustrated with continually seeing women trying running companies without the necessary capital.
“Women had to find a way to do this – they’ve been building businesses on capital starvation for too long and I just didn’t want to have this continue,” she said.
But when the entrepreneur looked to launch the program, the reaction wasn’t overly positive.
“People told us, ‘you’re crazy, women don’t do that. They don’t build scalable businesses’. But we said we’re going to try,” Ms Koplovitz said.
Now, across the last 17 years, 642 companies from around the world have taken part in the program, with 84 per cent of these going on to raise $7.4 billion in capital collectively.
“How have we been doing so far? Pretty damn good,” Ms Koplovitz said.
“I knew they would overperform. Women learn and adapt very, very quickly, and that is key to being a strong and productive entrepreneur.”
Across this time, one of the biggest lessons the Springboard team has learnt is the importance of having the right mentors and advisors at the right time.
“Having the right person at the right time with the right experience and the right introduction to an entrepreneur makes all the difference in the scalability of these companies. This is what we’ve learnt over the period of time and we continue to develop on that,” Ms Koplovitz said.
“It’s not just about the entrepreneur or the availability of capital, it’s about the entire ecosystem.”