Vic govt eyes women VC fund

Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

The Victorian government is considering directly funding female founders and entrepreneurs, as a new investor education service is launched in the state.

Speaking at the launch of Scale Investors’ Startup InvestEd program in Melbourne on Tuesday, Innovation Minister Philip Dalidakis said he pitched the concept of a fund to support female founders in the state, similar to the program the City of New York government recently announced.

In August, the City of New York revealed it would commit $10 million over five years to WE Venture, a new program targeting investments in women-led early-stage companies.

Mr Dalidakis said he hoped a similar scheme would be launched by the Victorian government soon.

“I have spoken to my colleagues about my experience in New York, where they’ve put a $10 million fund to support female founders, and I would hope that I’ve been persuasive enough with my colleagues to try to convince them that we need to do something similar in Victoria,” Mr Dalidakis said.

Mr Dalidakis said he aimed to give the Victorian tech sector a worldwide reputation for being diverse and inclusive.

“One of the things that I want us to be is to be known globally as one of the most inclusive, diverse and supportive tech or startup ecosystems around the world,” he said.

“We’ve got challenges in terms of size and scale, in terms of workforce and in a whole range of areas. But we can meet those challenges if we create something that is special enough that it will see people want to be here and associate with Melbourne.”

“If we can be that inclusive drawcard, if we can be that light on the hill then we will see founders and talent come here because they want to be here. This is a social play first and foremost – an equity play first and foremost – and then it becomes an economic play subsequent to that.”

The state government has already funded a number of diversity and women-focused tech and startup ventures through its $60 million innovation fund LaunchVic.

In August it pledged $250,000 to Scale Investors, a female-focused angel investing group, for the development of an online angel investor education program.

Scale Investors’ program, which launched on Tuesday, includes six module online courses featuring 26 contributors including Seek co-founder Paul Bassett, Scale Investors board member Lynne Thornton, and NAB Ventures general partner Melissa Widner.

“The startup community is enormously generous. They have given their time, hours of time, and they’re all busy people. And without this Startup InvestEd would not exist. I thank them and pay tribute to their generosity,” Scale Investors special project manager Amanda Derham said at the launch event.

It aims to “empower investors and entrepreneurs with an understanding of the art and the science of early-stage investing by building the skills and confidence to make successful startup investment decisions”.

The modules include risk and returns, negotiating term sheets, due diligence and startup boards and exists.

LaunchVic CEO Kate Cornick said that while the Victorian startup ecosystem is growing rapidly on the founder side, the investor community isn’t matching the pace.

“The one peice of work we know we have to do a lot of work in is our investor community,” Dr Cornick said.

“We’re growing very rapidly on the startup side, but our investor side is not growing commensurately. It’s a real problem. If we are not growing our investor landscape, we can’t achieve the potential of that growth,” she said.

“We believe this course will make a real difference. Having something online that allows many busy people the opportunity to do a course without having to turn up online. It will help the angel community to grow and hone their skills, and people thinking about angel investing to step into the opportunity and get involved in the startup sector.”

Mr Dalidakis said improving the diversity of the tech and startup sectors is one of his key aims if Labor retains government the upcoming state election.

“This is an area that I’m very committed to and quite passionate about. From my perspective in government we need to be a partner in that change and support it wherever we can. As much as we’ve done, we’ve got that and then some to do yet again,” he said.

“We can’t allow ourselves to just say it will change, let it change naturally and organically. If we’re not part of the solution we remain part of the problem.

“My commitment to you in this room is to continue to work in any way that I can to see that change occur as quickly as possible because the investment returns from female founded companies is both greater in return percentage and in terms of longevity.”

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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