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Start-up predictions for 2016

2015 was a breakout year for Australia’s tech start-up ecosystem, with governments at all levels across the country finally developing policies to try and capitalise on the momentum that had been building for years. Start-up success stories Atlassian, Canva and Nitro all had cracking years while venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and corporate executives all focused their efforts on innovation at a scale that had never been seen. But that was last year; what does 2016 hold? Here are some predictions from some of Australia’s start-up leaders and trailblazers.

Assistant Minister for Innovation, Wyatt Roy

“Throughout the course of 2016, we’re very excited to see Turnbull’s innovation and science agenda rolled out, which will deliver a comprehensive approach to the Australian innovation ecosystem in its entirety.

“In 2016 I predict we’ll see more Aussie expat entrepreneurs from places like Silicon Valley looking to do more business back home and invest as angels back here in Australia. We’ll also see a number of entrepreneurs spun out of companies that have had great success overseas — like Atlassian — move back into the Australian innovation ecosystem in their own start-ups.

“I think we’ll see a significant increase in capital raised — with 2015 putting us in good stead. I think that there really is a framework for significantly raising venture capital funds in 2016. I think we’ll also see a significant uptake in angel investing and a very strong outreach from Australian entrepreneurs into our region, particularly in Northern Asia where one billion people are coming into the middle class.

“There will be a broader national conversation about how innovation will strengthen the Australian economy and how we hand it over to the next generation of Australians — a country that has more opportunities, not less and a clear focus on our rock star entrepreneurs inspiring the next generation, particularly our incredible female founders.

“I think 2016 will see significant breakthroughs in our natural strengths of biotech, renewables, resources and agriculture. There are some big advances happening in agitech, particularly around automated robotic farming, which is being implemented across the country — I think this year we’ll see some big leaps in this space.

CEO and founder of Pureprofile, Paul Chan

“I think the world will start desiring electric cars because of Tesla, and this will be the catalyst creating higher-profile start-ups based around new technologies that have previously struggled with investor and public appeal.

“Drones will move out of being cool toys to serving practical commercial purposes. Platforms will start to form that allow simple but exciting commercial application and starups will continue to flock to the opportunities being created.

“I think that internet of things (IOT) products, especially in the home-automation space, will start to deliver a few winners and begin to become more commonplace. This is the beginning of a much bigger revolution driven by the IOT.

“We’ll continue to see solutions to problems driven by the consumer. People-driven apps like Uber and Air BnB have paved the way for new, rapidly-scaling business models to evolve. These people-driven solutions to everyday issues will create vast opportunities for start-ups. While unfortunately only a very small number will succeed, those that do are likely to win big.”

Head of Strategy and Advocacy at StartupAUS, Alex McCauley

“2016 is going to be a huge year for start-ups. Thanks to the government’s innovation policy agenda, Australian start-ups are progressively starting to operate in a level playing field with their international competitors. That’s going to lead to lots of flow-on effects. We’ll see more start-ups forming, and more capital available to help them grow. Hopefully we’ll see more talent moving towards start-ups too as they create high-paying jobs in fast-growing companies.

“2015 was the year start-ups went mainstream in Australia. 2016 will be the year they steal the spotlight. Technology start-ups can be the central part of a new growth engine for Australia’s economy — and if we do it right, the ideas boom will pick up where the mining boom left off.

“Expect to see both sides of politics vying for this space in the lead-up to the election later this year. It will be a core part of the economic policy platform for both major parties. Everyone will want to make it easy to build and grow game-changing businesses in Australia, because success will mean nothing short of transformation of the national economy and years of continued prosperity.

“Expect to see lots of very successful Australian start-ups come out of the woodwork in 2016. We already have a long list of tech start-ups worth more than $100m. Almost none of these companies are well known. That list will grow fast, and lots of those companies will come into the public eye with highly sought after IPOs.

“Australia’s mature and highly valuable professional services market will lend itself to rapid growth in companies seeking to change the way professionals work. And our big financial and agricultural industries will see a boom in fintech and agritech businesses. These are all areas in which Australian start-ups could lead the world.”

Anna Rooke, CEO, QUT Creative Enterprise Australia

QUT Creative Enterprise Australia (CEA) helps creative ventures start, grow, scale and connect. CEA is Australia’s only dedicated accelerator and start-up fund dedicated to creative industries.

Anna is a Director of Metaverse Group Pty Ltd, Fame & Partners Pty Ltd and a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Anna is part of Advance Queensland’s Industry Expert Panel and has over 20 years experience in start-up incubation and investment.

“The rise of creative entrepreneurs: In the face of global market uncertainty in traditional sectors, Australia needs to play to its emerging and existing strengths in creative industries which are conservatively valued at US$2.25 trillion globally and more than $35 billion to our Australian GDP. The rise of creative entrepreneurs, in wearable tech, design, games, screen and music are the ‘hot’ start-up hubs to watch in Australia given their unique combination of technology and creativity to pioneer new ‘digital human’ experiences.

“Augmented reality will hit its stride: Not exclusive to Australia, investor confidence in US and Europe in augmented reality is one of the key growth markets given its potential to revolutionise the retail experience and markets. Global brands are all looking to build and create a new touch points and retention tactics with consumers globally enabling greenfield opportunities for Australian start-ups. In Australia, we have frontier companies like Metaverse Makeovers who are changing the landscape for augmented reality, combining fashion nails with virtual reality to create wearable tech products.

“Australian Startup Growth: The start-up scene in Australia will grow further in visibility and confidence given the increased investment and policy focus at a Federal level and through initiatives like Advance Queensland but we can’t afford to be complacent. The level of investment in other countries including the US, UK, Singapore and Israel for building both a vibrant start-up ecosystem and a culture of entrepreneurship has been sustained at a significant level over decades.

We should continue to build more support to encourage more entrepreneurs and investment to retain and attract talent.

“Australia will increase its global start-up status: With an increased national focus, Australia will start to become higher profile and ‘on the map’ as an emerging player in the global start-up ecosystem in 2016. We have a unique opportunity to build our international brand profile on the back of major success with leading creative tech start-up business successes including Halfbrick Studios, Shoes of Prey and Canva.

The focus for Australia’s start-up community will be targeted and in niche verticals where we have existing global capability like creative tech. Australia has always been known as ‘the lucky country’ so in 2016, we will put that to use in building a global emerging start-up hub.”

Investor and Entrepreneur Steve Baxter

“We will see government exert a lot more influence within the start-up community this year. The Federal Government’s Innovation Statement and its policies are the most recent example of this. This is also evident at a State and local government level with a recent case in point being the Advance Queensland state government reforms and Brisbane City Council’s $5 million innovation hub for the CBD. We will see more Federal plans and initiatives this side of the election.

“This is more on the wish list than a prediction — I’d love to see Australia with a billion dollar Australian tech company listing on the ASX to demonstrate to all Australians the value of such success stories.

“This will be the year of the working ‘hub.’ Start-ups have driven the practice of collaborative working hubs for some time and this model is maturing into a sophisticated work option for businesses at varied stages of their development. In 2016, we will see this practice migrate into broader working communities as corporates try to get a slice of the action and energy that comes out of this shared space model.”