NSW goes to the polls tomorrow — here’s what leading tech startup founders want from the next government
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Startup founders across NSW have told Business Insider Australia what they want from the next elected state government, which will be voted for on Saturday.
Suggestions range from taking inspiration from Victoria, to raising the payroll tax threshold and improving the state’s transport infrastructure.
Australia’s tech startup scene lags behind those in many other developed nations, but the right policies can help the nation’s entrepreneurs to excel and grow their businesses into large global corporations.
With the NSW state elections happening this weekend, we decided to ask startup founders across The First State what kind of policies the new leaders should introduce to help them become the next Atlassians of the world.
Here’s what they had to say:
The next elected NSW state government should look at taking some inspiration from Victoria. Victoria has some great initiatives in place to support and accelerate startups and technology businesses, which we don’t see replicated here in NSW.
For example, I’d love to see our state government focus on attracting global technology companies to establish their regional offices in Sydney. Melbourne offers a lot of incentives in this regard.
Startup accelerator programs, co-working spaces, incubators and mentorships should also be invested in. The aim should be to make it easy for businesses to apply for these services, and for them to have access to relevant support during the incubation period. With an influx of new talent, NSW will benefit from the “melting pot” effect of experience mixing in with creativity.
This will help create the next generation of innovation, and strong entrepreneurial talent in our state — it all comes down to providing easy access and the right environment. In turn, this will bring in more technology led investors, creating more jobs in the community.
There are a number of practical actions that should be prioritised by the next elected state government, all of which are particularly close to my heart.
Firstly, the government should look at raising the payroll tax threshold which currently penalises businesses for employing additional staff members. Raising the payroll tax threshold would alleviate costs on business growth and barriers to employment which would aid the issues of business support and youth unemployment.
Secondly, a Business Development Fund investment, as modelled in QLD, should be introduced. This would stimulate a healthy business ecosystem to encourage business growth and further employment.
Finally, the elected state government should continue to promote female STEM participation through primary, secondary and tertiary education. This is pivotal for succeeding in an innovative STEM future.
I’m a strong believer that infrastructure is fundamentally important for any business to grow. By having great infrastructure, businesses like us can be located outside of the city fringe and still find great employees who don’t need to travel extensively. No one likes travelling for two hours but that is unfortunately the reality for many people in Sydney and NSW.
I’d like to see more focus on promoting enterprise and in an ideal world a removal of the payroll tax. It is the one tax that makes no sense – the idea that a government penalise a business for hiring more staff doesn’t add up. While NSW does have a payroll tax rebate scheme, I believe it can be more widely implemented and should be offered more broadly.
Other than that, I’d love to see a continued focus on enterprise and celebrating the success that Australian businesses offer.
I’d love to see a future where the State Government is the first enterprise customer of the start-ups they host, wherever relevant. So many start-ups are dependent on investment capital until they can grow enough scale to be self-reliant.
There are so many products which could give government customers material value, which in turn could be transformational to start-ups, however often their own procurement guidelines exclude start-ups due to their size, and favour providers that can cost taxpayers materially more.
For NSW and Sydney to truly be considered global we need the next State Government to look at our all but non-existent night economy.
When you go to New York, London or Tokyo there is constant activity throughout the day and night; when you go into Sydney after most of the workers have left their offices for the day, it’s like a ghost-town. And I’m not just talking about bars and nightclubs.
We have all time low vacancies in Sydney and ridiculously high rents as a result, that prohibits many new businesses from actually getting out there and starting to operate. Not all innovative new businesses can be run out of a garage.
When I go into Sydney at night and see all of these closed and inactive cafes, retail stores and other buildings, I see massive missed opportunities and a huge waste of space. We need the next NSW Government to loosen policies and allow these businesses to reutilise their space, and empower businesses to thrive in the night economy.
When we unlock our night economy, we create an ecosystem that is conducive to innovation.
NSW has lucked out having both of Australia’s tech unicorns, Atlasssian and Canva, headquartered in Sydney. These companies champion startups and innovation in the state, but also mask a lack of effort from the NSW government to compete with Victoria and Queensland on startup-focused policy.
Victoria has a state-funded agency (LaunchVic) supporting its ecosystem. Queensland on the other-hand appoints a chief entrepreneur to keep an eye on innovation.
There’s no one figure or group that anyone can point to in the NSW state government that champions these issues and discusses how they are being fixed.
Such a group could also help triage issues affecting emerging business across the state, and help formulate an innovation strategy with a firm timeline that the state can stick to. They can also push for action on existing policies, like the highly praised Sydney technology and innovation precinct.
As it stands, it feels like startup policy in NSW is a game of policy ‘whack-a-mole’, where the problem that draws the most attention – often flagged by one of the tech giants – is the one that’s bumped to the front of the queue.
NSW Labor has pledged to solve this if they win the election with the appointment of a chief entrepreneur, which is a step in the right direction. But these policies should be co-operational, as they are relevant to both parties goals of promoting growth in the state. We would hope that if the Liberals take the election out this weekend, they would implement this policy – or something similar.