How did you become an investor?
It was a gradual process. I started by investing in young, really talented people who shared my passion and energy for business. Then I met the founders of Investible and they asked me to judge some pitch competitions. The founding teams asked me to coach and advise them, and I realised the model of a network of investors who had founded their own businesses, scaled them and had a successful exit, was a powerful one. They wanted to invest not only money, but expertise and the experience to help others.
What’s the most common mistake people make when pitching?
Not being properly prepared for the pitch. That could be not knowing much about who they are pitching to, how long they have to pitch, not knowing their business well enough or not knowing the tech in the room they are pitching in, and not preparing some sensible questions to ask the investors. Also, it’s good to find out more about investors, and establish a connection and communication, well before you’re raising.. If you want money – ask for advice, if you want advice – ask for money.
If you want money – ask for advice, if you want advice – ask for money.
What’s the secret to a good pitch?
Tell a story. How and why you got started in this business, what you love about it and want to build it into. Have a big vision but then explain how you’re going to get there and who you will need to do it.
What’s the best part about being an investor?
Helping a number of founders who can excite people about their journey, and love to tell you how they are going – good, bad and what they need from you. It’s watching and helping navigate the startup journey. Sharing the highs and the lows. Seeing people grow and succeed was what I loved as an employer and now it’s what I love as an investor.
How do you define value?
People growing and succeeding.
Do you believe the government allocates too much funding to startup business initiatives, or not enough?
Not enough, and sometimes in the wrong ways. But there are some great initiatives, like tax incentives and co-investment programs, which have resulted in a strengthened ecosystem in the last ten years.
What would you change about the investment process?
I would love to see more Government Co investment programs for Seed to Series A stage businesses. The Queensland Government seem to lead the way in this area and their early stage ecosystem seems to be strengthening as a result.
What’s the most boring/terrible/ridiculous pitch you’ve ever received?
It’s pretty hard to pick the worst, I’ve seen some shockers. Bad preparation is really disappointing. There are so many opportunities for founders to get investor-ready, get pitch practice, and so much information on putting together a solid deck.
What do you think the tech industry will look like in ten years?
I’m not in the business of making predictions, that’s why we have a very diversified portfolio to reduce the risk of being wrong. I am excited by some of the incredible leaps in artificial intelligence and the ability to sense, manage and analyse pedibytes of real-time data about the world around us. As these datasets become widely and freely available, the enablement this will unleash will change the business landscape enormously. Lots of opportunities for innovation will create lots of opportunities for new, exciting, and globally scalable businesses.
Lots of opportunities for innovation will create lots of opportunities for new, exciting, and globally scalable businesses.
How involved do you like to be once you’ve invested into a project – do you take a back seat or do you expect weekly reports?
Depends on the founder. We now have around 70 companies in our portfolio so high touch, on an ongoing basis is generally out of the question, but if I don’t get any reporting regularly (at least quarterly), it’s usually a sure sign they are going out of business. It’s usually a case of no news is bad news.
How/where can startups get the best advice when it comes to approaching investors?
Ecosystem events, pitch competitions and all over the internet.
What needs to change/improve for Australia to become a global leader in tech?
I think the biggest challenge for Australian startups is scaling. It’s hard and expensive to achieve scale in the local market. It’s also hard to validate your business model and unit economics to raise sufficient capital to scale globally.
Would you ever invest in someone without a background in business or finance?
Yes. As long as they were able to attract talent that had those skills.
What advice would you give to startups starting out?
Make sure you have incredible passion and resilience. It’s the hardest thing you will ever do in your life. If you are passionate, resilient and smart, it could also be the most rewarding.
It’s the hardest thing you will ever do in your life.