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In the latest special episode of RiverPitch, it’s break time for our contestants ahead of the grand final as a panel of experts deliver a masterclass on what it takes to build a successful business.
Joining the program is investor and RiverPitch mentor Steve Baxter, ACS CEO and RiverPitch judge Andrew Johnson and River City Labs CEO Peta Ellis.
On Tuesday’s night’s episode, our experts discussed some of the key attributes that they look out for in a new business and some of the challenges facing Australia’s start-up space.
What does it take?
Reviewing up to 600 investment deals a year, Baxter has learned to quickly identify which businesses will go all the way.
He says the first attribute is the core team and whether those people have the skills and endurance required to go the distance.
“They’ve got to have the appropriate skills to pull off what they’re talking about and then they’ve got to be able to put up with 10 years of grind,” says Baxter.
“What special insight does your team have to that problem?”
When it comes to investing in a business, Baxter says it also comes down to whether an investor feels they can personally work with that team over a long time frame.
He says most businesses only reach success after eight to 10 years on average.
“Do I want to sit across the table from these people once a quarter for the next 10 years and not want to choke the living daylights out of them?” he asks.
Ellis, who works alongside Baxter, agrees that although a business must have a talented team and a solid business idea, it must also be driven.
“The ones that push hardest win,” she says.
“If you are passionate about an idea or a concept or doing something for a purpose, then absolutely you’ve got a lot to run with.”
“I’m not saying the 24-hour hustle either. I mean, don’t leave any stone unturned, reach out to the contacts, make those sales calls, talk to your customers.”
How can Australia better support start-ups?
Australia can be a tricky place to start up a new business and our experts agree the government could be doing more to support it.
In ACS’s view, that support should be starting at high school and university level, where he says too many young people are still wary of the tech start-up space.
“I think it has changed in terms of brand in the last five or six years, there are a lot of people excited about what technology can create,” says Johnson.
“I think that pipeline will build, but slowly, and not quickly enough in the next five or six years.”
With fewer high school students selecting maths and science subjects, Johnson believes students need to be better encouraged to study STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths).
“It’s a competition. On a global scale we’re falling behind,” he says.
Baxter agrees that too few students are leaving university with the skills they need to make it in the start-up space today compared to students from other countries.
“We need to have more people coming through universities…We need more of them to be enthusiastic about entrepreneurship as a way forward in life and then we have to get the government out of the way to let them get on with it,” Baxter says.
With the future of business fast evolving, Ellis believes Australia’s education system needs an urgent reboot.
“The average statistic is that kids of the future are going to have 17 different careers with a combination of multiple skill sets. So gone are the days where you choose one career path with one set of skills.”
“There are so many roles to play within a start-up company or a technology company and those skills often aren’t taught at schools.”
Don’t miss next week’s finale, where our national winners go head to head for the big prize!
Watch the full episode in the video above.
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