| Jul 20, 2015
Date: 20 July 2015
Author: Andrew White
Source: The Australian
Australia’s start-up industry has the potential to create the next world-beating technology company, but should look to the world rather than the “illusion’’ that the home market is big enough, according to a recent local recruit from Israel.
Amir Zalcenstein, a healthcare investment manager with OneVentures, said the outward focus and appetite for risk were the biggest differences he had noticed between the Australian and Israeli venture capital industries since moving to Melbourne six months ago.
“Australia is a big enough place to allow people the illusion that it is a big enough market, when in fact what we are looking for is something that is able to be leveraged globally,’’ Dr Zalcenstein said.
Israel is one of the few countries to have a world-class technology hub, with strong government backing for science-based innovation helping create a so-called Silicon Wadi that has proved a magnet for international investors including the James Packer and Paul Bassat-backed Square Peg Capital.
But Mr Zalcenstein said there was also a strong start-up culture in the highly educated population, with scientists wearing attempts to commercialise their research as a badge of honour.
“Because of various factors the path of getting a job in a big company and work until retirement pretty much guarantees that you will end up poor,’’ he said. “So starting a start-up is no risk at all. The risk is in taking no risk.”
A graduate of the Weizmann Institute of Science and former chief executive of two healthcare start-ups, Mr Zalcenstein said Australia enjoyed an “amazing’’ advantage with its tax breaks for research and development — equivalent to a 150 per cent deduction for eligible companies — but needed more support for later-stage companies.
“The way things are right now is that Australia is big enough and the VC industry is small enough that we still see so many great deals and incredible ideas,’’ he said.
“I am confident that we can find the next Facebook here in Australia or the next (pharmaceutical giants) Merck or Pfizer.”