For years the conventional wisdom had it that Australians might be clever but the true entrepreneurs resided in the US, specifically in Silicon Valley. But a new generation of locals is proving that assumption wrong, as they grab the opportunity presented by technology and a changing national mindset to launch their own businesses. On these pages we list 200 of those companies, founded by entrepreneurs with big ideas and a heap of energy. Ranging across the sectors from education to building products to house cleaning, they have been chosen as great exemplars of the burgeoning start-up scene in this country.
Selected from more than 1000 companies that entered the 2018 Westpac Businesses of Tomorrow competition, these are businesses that reflect the passion among young Australians to create their own jobs through building new companies.
This is the second year Westpac has run the program – an initiative from the business bank to shift significant sums of money from its marketing budget into promoting firms with high chances of success.
To be chosen, the founders of the companies must demonstrate that they have a clear purpose and vision, understand their customers’ needs, and have the capability to meet the challenges of a fast-evolving, disrupted world. The businesses vary from small start-ups with fewer than 10 employees to companies with more than 250 staff and $100 million turnover. Their “products” range from services for the homeless to advanced software solutions.
The winners were chosen by a judging panel that included Alison Deans, board director at Cochlear, IAG and Westpac; Simon Cant, MD of Reinventure; and Ian Harper, the dean of Melbourne Business School.
‘Consulting support and mentoring can help fill the gaps between a founder’s special ability and the needs of the market.’
Leaders of each of the 200 businesses will now participate in a three-day workshop at the school. The top 20 will attend a study tour in Silicon Valley and will be assigned a mentor for a year. They receive a $50,000 professional consulting package from advisers such as Allens Linklaters, AT Kearney, PR firm Map and Page and Deloitte.
Last year’s top 20 winners had extended group conversations with the founders of LinkedIn and Airbnb on their study tours, learning first-hand how to navigate through the high-growth phase of an accelerating business.
One of the winners from last year, Jordan O’Reilly of online disability platform Hireup, was particularly inspired by Joe Gebbia, the chief product officer and co-founder of Airbnb, who has a personal wealth of $US3.8 billion ($5.2 billion). Gebbia told him that business was about much more than money. O’Reilly started Hireup in memory of his late profoundly disabled brother and is committed to helping families get the best out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Still in its relative infancy, the company is already profitable.
O’Reilly says: “Joe Gebbia spoke about the pressure on him to IPO. He said, ‘That’s not what it’s about for me and the co-founders. This is about legacy’. That was music to my ears.
“You can get sucked into thinking along those lines of what the business is worth. As I heard [Joe] say that it gave me permission to say ‘I don’t want to think about that question’.”
That’s the value of a program such as this. It gives company founders a rare chance to step back from their business and reassess why they began the journey and what their next steps should be.
For a young company eyeing global domination, meeting a business rock star such as Gebbia is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Consulting support and mentoring can help fill the gaps between a founder’s special ability and the needs of the market. For the people behind this program, the hope is that these are the sorts of experiences that can leapfrog a company from good to great.
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