Australia’s most inspiring founders have disrupted markets and given the world some of the most exciting innovations of the 21st century. But what are the stories behind these impressive entrepreneurs and their remarkable businesses? And what lessons can other founders learn from their success? We look at the most pertinent takeaways from five of Australia’s best and brightest innovators and how to apply them to your business.
Find your passion
Dylan Alcott made history when he became the third professional tennis player ever to net the golden grand slam in tennis. But, what you may not know about Dylan Alcott is that he is an all-star in the business world too. Not only does Dylan Alcott lead a foundation that bears his name for young people with disabilities, he is also the co-founder and business owner of two other companies. After co-founding Get Skilled Access in 2017 to drive workplace inclusion and cultural change for people with disabilities, Dylan raised the stakes by launching Able Foods in 2020. Able Foods is revolutionising ready-meal products for people with disabilities. The business gives NDIS recipients better access to fresh and healthy home-delivered pre-made meals that are easier to open and prepare. The business achieved a significant milestone earlier this year, expanding its distribution channels to secure shelf space at Coles for its accessible baked bean product. What sets Able Foods apart — in addition to its product offering — is that the company prioritises employing people with disabilities throughout the business from the warehouse to the board room.
“I would be wasting my life if I won 20 grand slams, and that’s all I did. I love the ability to help people. I don’t get out of bed every day to play to win a tennis tournament… it provides me with a platform to do what I really want. To continue to change the perceptions around disability.”¹
– Co-founder Get Skilled Access and Able Foods, Dylan Alcott OAM
If you’re unsure about which direction to take, either with an existing business or one that you’re about to launch, take a leaf out of Dylan Alcott’s book. Pinpoint what you’re passionate about and think about how you can weave it into your venture. That way, the energy and commitment it takes to set up and sustain a business will never leave you.
The data bears it out. Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders face a lifetime of disadvantage. From adverse social and emotional wellbeing outcomes to lower life expectancy, indigenous males and females encounter health challenges and economic marginalisation at every life stage. Birri Gubba man Wayne Denning has made it his mission to find solutions for the pernicious ramifications of colonisation that plague first nation peoples in Australia and overseas. Founded in 2006, Wayne’s business, Carbon Creative, is no ordinary creative agency. It sets itself apart with its commitment to driving social change through creative and impactful work. Over the past 15 years, Carbon Creative has conceived and managed successful campaigns to empower people and bring about mass behavioural change. The agency’s impressive portfolio spans an array of highly challenging issues from Indigenous health and wellbeing, foster care for vulnerable children, to increasing voter participation and immunisation rates. It also produces video content with Indigenous Australians to promote diversity and understanding globally, with the backing of the US not-for-profit social enterprise, Sesame Workshop, creator of Sesame Street.
If you can find solutions to problems, you will unlock huge potential for your company to succeed and grow.
Be better than the rest
No rollcall of Australia’s most inspiring founders would be complete without Melanie Perkins and her Australian graphic design start-up, Canva. After raising $40 million in 2018, Canva became one of a handful of Australian start-ups to earn unicorn status – a privately owned business valued at over $1 billion. Following a new funding round in the first half of 2021, Canva’s valuation reached an eyewatering US$40 billion (AU$55 billion) by September. This saw the start-up earn its place in history as one of the world’s fastest-growing privately-owned technology companies. ²Today with a customer base of more than 55 million active users worldwide, Canva is on track to become Australia’s most successful tech company ever. The business has achieved stellar success through its graphic design solutions that anyone who isn’t an experienced designer can use. By offering a dazzling range of easy-to-use templates, images and fonts for different digital platforms, social media and print formats, Canva simply leaves the competition for dust.
“Your customers are the most important people in your business”³
– Co-founder and CEO, Canva Melanie Perkins
Since launching in Perth in 2013, the business has worked to continually refine and improve its products and customer service to grow its revenue. This customer focus has paid off for Canva. And it will pay off for your business if you commit to being better than your competitors on both product and service.
Keep it simple
It will come as no surprise to see AfterPay co-founders Nic Molan and Anthony Eisen on our list of Australia’s most inspiring founders. The pair disrupted the world of retail and consumer credit with their fintech start-up that’s grounded in the simple concept of making money from merchants and not consumers. AfterPay allows shoppers to spread the cost of purchases over four interest-free instalments and has become a by-word for buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) services. Sticking with the keep it simple mantra, AfterPay is collaborating with WestPac on a banking-as-service app called Money. By teaming up with WestPac on a digital platform, AfterPay can offer banking services without its own banking licence. Since launching AfterPay in 2015, Molnar and Eisen have transformed their BNPL start-up into a household name and multi-billion dollar business that has recently been acquired by US financial services giant Square.
Make simplicity a focus for your business. It will help you and your team communicate better with your customers and stakeholders about your offerings and give you the edge when it comes to growth.
Focus on cash flow
Cash flow is the engine room of any business. But it’s particularly critical for new ventures and established businesses using R&D to develop new products or services. Canva is a case in point. It’s destined to be the most successful Australian start-up in history, and during its scale-up journey, Canva has had six funding rounds to keep its capital and cash flow in good shape. While a capital raise is an effective way of accessing the funds you need to grow your business, it’s time-consuming, dilutes your equity and there’s no guarantee of success. Accessing capital can be challenging. But depending on your circumstances, you may be able to access government grants and incentives, such as the Federal Government’s Commercialisation Fund, The Certain Inputs to Manufacture program and, if your business has eligible R&D, the R&D tax incentive (R&DTI).
It’s critical to keep a close eye on cash flow. Successfully maintaining a healthy cash position for a growing business or R&D program requires a mix of tactical and strategic thinking. It’s vital to weigh up the pros and cons of the different funding sources you have in your capital mix.
Unleash your cash flow potential
If you’re wondering if you’re eligible for the R&DTI, we can connect you with our network of expert R&D tax consultants so you can explore your options. If you do qualify for the R&D tax refund, then it’s worth considering R&D finance to tap into this capital early. You can access a Radium Advance from Radium Capital in a handful of business days.* Our simple, reliable platform, keeps paperwork and hassle to a minimum, giving you more time to focus on your businesses and R&D. Our loans are non-dilutionary too, so the only security typically required is your R&D refund itself. Has learning more about Australia’s entrepreneurial luminaries inspired you to launch a start-up or invest more into your R&D? If it has, schedule a call with one of our R&D finance experts today.
*Radium Advances can be approved within two business days if all application documentation is received and correct. Radium Capital is a specialist R&D financier. In assessing your eligibility and preparing your RDTI claim, we recommend you seek the advice of an R&D consultant.
¹ Get Skilled Access, 2021: About. [online] available at: https://getskilledaccess.com.au/about/
² Paul Smith (2021) Australian Financial Review: Canva Set to be Australia’s Most Successful Tech Company ever. [online] available at: https://www.afr.com/technology/canva-set-to-be-australia-s-most-successful-tech-company-ever-20210915-p58rrl
³ Kathy Caprino (2015) Forbes: Canva CEO Melanie Perkins On Raising $6 Million In Funding And Building A Successful Design Venture. [online] available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2015/07/15/canva-ceo-melanie-perkins-on-raising-6-million-in-funding-and-building-a-successful-design-venture/