Australia ‘flying blind’ without startup data

Australia is ‘flying blind’ on the back of a decision by the Federal and state Governments to cease monitoring the startup economy, according to the head of Startup Muster – the only company to comprehensively survey the sector.

“I’m genuinely concerned for the future of Australia,” said Startup Muster’s CEO Murray Hurps. “We have a problem and we are now flying blind.”

Hurps’ company is lauded in the innovation sector for producing the most inclusive startup business survey and report in Australia.

However, on the back of the latest report, the federal government have withdrawn their financial support – and with it – the ability to track and measure the progress, challenges and opportunities in newly founded Australian businesses.

During the Ideas Boom, the Federal Department of Industry, Innovation and Science was quick to become Startup Muster’s first client.

In the face of job losses due to technical advances, the department recognised the need for good data for good decisions about the important, and then, burgeoning sector.

However, Startup Muster CEO Murray Hurps said that innovation has now become a dirty word.

“The federal government has completely dropped the word ‘innovation’ from its vocabulary and doesn’t seem to want to talk about startups at all anymore,” he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has not created an Innovation Minister in his new cabinet and the government has insisted that innovation issues will fall under the Industry, Science and Technology portfolio.  

Emeritus Professor Roy Green, the former dean of the UTS Business School, has expressed concern about the government’s decision not to track startup data in Australia.

“It’s sometimes said that we can’t manage what we don’t measure. While no one would suggest that the startup sector requires management in the conventional sense, it does require a supportive policy framework whose quality and relevance will, in turn, depend on an adequate information base.”

“The reluctance of federal and state governments to underwrite the highly-professional survey work of Startup Muster was clearly a missed opportunity from this point of view,” said Professor Green.

And, in what can only be interpreted as an oversight by a government department, the new Minister for Industry and Science, The Hon. Karen Andrews has generously provided her photo and a public message as an introduction to the Startup Muster 2018 Report.

A report that will be not be provided to her government in the future, because her department won’t fund it.  

In the forward, Minister Andrews writes:

‘Startup Muster was founded to draw attention to the progress, opportunities and challenges for Australia’s startup ecosystem. Since 2014, its reports and the quality data sets that underpin them, have helped us to paint a clearer picture of the strengths and weaknesses of this growing sector.’

Hurps is quick to defend the new Minister, who is only weeks into her new role and faced with the task of managing career public servants. However, he remains gravely concerned about the Startup Economy.

“Billions is spent each year in support of Australian startups, but how much is spent understanding the problems they face, or the progress they’re making?” he said.

Hurps said that his company was launched, in part, due to frustration about the lack of quality data in the startup research produced by consulting firms.

“Collecting this kind of data requires trust from the industry, independence and a track record of giving value back,” he said.

“When estimates point to as many as 5 million Australian jobs lost in the next 10 years, due to automation, robots and the internet of things, you have to wonder why any government would want to take the risk?”

“Everyone who drives a bus, taxi or courier van – or, who works on a farm or in the professional services sector – should be thinking about their future, and what government is doing to ensure the jobs of the future are being created,” he concluded.