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Wyatt Roy looks to unlock Superannuation Trillions for innovation

Unlocking superannuation for start-ups, a policy hackathon and digital secondments to government are some of the ideas floated by Wyatt Roy on Monday.

The Assistant Minister for Innovation was treated to a rock-star reception from the tech crowd at a summit in Melbourne, where Nitro entrepreneur Sam Chandler, director Peter Yates and venture capitalist Paul Bassat queued with dozens of others for a chat.

The minister’s buoyant spirits could not be flattened even by Monday’s news that Australian software giant Atlassian had filed the initial paperwork for a $3 billion initial public offering in the United States.

“I think this will act as a beacon to encourage the new generation of entrepreneurs, obviously we would have preferred a slightly different outcome but I don’t think we should say this is a bad thing for the ecosystem,” Mr Roy said.

“A lot of the executives in that company when they have success out of an exit will reinvest back into their own ecosystem, so a lot of that will come back into Australia,” he said.

Mr Roy floated the idea of digital secondments to government and said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had backed another idea for a Canberra policy hackathon – a digital brainstorming session.

“One of the first things … [we will do] will be holding a policy hackathon … we will put the public servants in the room and in a hackathon style way which is a good way of disrupting the Canberra bureaucracy we are going to help establish some of the framework around this policy … the Prime Minister [Malcolm Turnbull] and [Innovation Minister] Christopher Pyne have got right behind this,” Mr Roy said.

“The other idea I want to float which is a little bit dangerous freelancing as a minister … I would actually like to see the public service really amplify a secondment style arrangement with the private sector … so bringing people into the public service to help deliver [policy] for three months, six months, three weeks, whatever.”

The founder of Nitro, which is the leading alternative to Adobe Acrobat, Sam Chandler moved his successful start-up from Melbourne to San Francisco and warned the conference that a key barrier was a lack of venture capital to scale up from a mid-sized to large company.

“The ability to scale a company fast in Silicon Valley is really like nowhere else,” Mr Chandler said.

“What is really choking Australia right now is the absence of mid-stage to late-stage venture capital support. Australia raised $120 million in new venture capital in 2014, in the US last year it was $30 billion. They are generating 250-times the amount of venture capital investment.”

Mr Roy said a key goal was to “unlock” capital from Australia’s superannuation system.

“We have a trillion dollars already sitting in capital in superannuation and without being prescriptive and without mandating anything, I think unlocking some of that capital to invest in Australian innovation is a very solid way of doing that.”

The love for Mr Roy even extended from Green’s state MP for Melbourne Ellen Sandell and Labor MP Clare O’Neil who were “very excited” about Mr Roy’s appointment.

Posted on October 5, 2015

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