The Australian startup visa

Here’s an idea for Government. How about we consider a visa specifically for entrepreneurs looking to create businesses here in Australia?

We talk a lot about skills shortages, the need to create jobs, the desire to continue Australia’s tradition in innovation; it makes perfect sense to consider a visa of this nature with a program behind it to ensure the success of all entrepreneurs awarded the visa.

There are many different ways we could make this work. I’d like to start the conversation with these ideas.

First, entrepreneurs need to be creating new businesses from scratch; not setting up a new branch of an existing business (while certainly beneficial to Australia, this visa needs to cater specifically to startups.)

Entrepreneurs would pitch their startups (in the form of an idea or working prototype) to Government representatives who will then assess the startup based on a number of factors including its ability to fill a gap in our market by serving Australians well, creating jobs, along with the usual revenue and growth prospects.

We would have an annual startup intake quota, perhaps somewhere in the vicinity of 5,000. Each startup would be awarded seed capital from the Government (in the order of $20,000 or $30,000) and are welcome to bring fellow co-founders and even an existing team from their home country (provided the existing team only engage in work related to the startup.)

The entire team can stay anywhere in the country for 6 months with options to extend visa duration pending progress. If the company is successful and the founders (along with the rest of the team) decide to stay, we would convert their situation to something more permanent.

Government representatives would solicit monthly progress updates and work closely with entrepreneurs to mentor them and ensure the startups’ success. While it’s important for the Government to see progress, our representatives must possess a good degree of patience and tolerance. Startups don’t necessarily deliver results within desired timeframes but at the same time, our representatives need to recognise when the startup is on the wrong track and take corrective action.

This means we’d need experienced, knowledgeable and passionate mentors as part of this new Government department, preferably successful Australian entrepreneurs with a solid track record.

Towards the end of the 6 months, entrepreneurs will pitch their startups to investors for further funding (if required). This process is also open to foreign investors — but the company would have to be majority Australian owned.

Success stories are celebrated and added to the public domain for learning. Failures are also treated as learning experiences but we could even consider opening the startup to other entrepreneurs (local or otherwise) who might have ideas on how to revive the company.

I believe now is the right time to start this conversation in Australia. If we introduce such a visa and its underlying program to ensure the success of incumbent startups, we’ll be making a solid investment in Australia’s future. We’d attract talent from around the world and position our nation as an entrepreneurial beacon.