It also validates what we have always believed at Seed Space VC, that there is a strong cohort of Aussie fintech businesses that can absolutely take their place on the global stage if given the right funding and support at their early stages of development.
The deal is certain to pique the interest of overseas investors. The well-known barriers to investment in Australia – a disconnected, cliquey ecosystem; uncompetitive government support and incentives; and the tyranny of distance – could now shrink in the minds of those looking for the next Australian unicorn. But there is much we could do to help.
Many local VCs missed out on the Afterpay opportunity because a quirk in the local rules prevents government-sponsored VC funds from investing in credit-related businesses. This nonsensical piece of legislation has to go, because until it is amended, Australian fintech investors will continue to miss the boat and foreign investors will snub our otherwise solid VC investment schemes.
Australia has a diverse and vibrant cohort of fintechs at various stages of development, and compared to our international cohorts the investment market here is still in embryonic stages. There is huge opportunity for international investors, in particular, to come and scoop up equity in high-growth companies, and just a little tinkering with the settings regarding investment would make this country a far more attractive place for them to come.
Harmonising taxation is probably the biggest issue, as investors in Australia face far higher tax bills than in any comparable market. Any tax revenue forsaken by making our tax regime internationally competitive would be more than made up for by increased capital flows into Australia and the employment and economic benefits they would bring.
Finally, more investment from the public purse would help turbocharge the development of tech and fintech in this country. Australia is the only country in the developed world with a sovereign wealth fund that does NOT invest in local start-ups.
Of the 14 external funds to which the Future Fund allocates capital, none of them invest in Australian tech or fintech. This not only hampers the sector, but leaves potential returns on the table that could be bolstering our national wealth.
Afterpay is a wonderful example of Australian innovation gone right – let’s hope that those in Canberra take heed and use this opportunity to better foster the Afterpays of tomorrow and beyond.