Significant Capital Ventures works to bring ANU entrepreneurs to the world – The Canberra Times

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Inside suite two of a nondescript Northbourne Avenue building a team of more than 25 physics scientists, researchers, engineers and designers are working towards capturing a $15 billion market. The tech startup makes test and measurement equipment, the devices scientists and engineers use when they’re building, debugging and developing electronics, its chief executive officer Daniel Shaddock explained. The brainchild of Shaddock and 11 Australian National University graduate students and post-doctoral researchers, Liquid Instruments has gone from an idea in a laboratory to more than 40 employees in two countries in less than six years. “I didn’t want to do this as a small business because I already had a day job that I quite liked,” the ANU physics professor said. “So we decided we’d be a venture-funded startup which allows us to get started very quickly, allows us to grow very quickly and ultimately allows us to scale to a very large size.” The backing of locally-based venture capitalists allowed Liquid Instruments to raise $1.3 million within a few months of launching. In January 2019, it announced $11 million had been invested in the growing business. “We sell our product in more than 30 countries now, we have a network of distributors all over the world who help us sell what has become millions of dollars of export revenue for us,” he said. The company is one of more than 20 founded through a partnership between ANU and Canberra’s Hindmarsh family to identify entrepreneurship. Head of Innovation at ANU, Michael Cardew-Hall is responsible for identifying intellectual property within the university and finding ways to bring the new ideas to the world. Professor Cardew-Hall said over the last few years the university has been very active in the development of startups out of Canberra. ANU and the Hindmarshes’ Significant Capital Ventures has backed and sought backing from several universities and private investors to get applied-technology businesses off the ground. Professor Cardew-Hall said there was a gap in identifying the potential for entrepreneurship in Australia and with the absence of international-student fees this year, research has taken a hit. “The recent billion dollars the government has put into the sector in the latest budget will help in order to fill the stopgap but what we need is actual government funding for research because that’s the core base of where the idea comes from,” he said. “There is a reasonable amount of venture funding around in Australia at the moment, but not much of it is focused on this really early stage coming out of universities.” Professor Cardew-Hall said Significant Capital’s model was different to other venture capitalists as it was not just about coming up with the money. “A lot of our researchers want to be entrepreneurial but they’ve spent their careers doing research, which they’re very, very good at, some but not many can make a transition to being business people,” he said. From the family responsible for some of the ACT’s largest property developments, Significant Capital’s CEO Fiona Hindmarsh heads the team which now provides mentorship and business development skills to innovators at several universities. Ms Hindmarsh said they are a suite of people who have been doing early-stage venture capital investing for a very long time. “Early stage is different because you don’t even know if you’ve got a business really, you’ve got, maybe an idea, maybe you’ve got a product or maybe you’ve got the semblance of a product, it might be a really ugly baby and we have to turn it into something you can sell,” she said. READ ALSO: From Lyneham and its second office in the United States, Liquid Instruments will sell $2 million worth of its initial product worldwide in 2020 while developing version 2.0, which it hopes to bring to marked mid next year. “It will be the product we wish we were smart enough and talented enough to build initially,” professor Shaddock said. He said entrepreneurs from the territory were on the way up. “It’s really a rising tide lifts all boats, the more we can collaborate and share ideas and help each other out the better,” he said.

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