The value of small business to the economy and Australia's international lag in tech startup support topped the discussion at Telstra’s inaugural muru-D 'On Fire' event in Sydney this week.
Among the local entrepreneurs who spoke at the event held by Telstra's startup incubator, muru-D, was Richard Webb, the founder of global interactive media incubator, Red Ocean and digital media planning company, Effective Measure.
Webb highlighted how one of the general trends for businesses around the world was that companies are getting smaller and, as a result, more agile. But, according to Webb, there would still be a place for big companies in the process.
"We're all thinking about setting up companies because the cost of transaction is close to nothing now," he said. "In the coming decade we are moving toward corporations of one, but big companies will be funding the innovation that will lead to that transition."
Webb also pointed out how some social and political environments can be much more supportive of startups and small businesses than others, with New Zealand making for a much more supporting environment for tech startups than Australia.
Webb highlighted the New Zealand-based cloud accounting software company, Xero, as a prime example of how New Zealand supports startups.
"Small is beautiful. I predicted four years ago that New Zealand, because of its size and nimbleness would proliferate with companies of less than five staff. In NZ they've been focusing on innovation and it is an entrepreneur-friendly environment," he said.
"Not so here in Australia. The future's got to be investing in minds here, not property," he said.
This sentiment was echoed by Stuart Fox, managing director of investments management company, Artesian Capital, who highlighted the Australian heavy dependence on the resources and banking sectors.
"70 percent of the stock market in Australia is mining and banks. Add telcos and that's about 80 percent. At the moment, our future is holes in the ground, home loans, and phones," said Fox.
"The other economies around the world that have that kind of ratio are not the places that Australia would aspire to have the same standard of living."
Telstra’s digital content services director, Adam Good, agreed that small businesses would take the lead over big businesses in Australia's economy in the future, saying:"We're a big company, but the future is in small businesses."
The comments come only days after StartupAUS released its paper suggesting a lack of government support in Australia for the startup community. With the right support, the paper said, the startup industry could contribute AU$109 billion to the national economy.
The muru-Devent comes six months after Telstra launched its startup incubator program. For Ann Parker, co-founder of the muru-D Start-up Academy, the whole point of the program is to try and encourage startups to stay local.
"We want to want to support and grow the entire Australian startup industry and ecosystem so we can keep our very best talent here in Australia," she said. "Rather than letting it sail off to the shores to Silicon Valley.
"But we also want to inspire others to help us and get involved in that process so we can achieve that large scale change."