A venture capital scheme launched on Tuesday will enable Canberra entrepreneurs to access funds to build their business.
Significant Capital Ventures is a joint venture between the Australian National University and the Hindmarsh Group, and is also supported by the University of Canberra. It will receive funding from the ACT government.
The new fund aims to drive innovation in Canberra and build investment links between business and research. It is expected to have a size of between $10 million and $30 million and will invest in early-stage start-ups to help them become sustainable businesses and industries of the future.
In a joint statement, chief minister Andrew Barr and small business minister Chris Bourke said the new scheme would enable Canberra to play to its strengths as Australia’s knowledge capital, turning smart ideas into successful businesses and diversifying the economy and creating new jobs in the process.
The ACT government contribution is $50,000 through the CBR Innovation Development Fund and a further $50,000 for establishment costs and advisory support.
Significant Capital Ventures joins other government-supported small business initiatives, including the CBR Innovation Network, the Entry29 co-working space, the GRIFFIN Accelerator, the KILN Incubator and the Innovation Connect grant program.
Together these initiatives provide a comprehensive pathway of support for start-ups and entrepreneurs in the ACT, the ministers’ statement said.
“This collaborative activity is creating an ever growing pipeline of investable companies through Canberra’s innovation eco system and Significant Capital Ventures will provide an important new source of early stage capital.”
“The Significant Capital Ventures team brings a wealth of expertise in delivering early-stage capital to the market and have strong connections with the Canberra Business Development Fund, ANU Connect Ventures Seed Investment Fund and the Capital Angels.”
ANU and Hindmarsh have a strong record in investing in and supporting start-ups.
The university helped start up ANU Connect Ventures in 2005 and Hindmarsh in 2000 helped establish its associated entity, Australian Capital Ventures Limited (ACVL), to manage three funds, including the Canberra Business Development Fund with the ACT government.
Through those entities, the partners have so far helped more than 30 start-up businesses, including companies now listed on the ASX and the London Stock Exchange AIM, such as Seeing Machines Limited.
ANU vice-chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said the university took great pride in being “at the centre of Australia’s innovation economy”.
“The ANU, along with Hindmarsh, has been a leader of venture capital activity in the region for over a decade. Together we have proven that Canberra can produce world-class technology from a base of fundamental research.
Impress the world
“With the support of many of the programs on offer from the ACT government, we see Canberra as an ideal place to create an idea, test it, grow it, and turn it into something special that will impress the world.”
Among the success stories is the former ANU start-up Lithicon, which provides core analysis services to the oil and gas industry and was sold in 2014 to US company FEI for $76 million.
Lithicon co-founder Dr Victor Pantano said the seed funding received through ANU Connect Ventures and ACVL was crucial to Lithicon’s success as a company.
“We wouldn’t have been able to start or grow the company without it, it was key,” Dr Pantano said. “Without the support of ANU Connect Ventures and ACVL, there would have been no company.
“We grew extremely rapidly to employ around 50 people, we were in the BRW Top 100 Fastest Growing Companies list within three years.”