Schrodinger’s kangaroos

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Sometimes I feel like an eskimo in snowstorm; there aren’t any like-minded souls out there…

This from the Business Insider “The association which represents Australia’s venture capital and private equity firms has come out swinging over today’s Commission of Audit report …AVCAL is worked up because one of the seven bodies the commission has marked for abolition is the Innovation Investment Fund. While the other program AVCAL was hoping to sneak through unscathed, the Commercialisation Australia program, also made the grants to be abolish list.”

Well I have a different view entirely. I think that getting the sick, sick patient (the Australian tech sector) off the drip will either force the patient’s immune system to kick in and we will see a recovery. Or the patient will die and leave room for some new organism to thrive, undistorted by the sins of the past.

I have documented the 30-year failure of government investment in venture capital. Seriously, did they expect the government to spend another decade in attempt to achieve the record of the longest failed experiment in the global history of all experiments in any field of science, technology or business? Actually I think they already have the record!

Just as an aside the longest successful experiment in science, technology or business is also Australian. It was started in 1927 at the University of Queensland. It’s just pitch dropping very slowly from a funnel. Since the experiment started there have been 8 drops of pitch of which only a couple have been observed. Which begs the question did the others really fall? So you see, it’s not just an ignoble experiment in stupidity but a philosophical experiment! Who would have guessed.

I guess the government, directly or indirectly, sponsored both programs, the longest successful and the longest failed experiments in science, technology and business. Which is in itself an interesting philosophical puzzle. Why us?

Commercialisation Australia (CA) on the other hand has had only a brief existence on this planet. It was introduced by one of the previous Labor governments (probably Rudd, after the magnificent 2020 Summit) and pretty much replaced the old COMET scheme. Somewhere in their makeup both of these organizations started with the assumption that (a) startups companies in Australia have great ideas, but (b) our entrepreneurs are babes in the woods, and therefore (c) the COMET/CA selective input of time and money will fix all of their problems and they will go onto to becomes the next global technology giants. Yeah that worked, not!

Whereas I could stomach taking money off COMET (and there is no reason not to take free money off the government if it is on offer) I could never get myself to seriously try with CA. There were simply too many hoops to go through and too many conversations with patronising ‘consultants’ advising me on how to run my startups. Worst of all was the weirdness in the selection process; you had to simultaneously prove that you deserved and needed the money but couldn’t get it off anyone else, but that you had tried. This was some odd version of Schrodinger’s cat in a box experiment, once again proving our government doesn’t mind sponsoring philosophical experiments in the guises of science, technology and business.

Well in this instance, my friends, the cat is well and truly dead!

Photo by bugflickr




Ian A. Maxwell is a veteran Technology Entrepreneur and Venture Capitalist. He is currently CEO of BT Imaging, Chair of Instrument Works and Co-Founder of Accordia IP as well as a partner at Zetta Research and an Adjunct Professor at RMIT. He has a PhD in Chemistry and has either founded or worked at Memtec, Allen & Buckeridge, Redfern Photonics, Sydney University Polymer Centre, James Hardie, Viva Blu, Enikos, Wriota, RPO and Instrument Works. You can connect with him on Linkedin

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