The success of a startup often comes down to local levels of support, and in a post-COVID world, support has never been more important. In the months following COVID lockdowns, 74% of startups have had to terminate full-time staff.¹ The latest data also shows that staff terminations are worse in ecosystems where government support is less accessible. Government is the primary source of support in any given startup ecosystem.
In this article, we’ll take a quick look at some of the schemes available to insurtech startups and where to find more information.
Firstly, why do governments care for start-ups?
The foundations of thriving start-up ecosystems are built on proactive government policy. In the 90s, the governments of Israel, England and Singapore all recognised that economic prosperity through the 21st century will be achieved through a rapid and effective transition into a knowledge economy. Forming a large component of the knowledge economy is the tech sector, which is driven by start-ups. Thus, the health of an economy’s start-up ecosystems will drive the health of the broader tech sector and they transition into a knowledge economy.
Why is start-up business crucial to the COVID macro downturn recovery?
- The reliance of the economy on digital and tech products increased significantly through COVID e.g. video conferencing tech for communications and collaboration.
- The majority of net job creation comes from young companies, especially those that scale.¹ (graph from The Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2020 (GSER2020)
- Start-up jobs are 41% cheaper to save than traditional small business jobs through government programs.
- Tech companies are impressive job multipliers. Sample data shows that for every tech job created, five other jobs are created in the economy².
- The only two sectors that have consistently grown employment YoY since 2007 is the tech sector, and the sector that is responsible for looking after those who have suffered i.e. health care & social assistance.
What support is available for Australian insurtech start-ups?
With funding available at local, state and national levels, there is actually a surprising number of schemes and grants that insurtechs can apply for.
The obvious downside of the grant process is the often-time-consuming submission requirements and negotiating the opening and closing dates but the upside is potentially a no-payback cash injection or hands-on support and a credibility boost.
The Australian Government is well known for its supportive approach to start-ups, innovation and exports.
The Entrepreneurs’ Program is the government flagship program for start-ups playing in designated growth sectors. The program has a number of different streams and grant options including;
- Accelerating Commercialisation
- Growth Grants
- Innovation Connections
- Smart Projects and Supply Chains
Each stream offers a combination of support and facilitation, which can also qualify you for funding of between $2500 (ex GST) and $20,000 (ex GST), to cover up to 50% of eligible project costs.
To be able to apply for the Entrepreneurs Programme you must have an annual turnover (or operating expenditure) within the current, or one of the last two financial years:
- Between $1.5 million and $100 million or
- Between $750,000 and $100 million for applicants from Remote Australia or Northern Australia.
Insurtechs focused on enabling one of the growth sectors would potentially qualify for this program.
Another Australian Government initiative which is available to female insurtech founders is the Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship Program.
The Australian Government has committed a total of $14 million over 10 years for the program. For this round, up to $2 million is available from 2020-21 to 2021-22.
The Global Connections Fund is a $4.9 million program that provides seed funding to enable Australian small to medium enterprises (SMEs) to link with international researchers, and Australian researchers to link with international SMEs, to seize opportunities and explore collaborative projects.
The fund comprises two types of grants:
- Priming Grants are small grants of $7,000 to enable Australian SMEs and researchers to physically meet with their international partners and develop their collaborative ideas.
- Bridging Grants are larger grants (up to $50,000) designed as seed funding capital to enable viable projects to grow in scope and scale, to test commercialisation and proof-of-concept activities.
These grants are administered by the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering on behalf of the Australian Government.
Every state in Australia has startup development, regional growth and innovation programs.
In NSW the most applicable grant is the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), which is designed for pre-revenue technology startups to help them engage with a potential business customer, or channel to market, to achieve market validation and first customers.
An MVP grant is a matched funding grant up to 50% of approved project costs, to a maximum of $25,000.
NSW also has Building Partnerships grants to help revenue-generating startups and small to medium enterprises (SMEs) scale or grow by acquiring a key customer or channel to market.
In Queensland the Government offers more than 21 different programs for entrepreneurs and start-ups.
Through the Business Growth Fund, Queensland provides funding of up to $50,000 for small and medium business that demonstrate high-growth and employment aspirations. The fund will enable successful applicants to purchase and implement specialised equipment to help them seize growth opportunities.
Other grants programs that are applicable to insurtech include;
This program provides newly started small businesses access to professional advice and support in the critical early stages of establishing a business.
Matched funding of up to $5,000 (excluding GST) may be provided to eligible businesses to participate in training, engage a consultant, advisor, or business coach for up to 3
This program provides small businesses with access to digital technologies and services to enable them to work smarter, engage with the global economy and make the most of online business opportunities arising from digital disruption.
If successful, a 50% funding contribution of up to $10,000 (excluding GST) is provided.
The Queensland Government maintains a grants finder service at https://www.grants.services.qld.gov.au/#/ and Advance Queensland maintains a list of all Open Grant opportunities https://advance.qld.gov.au/open-grants
In Victoria the government is targeting Future Industries and New Energy Technologies. Currently, grants are available for the manufacturing industry but Insurtech’s may qualify for future funding rounds under the Future Industries program for the professional services sector.
State governments are also currently focused on providing Business Support Packages to support businesses and workers through the coronavirus pandemic. Victoria recently opened round 3 of its business support fund – offering up to $10,000 per business in affected areas.
Capital cities in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane often have innovation, minority groups and economic prosperity grants available. Some of these have been replaced by programs to support the community affected by the coronavirus pandemic but it’s still worth keeping an eye on these pages to stay up to date on what’s available in your local area;
*Note: Brisbane City Council (Council) formerly offered a The Innovation Grants Program to support the growth of creative enterprise in Brisbane and applicants can apply for up to $30,000 per application.
Melbourne has a twice-yearly Small Business Grant to support market-ready products and services that enhance the City of Melbourne’s reputation for innovation and creativity, and contribute to a thriving, sustainable business culture.
- Development – Increasing diversity by supporting the start-ups not yet generating revenue to test and validate their business proposal. Grants up to $20,000 are available.
- Start-up – Increasing diversity by supporting the establishment of new and creative small businesses. Grants up to $30,000 are available.
- Expansion – Assisting existing businesses that are expanding into other innovative services or products. Grants up to $30,000 are available.
- Export – Encouraging businesses to enter or expand into new overseas markets. Grants up to $10,000 are available.
The program is under review in light of the current pandemic but keep an eye on this page for updates
SOURCES: Government website (use links in text), Startup Genome Report, US Census Business Data. Crunchbase.
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