Migrant entrepreneurialism the key to startup success

Dr Kate Cornick, CEO of LaunchVic

Migrant entrepreneurs are twice as likely to start businesses, according to a report in Harvard Business Review, with prime examples including Tesla, eBay, Google and closer to home, Kogan.

It’s a finding that comes as no surprise to Dr Kate Cornick, CEO of Victorian startup ecosystem development agency LaunchVic, which has assisted first-generation migrant focused businesses such as Laika Academy, Free to Feed and Social Traders.

“Migrants and refugees are recognised as important contributors to successful startup ecosystems,” says Cornick. “They’re known to have high risk appetites, having chosen or been forced to start a new life in a new country – often with no capital, no credit history, no assets, and no security. The risk-taking that defines a migrant’s experience often continues as they embark on entrepreneurial journeys to establish themselves.”

LaunchVic, founded in 2016, gives startups access to expertise and learning opportunities so they grow and hopefully become the next Seek, Carsales.com.au or a next-generation scale-up such as Envato99 Designs and Redbubble. The organisation fast-tracks connections between people and ideas via funding accelerators, events, workshops and founder and investor education to create the innovations, technologies, goods, services and jobs of the future. In short, it’s helping startups scale, employ more people and contribute to Victoria’s gross domestic product..

Where LaunchVic particularly shines is in diversity and inclusion, including embracing migrant entrepreneurial talent. “Having a diverse startup ecosystem ultimately benefits everyone,“ says Dr Cornick. “Diversity is essential because we want the startup ecosystem to reflect broader society – we don’t want people being left behind because they feel like they don’t fit in. Traditional startup ecosystems worldwide tend to be Caucasian, male environments and LaunchVic’s vision is that no matter what your background, you should be empowered to start a startup.”

And LaunchVic’s thinking is truly global. “One of our key goals is to position Victoria as an internationally-recognised startup ecosystem and ensure founders and investors are supported to grow world-class companies,” says Dr Cornick. “We also need to leverage our key strengths. Just like Israel is recognised for cyber security expertise and London for financial technology, it makes sense to achieve a critical mass of startup expertise in a particular field, which for Victoria is very much around health and wellbeing.”

To date, LaunchVic has invested in five funding rounds, supporting 28 projects. This includes 11 new accelerator programs, which have helped 55 startups. They’ve also backed more than 15 events attended by more than 2,500 people.

Learning from some of the world’s startup greats is also part of the plan and last year, LaunchVic sponsored US startup expert Andrew Hyde to take up a three-month in-house residency in Melbourne. Hyde is host of TEDxBoulder and founded Startup Weekend in 2007, an event that now runs annually in over 150 countries and involves teams of people – developers, business managers, startup enthusiasts, marketing gurus and graphic artists and so on – working together over a weekend to create a startup from scratch.

“The Victorian Government is aggressively showing off what it has to offer and many, many businesses are moving there,” Hyde says. “It’s transitioning from being a place you start to an endpoint for many larger companies as well.”