Highlights of the new innovation policy

The Top Five Ideas That Will Fuel Malcolm Turnbull’s ‘Ideas Boom’ and How You Can Take Advantage of Them

With a lot of things still up in the air, it is going to take some time for the Federal Government’s newly announced innovation policy reforms to materialise on the ground. However, there are still things that start-ups and innovative entrepreneurs can do today to prepare themselves to become ‘investment ready’ in preparation for what is hoped will be a new era in Australian business culture.

Here’s our rundown on our favourite five best ideas that were part of Monday’s big ‘Ideas Boom’ announcement and what you need to do to take advantage of them:

5: Relaxed Insolvency rules are expected to be contentious as it remains uncertain how, for example, the ‘safe harbour’ provisions will affect creditor entitlements and in what circumstances default termination rights in service contracts will be set aside. Banks, among others, will have vested interests in these proposals. However if implemented these measures should give eligible companies a better chance of working themselves out of financial distress, or at least bouncing back from it quickly, rather than having to shut the doors.

4: Employee Share Scheme reforms will allow companies to offer shares to their talent without having to disclose sensitive information to the public. As has been demonstrated in America, such schemes can be a valuable way for cash-poor start-ups to incentivise employees by giving them a slice of the pie. Business owners will need to be strategic in how these schemes are enacted so as to not unduly diminish the pot of equity available to other, external investors down the track.

3: New Entrepreneur Visas will be aimed at coaxing talented entrepreneurs to set up shop in Australia and in doing so create new local jobs. Immigrants are often highly motivated and willing to bootstrap their business dreams with a lot of hard work; and will also bring with them their personal and professional networks along with capital from overseas. As with other special visa categories, immigrants would conceivably be expected to satisfy numerous criteria in terms of proving their skills and a having financial backing for a business plan.

2: Crowd Sourced Equity Crowd Funding (CSEF) which allows companies to sell shares using a crowd funding platform could be revolutionary in helping those starting off with only a great idea to raise capital. Already introduced in other places around the world (including New Zealand), CSEF been on the agenda for a while in Australia. A bill to facilitate CSEF has recently been introduced to the Federal Parliament but an apparent shortfall of the proposed legislation is that it requires the company to list (i.e. go public). Unless the bill is amended to remove that requirement, take-up is likely to limited given the fairly onerous disclosure and other obligations that apply to public companies. CSEF is quickly evolving and will perhaps be one of the first reforms to hit the ground, so watch this space.

1: Two different tax breaks for angel investors who invest in companies less than 3 years old, with expenses less than $1M and income less than $200k will mean more potential upside for investors to take a punt on start-ups. First, angel investors who invest in eligible start-ups will be able to reduce their income tax liabilities by 20% up to a limit of $200k per year. Since it’s a tax break for the investor, not the start-up, it’s a tax discount that can be claimed even if the business doesn’t make any money. The second tax break involves a 10 year exemption on Capital Tax Gains for investments held for more than three years. The details remain scant on this one, but it should mean that investors won’t pay tax when they sell their investment in a successful start-up after three years to realise a profit. For entrepreneurs to take advantage of these incentives, they have to first make themselves attractive to sophisticated high net worth investors who will be motivated by these tax breaks.

How to Become ‘Investment Ready’

Rather than supporting start-ups directly, the proposed reforms have a strong focus on incentivising investment in start-ups. The challenge for entrepreneurs will remain knowing how to present themselves and their ideas as attractive propositions. Great innovative business concepts aside, this means getting the basics right: adopting optimal corporate structures, documenting key contracts, protecting IP and other intangible rights, writing believable business plans, and retaining talent.

The team at Shiff and Co, with our demonstrated focus on servicing the creative and entrepreneurial industries, is perfectly placed to assist and mentor start-ups through the often bumpy journey from bootstrapping an idea to the series A funding round, and (with a lot of hard work and a bit of luck) beyond. If you are wondering how to get your idea, small business, or start-up to the next stage contact one of our team to see how we can help you become ‘investment ready’ now.

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