Australia doesn’t invest in vitamins, it invests in aspirins. Let me explain.
Vitamins are products or services, which are a “nice to have”. They may be brand new concepts with the potential to change industries that most customers didn’t know needed changing. Facebook was a vitamin (do you remember anyone demanding a better online social networking experience before Facebook? It was probably more like “what is a social network?”). The iPod was also a vitamin, as was the original Sony Walkman. They change industries because they have the foresight to see what customers can’t. The future.
(Insert famous Henry Ford quote here…”If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”)
Aspirins, in contrast, are “must have” products or services. They alleviate pain points that we know exist and are therefore easier to spot and more likely to find an immediate market. Problem is, if your product or service is an aspirin, there are probably numerous competitors trying to solve the same problem. Differentiation becomes the major challenge. There are more of them and they are more likely to receive funding. In Australia at least.
Australia invests in aspirins and we should have the foresight to also invest in vitamins. I’ll leave the rest of the politicking to the growing number of Australian expats and entrepreneurial thinkers leading the charge (as evidenced in this article from The Age last week; just a taste of the growing chorus of concern from entrepreneurs both home and overseas).
How can we build a sustainable culture of entrepreneurship when we only invest in aspirins? Vitamins will help develop a healthy culture of entrepreneurship. Silicon Valley invests in both.
Justin Bieber is 18 years old and is investing slightly more than the entire country of Australia did last year. There’s something wrong with that, questionable music aside.
The Australian Venture Capital scene needs vitamins. I think I need an aspirin.