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UPDATED: APAC entrepreneurs lack support, finance: Wozniak and Earl

Australia needs access to start-up capital, tax incentives for innovation and support for research.

A lack of follow through with policy change proposals, non-existent angel investor tax deductions and a decline in venture capital investment signals a lack of support for APAC tech entrepreneurs, according to Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Talent International’s Richard Earl.

Wozniak joined Talent International founder and managing director, Richard Earl, in sounding alarm bells for the APAC region, saying not enough is being done to encourage innovation.

“Our concern is the insufficient interest and activity at a grass roots level in terms of innovation, ideas and technology start-ups. This is becoming more of a concern in Australia than ever before -- we need to provide the same support as our counterparts in Northern America,” Earl said.

Earl is calling for government and business leaders to put greater faith in start-ups by increasing access to start-up capital for new businesses, tax incentives for innovation, support for research, and a better business culture to assist entrepreneurs and promote competition.

“We need to recognise that at times we live in a risk-averse region and this needs to be addressed. If we’re naturally less inclined to support and finance innovation, to implement new processes and to apply new technologies; then we need strategies to overcome that,” Earl said.

Wozniak –a judge for Talent International’s awards program (2014 Talent Unleased Awards) - agreed with Earl, adding that global industry attention is often biased towards Silicon Valley to the detriment of originality and creative difference from global influences.

“We all know diversity brings so much more to the table and by focusing outside of the usual and rewarding all sorts of people in tech, we can only make it better,” Wozniak said.

“When we think of great start-ups and where they began you can’t help but look towards the United States and Silicon Valley where I first started and the history making achievements there. But more and more we’re seeing interesting start-ups flourish outside of Silicon Valley in places such as the UK and India but also in Israel, New Zealand, Singapore, Finland, and Brazil to name just some,” he said.

Wozniak called for a meaningful platform for regional entrepreneurs and tech start-ups to connect with credible investors who will support them.

“APAC has some great start-up hubs but what it needs is the global recognition. The USA works well to promote its industry and the start-ups there are well placed to access VC and other types of support and financing. But now we need to focus on the rest of the world.”

Meanwhile, Earl urged Australia to take a look at the innovative projects and government initiatives taking place around the globe, particularly In the UK.

“We’re concerned about the absence of an innovative cultural start-up environment in Australia,” Earl told ARN. “There are precious few incentives or encouragement to foster it. We need better policy at the government level, particularly around tax incentives. There is a lot of talk, but no action.”

The UK has a booming digital economy thanks to, in large part, innovative tax breaks, Earl added.

“Australia also needs a more liberal approach to skilled migration. We need to encourage people to come in and promote activity and the sharing of ideas. The Australian government is way behind in the area of skilled migration. New Zealand is more progressive on that front, and the UK is more liberal and relaxed.”