With the pandemic, the Russia/Ukraine conflict and weakened supply chains tightening the market and making funding even more competitive for Australian startups to secure, many founders covet international funding and are chasing the holy grail of large international investments.
After decades of senior executive roles as an enterprise-level technology executive and CEO, I spotted a gap. I injected my own personal capital, assembled a small team of software engineers in my garage and created the disruptive decentralised data platform and data mesh for enterprise reporting and analytics. Early on, I couldn’t secure any funding in Australia or overseas, so I had to bootstrap.
Six years later, we closed a $30 million round, securing backing from CIA-backed In-Q-Tel, Exto Partners, Vulpes Ventures Singapore, 72 Capital and others. Zetaris is now valued at $150 million.
Here are my 5 top tips that I wish someone had told me before I embarked on the journey:
Understand your target VCs
Start with clear criteria for the VCs you want to attract. The right VCs are active and aligned in your sector and understand your industry. They should have the capacity to meet your current funding needs and, if this is the start of your finding journey, ensure they can participate in future rounds if that’s a requirement.
Great VCs do more than provide funds. They can be a source of strategic thinking, networking and future funding either directly or by attracting other investors. Importantly, they should feel like good business partners that don’t try to “over-manage” you. It’s a fine balance that you are looking for. An investor is your most important business partner and should be far more valuable to you than just their money.
Do your homework so you understand how your target VCs view the world, what they invest in and their vision of the future. Then highlight how your product or solution supports and enhances their vision. Pitch to them in a way that shows that you are a perfect fit for their objectives and show them a view of how the market will evolve towards your vision in the future. It’s not a one size fits all approach. You need to do your homework and tailor your message and positioning.
Your pitch deck must highlight your vision and road map, the expertise of your team and the financial model. It’s very important to understand that VCs see thousands of pitch decks yearly. Yours needs to stand out from the pile sitting on their desk. Here is an example of some of the pitch decks that were used by many great brands in the technology sector. Another little trick I learned with the pitch deck was to develop a one-page quick summary of the document and put that into your introductory email.
Open an office near your target VCs
You can’t hope to secure the attention of international investors from the other side of the world. You need to go and open an office near them and be present on the ground in their local market. Too many Aussie founders don’t make the sacrifice to go and rattle the tin personally. They think that hiring a Country Manager will be the magic that makes it happen. It isn’t. Nobody but you as the founder understands the vision and the mission and has the passion and commitment to drive it as you do.
Remember, as an Aussie company; you’re already walking 10 feet behind the startups that are pitching to them in their own country. You have to show them how you’re addressing the white space and have a serious point of difference. This does come at a high personal cost; I am the father of four children, and it isn’t the easy path to tread, but it is the only one that is most effective and can short circuit conversion.
Get involved with Austrade
Austrade is an amazing resource; you need to engage with them and be proactive. They will help you get connected in Aussie networking groups overseas and help you understand the groups that will influence key investors, help you penetrate their networks and meet people that the VCs listen to. You have to immerse yourself in the local ecosystem and influence many people – buzz spreads faster when you’re on the ground.
Invest in Gartner and Forrester early
One of my best decisions was to partner early on with Gartner and Forrester. They helped immensely to put us on the radar of the right investors that could help fuel our growth. Analysts can help target investors who have not heard about what you’re doing and get them comfortable with your proposition. Buy that membership and leverage their networks.
Choose the right advisors
It is crucial to do due diligence on potential advisors. There are some great ones out there, but inexperienced founders can fall prey to advisors that are charlatans, who will take your money and provide poor advice. Examine their track record with similar startups and assess if they really have the market knowledge to advise you correctly.
Your board members, advisory board and current shareholder community, are critically valuable advisors who can provide you with connections to overseas investors. Don’t take them for granted; have a plan to cultivate relationships that translate to trust-based advice and recommendations.
Securing foreign investment isn’t a short-term activity. It might take more than a year from when you start having the initial conversations. VCs are savvy and wait to get to know you. They want to understand your long-term vision or if you’re burning capital and are desperate and about to go broke in six months. Once you get their attention, you must be very purposeful in building the right optics over time. They’re building a database on you following every discussion, so you have to constantly excite them and build on the momentum by continuing to demonstrate customer acquisition, potential and growth.
Australian startups can revolutionise the world. The innovation we are creating in this country is groundbreaking. We are creating new ways to analyse data, cybersecurity advancements, and green technologies that can help us and the world reduce carbon emissions and forge new frontiers through medical breakthroughs. There has never been a more exciting time to be an Aussie founder and to push our ideas onto the global stage.
Amazon won’t have to pay hundreds of millions in back taxes after winning EU case
LONDON (AP) — Amazon won’t have to pay about 250 million euros ($273 million) in back taxes after European Union judges ruled in favor of the U.S. e-commerce giant Thursday, dealing a defeat to the 27-nation bloc in its efforts to tackle corporate tax avoidance.
The ruling by the EU’s top court is final, ending the long-running legal battle over tax arrangements between Amazon and Luxembourg’s government and marking a further setback for a crackdown by antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager.
The Court of Justice backed a 2021 decision by judges in a lower court who sided with Amazon, saying the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, had not proved its case that Amazon received illegal state support.
“The Court of Justice confirms that the Commission has not established that the tax ruling given to Amazon by Luxembourg was a State aid that was incompatible with the internal market” of the EU, the court said in a press release.
Amazon welcomed the ruling, saying it confirms that the company “followed all applicable laws and received no special treatment.”
“We look forward to continuing to focus on delivering for our customers across Europe,” the company said in a statement.
The commission said it “will carefully study the judgment and assess its implications.”
The case dates back to 2017, when Vestager charged Amazon with unfairly profiting from special low tax conditions since 2003 in tiny Luxembourg, where its European headquarters are based. As a result, almost three-quarters of Amazon’s profits in the EU were not taxed, she said.
The EU has taken aim at deals between individual countries and companies used to lure foreign multinationals in search of a place to establish their EU headquarters. The practice led to EU states competing with each other and multinationals playing them off one another.
Tesla autopilot recalls: 2 million vehicles need to have their defective systems fixed
DETROIT (AP) — Tesla is recalling nearly all vehicles sold in the U.S., more than 2 million, to update software and fix a defective system that’s supposed to ensure drivers are paying attention when using Autopilot.
Documents posted Wednesday by U.S. safety regulators say the update will increase warnings and alerts to drivers and even limit the areas where basic versions of Autopilot can operate.
The recall comes after a two-year investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration into a series of crashes that happened while the Autopilot partially automated driving system was in use. Some were deadly.
The agency says its investigation found Autopilot’s method of making sure that drivers are paying attention can be inadequate and can lead to “foreseeable misuse of the system.”
The added controls and alerts will “further encourage the driver to adhere to their continuous driving responsibility,” the documents said.
But safety experts said that, while the recall is a good step, it still makes the driver responsible and doesn’t fix the underlying problem that Tesla’s automated systems have with spotting and stopping for obstacles in their path.
The recall covers models Y, S, 3 and X produced between Oct. 5, 2012, and Dec. 7 of this year. The update was to be sent to certain affected vehicles on Tuesday, with the rest getting it later.
Shares of Tesla slid more than 3% in earlier trading Wednesday but recovered amid a broad stock market rally to end the day up 1%.
The attempt to address the flaws in Autopilot seemed like a case of too little, too late to Dillon Angulo, who was seriously injured in 2019 crash involving a Tesla that was using the technology along a rural stretch of Florida highway where the software isn’t supposed to be deployed.
“This technology is not safe, we have to get it off the road,” said Angulo, who is suing Tesla as he recovers from injuries that included brain trauma and broken bones. “The government has to do something about it. We can’t be experimenting like this.”
Autopilot includes features called Autosteer and Traffic Aware Cruise Control, with Autosteer intended for use on limited access freeways when it’s not operating with a more sophisticated feature called Autosteer on City Streets.
The software update will limit where Autosteer can be used. “If the driver attempts to engage Autosteer when conditions are not met for engagement, the feature will alert the driver it is unavailable through visual and audible alerts, and Autosteer will not engage,” the recall documents said.
Depending on a Tesla’s hardware, the added controls include “increasing prominence” of visual alerts, simplifying how Autosteer is turned on and off, and additional checks on whether Autosteer is being used outside of controlled access roads and when approaching traffic control devices. A driver could be suspended from using Autosteer if they repeatedly fail “to demonstrate continuous and sustained driving responsibility,” the documents say.
According to recall documents, agency investigators met with Tesla starting in October to explain “tentative conclusions” about the fixing the monitoring system. Tesla did not concur with NHTSA’s analysis but agreed to the recall on Dec. 5 in an effort to resolve the investigation.
Auto safety advocates for years have been calling for stronger regulation of the driver monitoring system, which mainly detects whether a driver’s hands are on the steering wheel. They have called for cameras to make sure a driver is paying attention, which are used by other automakers with similar systems.
Philip Koopman, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University who studies autonomous vehicle safety, called the software update a compromise that doesn’t address a lack of night vision cameras to watch drivers’ eyes, as well as Teslas failing to spot and stop for obstacles.
“The compromise is disappointing because it does not fix the problem that the older cars do not have adequate hardware for driver monitoring,” Koopman said.
Koopman and Michael Brooks, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, contend that crashing into emergency vehicles is a safety defect that isn’t addressed. “It’s not digging at the root of what the investigation is looking at,” Brooks said. “It’s not answering the question of why are Teslas on Autopilot not detecting and responding to emergency activity?”
Koopman said NHTSA apparently decided that the software change was the most it could get from the company, “and the benefits of doing this now outweigh the costs of spending another year wrangling with Tesla.”
In its statement Wednesday, NHTSA said the investigation remains open “as we monitor the efficacy of Tesla’s remedies and continue to work with the automaker to ensure the highest level of safety.”
Autopilot can steer, accelerate and brake automatically in its lane, but is a driver-assist system and cannot drive itself, despite its name. Independent tests have found that the monitoring system is easy to fool, so much that drivers have been caught while driving drunk or even sitting in the back seat.
In its defect report filed with the safety agency, Tesla said Autopilot’s controls “may not be sufficient to prevent driver misuse.”
A message was left early Wednesday seeking further comment from the Austin, Texas, company.
Tesla says on its website that Autopilot and a more sophisticated Full Self Driving system are meant to help drivers who have to be ready to intervene at all times. Full Self Driving is being tested by Tesla owners on public roads.
In a statement posted Monday on X, formerly Twitter, Tesla said safety is stronger when Autopilot is engaged.
NHTSA has dispatched investigators to 35 Tesla crashes since 2016 in which the agency suspects the vehicles were running on an automated system. At least 17 people have been killed.
The investigations are part of a larger probe by the NHTSA into multiple instances of Teslas using Autopilot crashing into emergency vehicles. NHTSA has become more aggressive in pursuing safety problems with Teslas, including a recall of Full Self Driving software.
In May, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, whose department includes NHTSA, said Tesla shouldn’t be calling the system Autopilot because it can’t drive itself.
AP Technology Writer Michael Liedtke contributed to this story.
Why Was Sam Altman Fired? Possible Ties to China D2 (Double Dragon) Data from Hackers
Theories are going around the internet why Sam Altman was fired. On an insider tech forum (Blind) – one person claims to know by third-hand account and how this news will trickle into the media over the next couple of weeks.
It’s said OpenAI had been using data from D2 to train its AI models, which includes GPT-4. This data was obtained through a hidden business contract with a D2 shell company called Whitefly, which was based in Singapore. This D2 group has the largest and biggest crawling/indexing/scanning capacity in the world 10x more than Alphabet Inc (Google), hence the deal so Open AI could get their hands on vast quantities of data for training after exhausting their other options.
The Chinese government became aware of this arrangement and raised concerns with the Biden administration. As a result, the NSA launched an investigation, which confirmed that OpenAI had been using data from D2. Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, which is a major investor in OpenAI, was informed of the findings and ordered Altman’s removal.
There was also suggestion that Altman refused to disclose this information to the OpenAI board. This lack of candor ultimately led to his dismissal and is what the board publicly alluded to when they said “not consistently candid in his communications with the board.”
To summarize what happened with Sam Altman’s firing:
1. Sam Altman was removed from OpenAI due to his ties to a Chinese cyber army group.
2.OpenAI had been using data from D2 to train its AI models.
3. The Chinese government raised concerns about this arrangement with the Biden administration.
4. The NSA launched an investigation, which confirmed OpenAI’s use of D2 data.
5. Satya Nadella ordered Altman’s removal after being informed of the findings.
6. Altman refused to disclose this information to the OpenAI board.
We’ll see in the next couple of weeks if this story holds up or not.