This is the fourth and final installment in a four-part series written by Play Bigger co-founder Al Ramadan // Webinar hosted by Australian American Chamber of Commerce, San Francisco.
In an odd way Malcolm and I have been walking parallel paths in business… Sounds weird because he was Prime Minister and I am a Tech executive. But there were a few fun connection points in history where we were dealing with the same people or situation but separated by months or a few years. It’s strange how life does that...
In his new book “A Bigger Picture” (which sounds similar to Play Bigger, BTW) he talked about his investment an early pioneering company called OzEmail. This company was the first major ISP in the Australia and linked bandwidth between the USA and Australia, providing Aussie households with access to this thing called the World Wide Web. It was a little like AOL in the way they sent CD’s to everyone, but different in that it wasn’t a walled garden. Malcom ended up doing the IPO roadshow when it was, listed on the NASDAQ in 1996. He told some funny stories about being on the roadshow and its ultimate sale to MCI Worldcomm for $520 million in 1998. It was the biggest outcome for a technology company at the time, only to be surpassed by Quokka Sports and Looksmart in 1999 and 2000. (Again, here’s another parallel path: I was CEO of Quokka and we were on the IPO roadshow a couple of years later, before our own listing on the NASDAQ.)
Later, we discussed how difficult it was to raise true venture capital in Australia in 1995. He explained that there was no VC industry at the time and that most deals were debt or some kind of guaranteed instrument. True equity-based risk was not a thing back in those days. He went on to explain that the VC industry has grown significantly and how he played a role with the National Innovation and Science agenda. In particular CSIRO and Main Sequence Ventures. I related to this and explained how we (myself and John Bertrand, founders of Quokka Sports) had a similar experience. We ended up raising true venture capital from Media Technology Ventures and Trinity Ventures in Silicon Valley, which forced us to move our families to San Francisco.
Nowadays, the Australian VC Industry is a vibrant industry with companies like Blackbird Venture Capital, Airtree Ventures and Square Peg Ventures. According to recent Australian VC industry research there is now well over $2Billion in invested capital Down Under!