Episode 3: Phil Morle on Venture Capital and Innovation in Australia

This episode is recorded from the latest #agtechSyd Meetup, featuring Phil Morle, an investor, entrepreneur, and startup scientist. Phil is a veteran in the entrepreneurship landscape in Australia, and comes with an impressive resume: Phil founded Pollenizer, Australia’s first Silicon Valley style incubator; is a Director at the Food Agility CRC; and is a Partner in the soon-to-be-launched Main Sequence Ventures, a $200M fund supported by the federal government ($70M), CSIRO ($30M), and the private sector (TBC).

Deep tech

What is “deep tech”, and why does Main Sequence Ventures believe deep tech will be the future of innovation in Australia. Deep tech opportunities in agtech include robotics, gene editing, IoT, and Big Data. Phil is also excited about companies bringing new business models to the sector, just as we saw with bundled hardware/service offerings in the early days of smart phones.

Ideal startups for investment

Phil is a clearly a founder-friendly investor, but not every startup or founder is a good fit. Here's what the MSV team are looking for in potential portfolio companies:

  • Founders with an unreasonable belief in their idea and the eventual success of their venture
  • Dedication to best practices of new venture development and startup science, without letting process and tools come at the expense of results
  • Expertise in, and passion for, the foundational science and/or technology on which the venture is based

What to look for in an accelerator program

Accelerator programs are exploding, and investors like Phil are looking to them for deal flow. But startups need to be careful that they're getting what they signed up for. Phil suggests startups consider a few key things:

  • program- what you’ll learn and what you’ll teach
  • mentors- quality, relevance, and how much you’ll have access to them
  • target outcome- what you're specifically hoping to achieve, for example fundraising vs. potential partnership vs. something else
Phil and Sarah at the #agtechSyd Meetup

Phil and Sarah at the #agtechSyd Meetup

Barriers to innovation in Australia

Phil is optimistic about the next wave of innovation in Australia- especially for agtech- but a few challenges remain that are stymying innovation in Australia:

  • Holding on to IP too tightly, when 100% of 0 is still 0
  • Silos across research organizations, preventing awareness of what’s happening and failing to incentivize the development of solutions that scale
  • A generally risk-averse culture, where the first question asked is usually, “what could go wrong?”

Have a listen and let us know what you think!