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Aussie start-ups welcome political change at the top

A change of Prime Minister has one of Australia's leading incubators excited about the future of innovation in this country, saying tech start-ups have much to offer but need support to grow.

The Fishburners start-up office in Sydney. Fishburners

The Australian start-up community has welcomed the arrival of a new prime minister and reshuffled cabinet, saying the renewed focus on innovation will be a boon for tech start-ups.

The head of Google-backed Sydney start-up incubator Fishburners says Australia has a unique opportunity to take advantage of enterprising new businesses, but that start-ups bring their own unique challenges and needs that are different to those of other small businesses.

But a new cabinet could be the shot in the arm that the local start-up scene needs. After being sworn into Australia's top job this week, new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that his reshuffled , and taking advantage of the unique opportunities of the modern era.

Fishburners GM Murray Hurps is hopeful that a change in leadership will lead to good things for the start-up community.

"I'm just incredibly excited now to have someone at the top who understands clearly the difference and the opportunity," he said.

"The difference I can see in places that are doing well with start-ups is they have it as a priority from the top down. They're saying, 'This is a future industry that's going to support our country,' and then allowing decisions to be made from the top down that support that.

"If you're an entrepreneur looking around Australasia for where you'd like to base your start-up and you see that you've got a government that's enthusiastic about start-ups...then suddenly you start to look at that country differently."

When it comes to practical support, Hurps says the Government can take a number of steps to support these unique businesses. These include entrepreneurial visas that help bring talent into the country, allowing start-ups to give equity to employees and allowing crowd-sourced equity funding, and education to give people the skills to "support technology-driven industry."

According to Hurps, this kind of investment will bring serious dividends.

"If we've got so many jobs in mining, manufacturing, agriculture, and the traditional strengths of Australia that are threatened in future if they're not competitive, then supporting innovative companies that can help those industries become sustainable is a way to keep a whole lot of jobs here," he said. "Then we create export industries that are worth much more."

The stakes are certainly high if Australia doesn't rise to the challenge of the new digital economy. The country has farewelled a number of high-profile start-up success stories in recent years, with software company Atlassian and women's online shoe brand Shoes of Prey both shipping off overseas.

But Hurps says we can't be angry at businesses that do what they can to survive in a competitive global marketplace. The key is finding the right sweeteners and support to make them stay.

"It's important not to expect government to give start-ups money or to solve any of their problems," he said. "If you ask a start-up what their problems are they'll say we want customers, investment and talent, and they should have those problems, because they're a start-up and they're the problems that start-ups solve.

"But it's about finding people that understand what levers can be pulled to make a difference.

Hurps is confident that a Prime Minister who cut his teeth in the Communications Portfolio, and internet service provider OzEmail before that, will have what it takes to pull those levers and support the local tech scene.

"He's been down to Fishburners a few times and honestly I can say he's asked some of the best questions we've had from any politician or businessman," Hurps said of Turnbull. "It's incredibly reassuring.

"But we'll see if he lives up to it."