Melbourne is perfectly sized for entrepreneurs to create scale, while still being small enough to establish influential partnerships and these factors, combined with Melbournians’ can-do attitude, and a plethora of incubators and networks, have established the city as one of the world’s most animated start-up hubs.
“Everyone’s talking about start-ups these days,” says Matthews Steer Associate Charith Mandadige. “We’ve been inspired by the success stories of American start-ups like Apple and Google. They are trend setters and they’ve given our own entrepreneurs the inspiration to follow their dreams.”
Charith is deeply embedded in Melbourne’s start-up scene, working with Melbourne University and Moreland Council, among others, to nurture Melbourne’s vibrant business community. He says recognition that Australia was falling behind in terms of ideation and innovation at the start of the decade prompted the current push for new ideas, new ways of working, and strategic risk-taking.
“Technology has made it easier for Melbournians to come up with new ideas, see them through to fruition, and achieve things that couldn’t a few years ago,” says Charith. “Entrepreneurship in Melbourne is driven by networking and community, and is grounded in authentic, trusted relationships.”
Charith’s work with Melbourne University’s Wade Institute has seen him present to MBA students, each of them in the process of nurturing an idea to market. Charith provided the students with information on optimising their tax structure from the outset, protecting their personal and business assets from potential risks, and Government grants and concessions, such as the R&D Tax Incentive and Early Stage Innovation Company concessions (ESIC), available to innovative businesses.
Charith provided them with insight into the future of Melbourne start-ups, the importance of establishing strategic partnerships, and methods of raising capital.
“It’s not easy to run a small business by yourself in the current market,” says Charith. “You have to think about how you can partner with people who have connections that can help you get the best out of your idea. That might be at an investor level, partnership level, or an employee level. Your business structure needs to allow for you to pursue either option.”
Charith is also spearheading Matthews Steer’s involvement in Moreland City Council’s ‘Converge’ program, which offers participants a series of master classes that teach the fundamentals of running a small business, and runs business networking sessions. Participants in Converge are given access to an online platform – hosted on Slack – where they can join channels dedicated to topics including marketing, finance, accounting, and human resources. Each channel has a subject matter specialist providing general advice, and Charith and his team will be monitoring and hosting the accounting and finance channel.
Excitingly, Converge is not only limited to start-up businesses. Any business owner in the local area who registers for the program will be able to benefit from the online portal.
“I feel genuine excitement at being involved with businesses and ideas that are new and different from some traditional business,” says Charith. “It’s great to be supporting local start-ups, but this work is also inspiring us to push the envelope with our own business. I am constantly learning from my work with these entrepreneurs, and I'm able to share these learnings with our other clients.”
Bench to Business
One start-up community where Charith has been particularly active is LaunchVic’s ‘Bench 2 Business Training Program,’ which is being run by Coburg product development incubator, Space Tank Studio. The program provides start-up founders, emerging product developers, and designers with high-impact design, prototyping and business skills.
Charith will play two roles within the Bench 2 Business program, running a series of evening classes and presentations for participants on topics including financial management, corporate structures, and how to start and manage a business, and providing one-on-one coaching and mentoring to 10 of the 50 businesses.
“As we enter the next phase of our business at Matthews Steer, we want to partner businesses we can grow with, and share our business journey with over the coming decades,” says Charith.
“We were a start-up 27 years ago and we know how hard it is to get a business up and running, the potential pitfalls, and rewards for success. Our work with Melbourne start-ups is an opportunity to give something back to the community, and invest in the knowledge and expertise in our local area.”