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He helped build Brisbane tech sector, now Slattery says he may have to step away

Business

Whenever Bevan Slattery moves in the market,  hordes follow.

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Take the example of Rent.com.au. Slattery bought a $2 million-stake in the company in February and its share price doubled. 

There are plenty of similar examples and for many, Slattery’s success means he has guru status. Rent.com.au chief executive Greg Bader even said he was Australia’s Elon Musk, a comparison Slattery doesn’t like.

“Those things can be fleeting, or they are there until you stuff it up,’’ Slattery told InQueensland.

“Do I think they are all going to be a billion dollar company? No, not necessarily. They are great businesses run by good people and they have significant opportunities. 

“I’m not going to do it just because they are not loved, but if they have enough of the right ingredients and they are Australian I will put a bit of money in, I’ll give them attention and some tail winds instead of headwinds.

“Having done that for a while, I’ve started being approached by everyone. I can’t keep doing that because the ASX or ASIC will be coming after me. That’s why I stopped it.’’

But Slattery is still a big believer in the local tech scene where companies founded in garages, like GO1, are getting billion dollar valuations. 

“It’s awesome,’’ he said.

“There is a great cohort of entrepreneurs coming through who are not held back by dogma of how venture capital has historically worked. Australian venture capital is crap, let’s be honest.

He said the reason it’s happening now is that the money made by previous generations is now starting to be recycled into venture capital, something that happened in the US in the 1980s and 1990s.

“We have actually seen US funds come into Australia and the superannuation funds have started putting money aside for venture capital as well. 

“It’s actually getting competitive now from a venture capital standpoint to find good deals.

“Historically, the upper hand was held by venture capital and they were able to be incredibly selective. Now there is a bit of competition and it’s not just VC firms, it’s family offices as well.

“I have realised in the last couple of years that if I took my money and invested it in other things I would make more money. 

“I know I’m old school. These (HyperOne, FibreSense are like passion projects for me. Australia needs a new (data) backbone badly but the gestation period for these projects is anywhere from 2.5 years to 10 years.

“So I’m not able to take advantage of the next sure thing because I am putting all my attention to solving some of the bigger problems.

“But it’s the investment I have done historically that is allowing me to do things now. I find the same thing with these young kids with billion dollar valuations. They are going to get taken out, they are going to be worth hundreds of millions or billions and I have no doubt they will be reinvesting in the local tech scene.

“And I have no doubt they will be doing it for the next 20 or 30 years.’’

And he said for Brisbane’s booming tech sector, it was only the beginning.

“I think it is more than a mining town. It’s so much more.

“While we might not be a mining town anymore we are a “country-city’’, not a country town.

“We are green, relaxed and everyone knows how much more sophisticated we have become in terms of the dining quality and entertainment. It’s really lifted.

“There is no other city I would rather live in. It’s a world country-city.’’

 

 

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