Government’s role important

20/08/2008 - 22:00

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Government involvement in the promotion of online business development should go beyond funding and reach more deeply into society, panellists at the WA Business News Online Business forum found.

Government’s role important

Government involvement in the promotion of online business development should go beyond funding and reach more deeply into society, panellists at the WA Business News Online Business forum found.

Jackie Shervington, who recently set out on her own as a business adviser in the sector, believes the state government's 'Brilliant West Week' initiative was a good one and ought to aim high with its ambitions to expose local online talent to best in the world.

"Let's get Bill Gates over here, let's line 'em up," Ms Shervington said.

"As a country this is important for the future."

Another who works on the advisory side of the field as well as having his own online business, Raphe Patmore thinks the importance of online business in the future is being overlooked at the most fundamental level, in the education of our children.

With two children at high school Mr Patmore, an English expatriate, is seeing first hand where the education system is steering his kids and he doesn't think it's right.

"We are training them up to be accountants, lawyers and doctors," he said, referring to such ambitions at school level as a legacy of our English heritage.

"It is all so Pommy. A big cultural change has to happen."

And Mr Patmore warned that this issue was not just at school level. As a recent MBA graduate, he saw similar problems within the course he completed.

"The whole MBA thing was exactly the same," he told the forum.

"It was all about being a consultant to a business, not how to go out and run one. This is a big challenge in terms of what we are about."

Panellists were also concerned about the direct funding side of government involvement in the sector, noting the recent decision to slash federal grants, including scrapping the Commercial Ready program.

Several of the panellists' entities had received funding in the past - for instance Buzka and Minti.com have received research and development tax concession payments, and rent.com.au has received a $50,000 research and development grant from the Industry Research and Development Board - but the view was these systems could be improved.

Vibe Capital's Matthew Macfarlane said red tape in the grants system reflected its structural inadequacies.

"Sure, the government should not dish out money left, right and centre but the people involved should be more commercial," he said.

"The people there are all ex-policemen or internal affairs, they are only there because they want to catch crooks."

Mr Patmore agreed, suggesting that the grants process did not work properly because it was copied from systems use to fund academics, rather than being developed for needs of business which are very different from those in institutional sector.

"It is only a slight variation on the academic funding mechanism for R&D," he said.

Ms Shervington said ineedhits was knocked back some years ago for a funding application because it was too marketing focused and did not contain enough information about the technology.

"We hadn't built it yet, that is what we needed the money for," she said.

A nearly identical business plan by a company in the US received $50 million in funding.

"It was exactly on the money; there are lots of companies internationally doing what we wanted," Ms Shervington said.

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