Andrew Heathcote Rich Lists editor

Andrew is BRW's Rich lists editor and is responsible for the Rich 200 and Young Rich flagship issues. He also reports on matters relating to wealth and investment for BRW and The Australian Financial Review.

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The 10 start-ups to watch

Published 08 February 2012 13:38, Updated 09 February 2012 13:25

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In an effort to support and promote the efforts of the founders of start-up businesses, BRW has produced a list of the top start-ups of 2011. We hope their success stories will inspire and help others who are contemplating stepping away from the comfort of a salaried position and launching a business of their own.

Judging start-up businesses is a difficult task. For most of BRW’s lists, businesses are assessed based on historical revenue results or the size of their balance sheets. But start-up businesses don’t have track records.

Eligibility for the Top Start-Ups list was determined by qualitative assessments of soundness of the ideas behind each business, the founders’ commitment to the cause and their opportunity for growth.

Do you agree with our 10 best start-ups? Write and tell us your view.

Technology-related businesses feature prominently. It was not BRW’s intention to produce a list that was skewed towards tech companies but the weight of evidence made it unavoidable.

How Australia’s top ten start-ups are positioning themselves for the year ahead

The past two years have represented the biggest revival in technology sector investment since the dotcom bust in 2000. Fortunately for all involved, investors in start-up technology companies require much clearer evidence of the path to profitability than they did over a decade ago. The advent of smart phones has also significantly expanded the opportunities on offer to entrepreneurs.

No longer is it just tech-heads who are looking to the web. There is also a growing recognition that the web and mobile devices provide a fast and efficient way to start a business. Jonathan Barouch from Roamz, a location-based smart phone application, explains his preference for technology: “We are just using the best tools we have,” he says.

The internet is attracting those entrepreneurs who want quick results and can’t afford to invest heavily in physical assets before launching a business.

Several of the companies we feature in the following pages demonstrate the extent to which technology can accelerate the start-up process. Grabble is the standout example, having been established, proven and sold within a year. Developed as way for retailers to reduce the need for paper receipts, US retail giant Walmart was so fond of Grabble’s solution that it bought the business and employed its founders, who have since relocated from Wollongong to California’s Silicon Valley.

But for all the excitement about the technology sector, there are still many start-ups using more traditional methods to achieve great things. Fortunately for budding entrepreneurs, the best businesses often have the humblest of beginnings.

The idea for Lupe Wines, for example, developed out of its founder’s frustration at not being able to get a glass of wine at a music festival. Espressogrow was born when one of its founders came to realise that most of the old coffee grounds at his local coffee shop were simply being thrown away.

Each of the start-ups featured in the following pages show promise but the reality is that success is far from guaranteed. Many good ideas never turn into successful businesses. It may be bad timing, a lack of capital, emergence of a competitor or any number of factors that prevent a good concept becoming a well-established business.

A broad-based lack of confidence in the global economy also presents a threat to the current crop of start-up businesses.

Despite all the potential obstacles, many people are still prepared to identify an opportunity and develop a business around it. The importance of start-up businesses cannot be overstated and those entrepreneurs who are prepared to have a go should be commended.

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