The lads from Pollenizer can take a 240 character idea from a would-be entrepreneur and translate it into the type of digital media product that puts the innovation departments of traditional media companies to shame. And they can work with six such ideas at any one time.
The strategy’s seen founders Mick Liubinskas and Phil Morle, who once worked together at music sharing site Kazaa, bring 25 companies to life, including social commerce and deal-a-day style sites like TravelCandy, providing holiday accommodation deals, and CarMates, a car group buying platform. They do it by co-founding the businesses with the idea creators, bringing them into their Sydney Surry Hills office to work with them on testing the viability of the plan, then offering up all the tools and expertise they need to “incubate” the idea into a business.
And they do it by recognising failure when they see it, and accepting it. They’ve had 1100 ideas pitched to them in four years and tested 125 of them in order to come up with that portfolio of 25. “If businesses don’t reach the next level in 12 weeks, they’re over,” Liubinskas tells The Power Index.
Liubinskas believes they play an intermediary role between entrepreneurs and the investment community. “In Australia, investors don’t always want to participate at the ideas stage, so entrepreneurs struggle,” he says. “I think in a lot of ways we fill a big gap.”
And he has few limits to his ambition to continually disrupt the industry: “I want to be able to start 1000 companies over the next nine years,” he says.
Pollenizer is just one example of wealthy Australian investors chasing the next big thing in Digital Media.
Netus, started by former Microsoft executive Daniel Petre, is another. He tells The Power Index that he believes they fill a very different gap in the digital media investment space to the guys over at Pollenizer. Petre says rather than call for ideas, Netus prefers to source opportunities where they see a market fit: “It’s far more first principles investing as opposed to the guys who do massive PR to get people to come to them.”
But there are plenty more types of investors supporting digital media in Australia in a community we’re calling “The Backers”. Alone, they can take an idea or two, or even the makings of a small digital media company, to the next level (and get rich in the process).
But put a bunch of these backers together, and they have the power to play a part in what digital media looks like in Australia. They can speed up the pace of digital media evolution — and force the big boys to play catch-up. And that’s why we’ve broken the rules and settled for the group rather than one particular company or individual.
So who are they? More often than not, these investment guns are the poster children of successful digital media companies that have since been sold on. Typically, they have at some point featured in the pages of the BRW Rich List. And while the likes of Pollenizer may be getting all the attention at the moment, it’s often the quiet achievers who’ve had some considerable success of their own that are really driving investment, such as Seek founders Paul and Andrew Bassett.
“There are a number of things successful digital media people can do,” says Jonathan Wenig, a partner with Arnold Bloch Leibler and a key advisor on digital media transactions. “One is they will be clever investors in their own wealth. They’ll invest in things they know. The projects they choose to back with their own money are the interesting spaces to watch.