opinion/analysis by Renai LeMay
19 November 2013
Image credit: Freelancer
Australian technology companies have been virtually absent from the the nation’s public stockmarket over the past decade as the stigma of the dot com bust took its toll on investor confidence. But a clutch of new listings planned for the closing months of 2013 shows renewed interest in the sector and that local entrepreneurs are smelling money in the air once again.
If you were at all involved in Australia’s technology sector during the first global dot com boom, you could have hardly missed the hype it generated in the financial community at the time.
Company after company launched, took initial steps towards proving their business model, and then headed straight to the bank through initial public listings that were long on hype and short on substance. Investors, seduced by the world-changing promises of charismatic technologists, believed the sector was on fire at the time and were pouring money into the pockets of technology entrepreneurs like their lives depended on it. And each listing was accompanied by the obligatory champagne party, where the sector toasted its new found fortune with wild, sometimes bohemian abandon.
Malcolm Turnbull made much of his fortune during the dot com boom. So did Trevor Kennedy, who co-invested with the Communications Minister in early ISP OzEmail. Evan Thornley made a packet from Looksmart, while Steve Outtrim banked a heavy payday from his company Sausage Software.
Many of those fortunes still remain largely intact. But many investors, both of the large institutional kind and stay at home mums and dads, were burnt badly when the sector’s valuations crashed back to realistic levels in 2000. Throughout the past decade and more, that history has led much of Australia’s investment community to regard the technology sector with arch suspicion.