AIB Featured Business Leader – Steve Baxter
It’s safe to say that Australian entrepreneur and investor Steve Baxter wastes no time in seizing opportunities. In the past three years, the familiar face from Network 10’s Shark Tank series has become a major early-stage investor in Australian start-ups, helping to launch a host of companies, which together are valued at more than $100 million. Baxter’s career started from humble beginnings as an apprentice in the Australian Defence Force. It was in 1994 at the age of 23 when his first business venture began. He put his life savings of $11,000 into his business idea – internet service provider SE Net – from his home in Adelaide. Luckily for Baxter, SE Net Quickly grew to boast more than 35,000 customers and was eventually acquired by Ozemail/UUNet.
Baxter’s second business venture was launched in 2001 when he teamed up with a schoolmate to found PIPE Networks – a telecommunications company. After eight years of hard work, PIPE was sold to the TPG Group for a handsome $373 million. After PIPE, Baxter diversified his career even further, spending a year working for Google as a project leader for high-speed telecommunications systems across the United States. Upon returning to Australia after some time away, Baxter launched River City Labs in Brisbane in 2012. The venture is a co-founding community with the main goal of encouraging entrepreneurs in Queensland. In 2013, he co-founded mobile gaming accelerator Right Pedal Studios, and StartupAUS, an advocacy group for Australian tech startups.
When considering Baxter’s past few years in business, a clear pattern emerges in regards to his passion – startups. In 2014 and 2015, he funded a program called Startup Catalyst, which saw 20 young Queenslanders go to San Francisco to be emerged in the entrepreneurial culture. The chosen group were considered to have “potential to be the next globally successful tech entrepreneurs”. Commenting on the program, Baxter told the Australian Financial Review, “I love the term ‘startup ebola’. It speaks to the contagious nature of what we are trying to do. We want the 20 young people we took this year to infect another 20 each on their return.”
Speaking to Entrepreneurs Journey, Baxter shared his one tip for entrepreneurs – “Understand what it costs and sell it for more”. He added, “I cannot over-emphasise that enough”. In numerous interviews including with Business Insider, he shared his approach to investment, explaining that he invests in a person rather than an idea. If Baxter can’t enjoy a BBQ with the person, he has very little interest in their business idea or how much money it could make him. The person needs to be overwhelmingly passionate about their cause, and genuine in their dealings. For budding entrepreneurs, this reinforces the importance of doing what you love, as that is reflected in the way you convey yourself. This is an approach that Steve certainly brings to his role on Shark Tank, as he tries to draw out the connection between an entrepreneur and their idea, as well as a connection between the entrepreneur and Steve.
What do you think?
It’s clear that Steve Baxter is one hard-working and passionate entrepreneur, particularly when it comes to startups and investing in the future. I am interested though, what do you admire most about his career? Comment your thoughts below.
This article was written by Laura Hutton on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources have been used to prepare this article: Wikipedia, Network 10, Steve Baxter, Entrepreneurs Journey, Courier Mail, Australian Financial Review