Why Startups Need Oxygen


Ideas on a napkin are great, but ideas go nowhere without backing. The founders of Oxygen Ventures know this and are giving Australian startups the kiss of life to help them launch better businesses.

“Product is only half of what we invest in,” says Oxygen Ventures Investment Director Ilya Frolov. “From our perspective, we want good opportunities but we also want to foster a community, understanding each founder’s vision so that we can move forward with them.”

The community approach is what sets Oxygen Ventures apart from incubators and Silicon Valley, finance-first investors. Take ‘The Big Pitch’ for example, Frolov says Oxygen Ventures wants to make this either a biannual or even an annual event to ensure Australian startups continue to benefit from the competition and potentially receive funding.

“We’re leading the field with the pitch event. It’s a great opportunity to meet and invest in founders who are driven by their beliefs,” says Frolov. 

Frolov gets entrepreneurs with strong beliefs, having worked with Dodo founder Larry Kestelman at the major telecommunications organisation where he led the group software development internal team. 

According to Frolov, Dodo’s success can be put down to the laser-like approach implemented by its founder.

“This wasn’t a company that targeted everyone. It was a low cost product in a high cost space, designed to appeal to the lower socio-economic demographic. To be successful, you have to look at the competitors in the space. And while there were a large number of telcos, none were targeting our demographic. iiNet was probably the closest rival, but Optus and Telstra weren’t even close.”

It meant that Dodo grew rapidly and went from an ISP provider to consumer brand in a short amount of time.

Dodo had no funding to begin with; it was just a good idea driven by a man with a strong awareness of what he wanted to achieve.

Kestelman, along with Frolov and BlueChilli founder Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin, is on The Big Pitch judging panel. Each judge will be looking for traits similar to those that have contributed to their individual successes. That means not only a great idea, but also the drive to make that idea work.

For startups and founders made of the right stuff, the possibilities are endless. Oxygen Ventures will supply a team of experts including design, development, marketing, finance and legal resources. The idea is to commercialise quickly so that Oxygen’s risk factors are minimised and the winning start-up has a better chance of success. 

“If you have a really good product, it’s not hard to raise capital,” Frolov says. “Yet a lot of founders don’t know what they have, they need to identify their audience. That’s where our resources can help.”

The Big Pitch is about creating a strong community of startups. The collaborative environment fostered by Oxygen Ventures means the best ideas breathe easy.

“From our perspective, we are trying to do something a bit different. Pitch events are quite common, however they are usually run by the media and based on what someone has already achieved. There has never been one hosted by an investment vehicle looking to fund and support them. We say our doors are open and if there are good opportunities, we’re keen to get started.”