The Chief Executive of the Australian Private Equity & Venture Capital Association Limited (AVCAL)Yasser El-Ansary, is responsible for the strategic direction of the Association’s representation of the Australian private equity (PE) and venture capital (VC) industry. Recently Mr. El-Ansary stated that in regards to the PE & VC industry in 2014 it was, “a big year for divestments, especially the IPO market.”

KITE Invest: What is the outlook of the PE & VC industry in Australia for the coming year?

Yasser El-Ansary: The outlook for private equity and venture capital in Australia for 2015 is very positive. Over the past two years we have seen a significant pick up in the level of deal activity, which has been underpinned by an economy that has continued to expand – even during the difficulty global economic downturn.

Private equity firms are sitting on a significant amount of un-deployed capital (around A$6B), which tells us that there is capacity for the industry to invest in businesses within our economy, as well as the broader Asia region. We are expecting a lot of investment activity during 2015.

KITE: What industries and sectors do you foresee as leading the pack?

YEA: The industries that have been attracting the most private capital investment in recent years have been healthcare, consumer goods, and information technology and communications. Australia’s economy is highly diversified, and our geographic proximity to Asia gives us a unique opportunity to be a direct part of the growth story in that region of the world, while at the same time offering a stable and predictable policy and political landscape.

KITE: Although closely tied with Asian markets, how does Australia’s relative isolation – for instance Perth – affect the PE & VC industries’ deal inflow and outflow?

YEA: Deal flow levels in Australia are holding up very well. We are fortunate to have an innovative world-class business sector that has proven it can compete and win their markets all over the world. There is a very significant small to medium-sized business sector in Australia, and a large proportion of the founders of those businesses are nearing retirement age in coming years – that presents the private equity industry with a good pipeline of investable businesses that would benefit from new capital investment and the injection of skills and expertise that our industry can bring.

KITE: In addition to representing the PE & VC communities of Australia, AVCAL is also interested in the development of entrepreneurial programs and Philanthropy partnerships, and various working groups. As a proponent of philanthropic partnerships, how does AVCAL advise and assist in the collaboration between venture philanthropy and the PE & VC communities? 

YEA: Our industry supports philanthropic endeavours right across our community. We are working with partner organisations to help boost the capacity of private equity and venture capital managers to collaborate with those organisations as part of a process of improving the commerciality and long-term sustainability of community-focused programs. There’s no question that the skills that exist within our industry are transferable to the philanthropic sector. A number of our members have developed comprehensive impact investment programs, where an alignment with socio-economic outcomes is very clear: investing money to help create and expand businesses in disadvantaged communities pays big dividends back to local economies and helps to improve quality of life and standard of living for thousands of people.

KITE: What advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking for venture capital?

YEA: The best advice we can give to entrepreneurs is to ‘be prepared’. Having a great business idea is important, but it’s equally important to have undertaken good market research and strategic planning to look at the size of your potential market and what your financial outlook would be in various scenarios. Venture capital managers have an obligation to carefully balance risk and reward – money won’t be invested into a new business venture where a comprehensive, complete and realistic business plan hasn’t been prepared.

KITE: Last year AVCAL announced the working group ‘Women in AVCAL’; please briefly address the reasons for WAVCAL’s formation, progress made and remaining goals.

YEA: Some time ago AVCAL established a working group aimed squarely at identifying opportunities to encourage greater female participate in the private equity and venture capital industry. Women are significantly under-represented in our industry here in Australia, and we have to work towards addressing that over time. Our WAVCAL working group is looking at what roadblocks might exist, and how they can be overcome.

KITE: AVCAL’s Strategic Plan 2014-2017 is directed towards boosting awareness, increasing engagement and collaborations, and foster a connected community. To end mentioning the Strategic Plan 2014-2017, are there any goals that you would like to mention and are there any challenges that still remain?

YEA: One of the key features of our strategic plan for the next two or three years is to continue to build awareness amongst offshore investors (LPs) of the strength of the Australian private equity and venture capital industry. The returns generated by our industry here are amongst the world’s highest, which makes for a very compelling case for offshore investors to put their money to work with Australian private equity and venture capital managers. Over recent years we have started to see more money invested from Asia-based investors, and we think there is considerable scope for more allocations to flow from Europe, North America and emerging markets. Australia has a very good story to tell the rest of world, and we are focused on spending more time than we have in the past sharing that story.