Tech entrepreneurs are rejecting traditional forms of international recruitment and seeking talent in the gig economy, as the government solidifies the future of a potentially "ineffective" scheme.
The Global Talent-Employer Sponsored program, made permanent last week, is being touted as a "streamlined" pathway for employers to access the best talent in the world.
Turnaround for temporary skills visa agreements under the scheme is set to take just two weeks, and all visas will be for up to four years with a permanent residency track.
But startups, which are separated into their own stream from "established businesses", could still have to foot thousands in costs, and advertise jobs locally to take advantage of it. Companies in the established businesses stream must, among other things, be publicly listed or have an annual turnover of $4 million for the past two years.
"For companies like Atlassian, someone who is large ... it makes a whole lot of sense, but when you're small and starting off, it's a bit crazy [to suggest] whether you're going to spend that money," Spinify founder Matt Bullock said.
"For me, when you're in that early phase, it's easier just to use [apps like] Upwork or Freelancer and hire that person; then I'm not committing to that full time resource."
Chief executive of Startup Aus and the program's startup advisory panel chair, Alex McCauley, said the costs and process were standard for Australia's visa regime.
"For the first time we have a visa stream dedicated to startups and we're making it quicker and [easier] for startups to get visas," Mr McCauley said.
"The next question might be how do we make it cheaper, or how do we make it even faster?"
Mr Bullock employed several people on 457 visas before he sold his online transaction company eWay for US$50 million in 2016, he said.
While the somewhat time consuming process worked, he transitioned to apps with his 2016-founded gamification company Spinify.
"I've hired 179 people on [apps] in less than three years, which is a lot," Mr Bullock said.
"[You get to a] point that you want full time resources, but I think as a startup, you need lots of little things done by lots of little people."
The government needed to do more to encourage startups, Mr Bullock said. The scheme, though well-intentioned, was impractical and unnecessary for most.
Startups were dissuaded from taking advantage of the R&D tax concession in 2018 with an apparent crackdown on tech companies, and the Export Market Development Grants scheme offered businesses less than expected, Mr Bullock said.
"I think they're crazy because what they should be doing is finding programs that help someone transition from working for someone, to actually wanting to run a startup, to being an entrepreneur," he said.
"None of those things are creating the entrepreneur; they're actually making the person who wants to be an entrepreneur go, 'Jeez, do I really want to do this?'"
"Even the ACT government can do a tonne more, as in the funding they give is a dot. That funding could be significantly more."
Australia's education system also created a gap between students and employability in the tech sector, Mr Bullock said.
With only five startups currently approved under the startup stream, we need to question just how effective this initiative has been, and how effective it's going to continue to be.Co-founder of Deputy, Ashik Ahmed
As of August 11, 27 companies had signed up to the program since its pilot commenced on July 1, 2018. Only seven of them were startups.
The government would not confirm how many people had been employed through the Global Talent-Employer Sponsored scheme.
Co-founder of Deputy, Ashik Ahmed, said the software company relied on skilled migrants.
"With only five startups currently approved under the startup stream [earlier in August], we need to question just how effective this initiative has been, and how effective it's going to continue to be," he said.
"Such schemes are a step in the right direction, but as it stands, it just isn't enough."
Mr McCauley said the program, which lets established businesses hire up to 20 people a year and startups hire up to five a year, was a direct response to the tech sector's calls for more talent.
"If we can make Australia a destination that is as attractive for tech workers as it is for tourists, we will have really given Australian companies a big head start in terms of the quality of the businesses they can build here and their ability to compete internationally," he said.
The government also announced 5000 fast-tracked visas as part of the permanent migration program this week, which would cover multiple sectors.