Serial entrepreneur Paul Breen started out his career working in various large companies for the first ten years of his working life. After a decade of working in the corporate world, he decided it wasn’t what he wanted to do for the rest of his life and started to look around for opportunities that would allow him to get into business.
These were the pre-Google days and the internet had not yet hit its stride. Breen launched his first business Calendar Club in 1995 – it’s the pop-up kiosks you see at shopping centres during the holiday seasons selling calendars. The company grew to about 150 pop-up stores every year and is still going strong 20 years later, having opened up 2,500 stores. Breen built the business up and sold it to an overseas book chain which ended up becoming Red Group Retail in 2003. Then in a strange twist of fate, Red Group Retail went broke and Breen bought the business back off them in 2011 and still remains involved.
Breen was also an early stage investor in a tech company called ePay, an electronics payment business for mobile phone top-ups. At its peak, ePay was processing around $2 billion in payments. It was sold to an overseas company listed on NASDAQ about five years after it was launched.
More recently, Breen has been involved in social enterprise STREAT, and was the CEO of Powershop – a bit of a different role for him as it was more intrapreneurial and something Breen had not really done before. He is also the author of a new book called The Entrepreneurial Way: 92 Success Secrets and Shortcuts to Unleash the Entrepreneur in You, which is available now.
Breen is currently working on a new startup venture that’s in stealth mode.
In all of his roles past and present, Breen has experienced going through the process of research and development, particularly in his role with Powershop. However, he says that he never really appreciated the availability of the R&D Tax Incentive and what benefits that afforded a business.
“I didn’t appreciate the availability of it, that’s the first thing,” says Breen. “I thought it was like a lot of other government programmes – very difficult to navigate through and costly because it required getting advisors to put applications together.”
“So in the past, in all honestly, we’ve probably missed out a lot of stuff with the ventures that I was involved in. We never pursued it because the immediate reaction was ‘hey look, it’s just difficult, and it’s going to be time-consuming, let’s just get on with what we’re doing’.”
This thought process is quite common with tech entrepreneurs; some startups could have been getting a rebate for years. Breen says that startups should really learn to take advantage of the incentive, something he is definitely doing as part of his newest venture, which will deliver a product for the Human Resources sector.
“We’re going through that stage now after having spent over $200,000 in terms of development effort to build the platform,” says Breen. “It’s just by chance that I came across Nifty Forms and I kind of went in, poked around and I thought ‘woah’. I spoke to my accountant / tax advisor and he was going ‘wow this actually takes the pain out of doing this’. The light bulb moment for me was the removal of what I thought was pain in the process.”
“One of my partners in this new venture wanted to have a look at it, and I said to him, ‘I think what we need to do is get a tax return done for FY15 and then the tax incentive will become part of that’.
“So he just played around on the Nifty Forms site and said ‘we may just as well submit this and see what PwC comes back with’, and so we did the tax return. And it was amazing, in terms of the removal of that pain, it was like there wasn’t any. I think the product itself has hit the mark for me.”
For people in the startup world, particularly where every dollar counts; the R&D Tax Incentive is a key tool that can be used to offset costs when creating a product or service.
This article is sponsored by PwC | Nifty Forms. You can check if your startup is eligible for the R&D Tax Incentive by clicking here.