The ‘new normal’: 16 founders share how they are thinking about fundraising & growth following COVID
2020. It will go down in history as a year plagued with uncertainty and fear. The COVID pandemic swept the world, crippled economies and threatened mankind in a way that younger generations would not have ever experienced.
And while certain parts of the world continue to face the unknown, there are some glimpses of hope cropping up in pockets of global communities.
These places, including Australia, are learning to adapt to this “new normal” way of life, where the virus remains but society continues, albeit some changes.
Along with socialising and travel, business is operating under a new veil of restrictions but in doing so smaller businesses and startups are finding opportunities to service new or pent up demand unable to be addressed by larger companies.
During the peak of Australian lockdown, Antler Sydney launched its third cohort with 99 exceptional individuals ready to launch their next company.
Through a virtual set up, these founders came together to form 26 teams of which Antler invested in half of them.
These teams, born during a global pandemic, are now turning their focus to fundraising and growth in this new normal. How they approach investors, plan their runway and think about expansion is completely different to the way they may have gone about these things if they had launched 12 months ago.
So — how are they thinking about fundraising and growth following COVID? Here’s what ten teams had to say.
**These teams and more will be pitching at Antler’s upcoming Sydney Demo Day. Come along to hear more about the innovative businesses these founder are building via demoday.antler.co/sydney **
“My co-founder and I are both from bootstrap-startup backgrounds, so this is the first time we have fundraised. We are maintaining this scrappy/bootstrapped mindset to ensure we have a good runway to find product-market fit. Overall, we plan to raise a seed round in the next few months to give us 18–24 months runway.
“We believe the fundamentals of growth are still the same and need to be built on solid foundations of understanding your customers’ needs and making data-driven decisions. We are constantly iterating our offering to remove friction from our customers’ lives and will continue to until we’ve found product-market fit.”
— James Fyfe
“COVID has presented unique and complex challenges for all existing businesses.
“For us at Sync Technologies, being born in the middle of COVID has meant this is just business as usual. We see unparalleled opportunities to increase digital maturity across many sectors. We have focussed on construction, specifically on site execution, remote data and legacy asynchronous communication systems.
“Investors that can see beyond the current physical limitations and the very bright digital future will be well rewarded for accepting risk during this time.”
— Alex Pryor
“Flow of Work Co was born during COVID, and our focus on increasing the value of a company’s existing workforce has proven critical during the pandemic. With no incoming talent supply and increasing global skills-shortages, organisations are forced to think creatively how to nurture, develop and retain their talent. This gives us strong validation for “why now” and confidence that we will be able to showcase a strong growth-trajectory.
“We’re building a new category of HR tech and we’ve got some good customer traction so we believe that continuing this will define how easy it will be to raise capital. But as it’s hard to know how the pandemic will unfold over the next few months, we’ve decided to start building relationships with investors who are passionate about this space early and allow enough time to secure our next round.”
— Helena Turpin
“If you thought technology was already moving fast, it’s about to explode.
“As we already know, COVID has fundamentally changed user behaviour and their needs forever. Investors will be moving their money away from the old way of doing things, and into ventures that meet the needs of new ways.
“As an example consider remote work, education, and healthcare. Never before has adoption of supporting technologies been in more need. As innovators solve the evolving needs, investors will move their money towards those with the highest growth potential.
“At StackGo, we believe that SaaS Marketplace platforms with existing customer audiences are best placed to introduce new technology to market. So we’re planning a suite of tools that make it effortless for software builders to select, subscribe and scale through them.”
— Matt Collis
“m8buy has a positive mindset that fundraising is alive and strong during COVID with investors being more available over video calls to commit capital to disruptive ideas that play well in this new world.
“The pandemic has accelerated innovation for new business models geared for a post COVID world. m8buy is an example of this, seamlessly letting customers shop on their favourite stores together with friends in return for rewards like cashback on orders or free delivery. With record numbers of people now shopping online and a new baseline for online shoppers being created in a post COVID-19 world — rolling out m8buy could not have been timelier. In fact, COVID-19 acts as a catalyst for our product demand and subsequent growth. If your product has a strong proposition and traction, you will always find home for capital.”
— Arjun Singh
“At GradVantage we are working on solving a problem created by COVID. Every year 300,000 grads join the workforce in Australia. The COVID generation grads will be joining their first day of work from their living room or bedrooms over a video call. This is creating a huge challenge for employers of engaging, up-skilling and looking after the mental well-being of these new hires.
“GradVantage is solving this problem by enabling organisations to run world class remote onboarding and up-skilling programs. Due to the nature of the problem we are solving, the traction with customers is great, leading to great traction with investors. We are also finding this to be a great time to attract world class talent.”
— Amit Choudhary
“2020 has marked a fundamental change in the way we work. Following the pandemic, we are seeing more businesses around the world committing to keeping their workforces either hybrid, or remote-first moving forward. While this has real benefits, culture and engagement are at risk. Remote Social is supporting the acute and growing need to keep teams connected and engaged. Out platform makes it incredibly easy to find, schedule, and host team games, activities, and challenges.
“We have a growing list of teams waiting to onboard onto Remote Social — including global organisations such as Google, eBay, Atlassian and many more. We are focused on executing fast on our vision and getting early feedback from users. We will shortly be commencing our Seed raise in order to support the next stages of our development, and what we anticipate to be rapid growth to meet pressing demand.”
— Jess Baird Walsh
“As a company passionate about helping creators and instructors deliver digital content, we see the global impacts of COVID as new opportunities for growth.
“We’ve seen an immense proliferation of digital content consumption this year and believe that these trends will continue; in particular, the global economic impacts of COVID have seen a record number of people taking their passions and expertises online to monetize their skills. Feather provides a platform for these people to grow their audience and business, while also growing alongside them.
“In terms of fundraising, we’ve been closely following the landscape this year, seeing how virtual pitches have made the fundraising landscape both more accessible and more competitive than ever. Whether our seed fundraising will be driven by virtual or physical meetings, we look forward to embarking on this next stage of the startup journey.”
— Shori Hijikata, co-founder
“Covid-19 has distressingly highlighted the issues in caring for a rapidly ageing population globally. It has also demonstrated the benefits of ageing in place supported by new remote models of care. Australia, with the highest level of over-80’s in Residential Care in the OECD, and 100,000+ people on the waitlist for government funded Home Care Packages, has a long way to go. This has been reinforced by the Royal Commission hearings still underway.
“For us, thanks to Antler, chaos has bred opportunity. eQALY is a proactive care solution empowering elderly people to live the highest quality of life possible in their own homes. By integrating multiple data sources, including family and care worker feedback, eQALY enables aged care organisations to keep their clients as healthy as possible. We’re working in partnership to pilot this new standard of care, and we’re pleased to deliver better outcomes for our ageing population.”
— Andy Laws
“We were already aware of the challenges posed by COVID when we first joined Antler to build a startup, but that never deterred us. We wanted to create something we were passionate about, and the world never truly stops, especially when it comes to innovation.
“However we’ve had to be much more strategic about how we build. Where pre-COVID we might have had the attitude of ‘create something people love, get heaps of users, monetize later’, now we are deliberately more thoughtful around testing our business model hypotheses earlier and as we go. We are careful about deciding the right amount of external funding we’d take from the right investors that will get us to our goal of building a business that can grow fast organically while sustaining its own growth — because we’ve taken the time to validate the right business model with the right product.”
— Joy Zhang
To hear more from these teams, come along to Antler’s Demo Day on November 19 via demoday.antler.co/sydney
Hear them pitch, ask them questions and connect online.
Antler enables exceptional people to create exceptional companies. If you want to become a startup founder, find the perfect co-founder and create impactful companies to shape the future, apply now and begin your Antler journey.
This article was written by Sarah Kimmorley, Director of Communications at Antler in Sydney.