Update: now with more signatures (see end)

Over the past few years, many of us in the Australian startup community have been shocked observers of a campaign of sustained bullying in print, as Australian Financial Review columnist, Joe Aston, used his readership to discredit and belittle one of our industry’s own, venture capitalist, Dr. Elaine Stead.

At first, Aston’s coverage of the failure of Blue Sky Ventures under attack from activist hedge fund Glaucus Research seemed just like his coverage of other news. In his own words, he writes, “a combative and impertinent newspaper column.”

But over time it revealed…


By Rod Long on Unsplash

There’s always been a lot of time wasted over whether younger or older startup founders are more investible, or more likely to succeed. If you’re unusually young or unusually old, that’s unusual, and it’s possibly interesting, and maybe it will influence your founder journey in many gross and subtle ways, but it should make no difference to your investability.

A middle-aged founder I mentor shared this Harvard Business Review story with me, suggesting that the most likely age to succeed as a founder may be 45. That may be so! But what to do about it?

As a founder, you…


Yes, there’s just four. No, they’re not easy to achieve. But here they are.

I spend most of my consulting days with founders and teams ranging from idea stage to minimum viable product (MVP) to early commercialisation, so I get asked one question a lot, “What will angel or venture capital investors want to see from us before we’re good candidates for investment?”

It’s just four things, and you only need to achieve one of them to qualify for consideration by venture investors.

The long answer is: every investor is different

Every investor is motivated by a different risk/reward ratio, interested in different markets, business models and technologies, likes to lead other investors or likes to follow other investors, can only write a cheque smaller than X or no bigger than Y.

The short answer is: every investor is the same

If they know what they’re doing, they’re looking for startups…


We’re approaching the fourth quarter of the calendar year and once again, I’m warning founders hoping to raise: the next four months can be a hard time to close an investment round in Australia. Here’s why.

Thanks to @_imkiran for making this photo available freely on @unsplash https://unsplash.com/photos/83zRhEhFMfo

Most investors wouldn’t admit it – and some wouldn’t even be aware that they do this – but deal negotations start slowing down from about Melbourne Cup Day onwards and basically go nowhere from 1 Dec.

I think the most likely explanations are:

  1. There are a bunch of public holidays and vacation time at this time of year, plus a few days that aren’t public holidays but are commonly taken as leave and offices commonly shut;
  2. Some don’t want to invest in something just before the summer because they assume the startup won’t get much done with the money for…


Surprise by Ben White on Unsplash https://unsplash.com/photos/qDY9ahp0Mto

One of the hardest things about being a tech startup founder is getting people to remember anything about you for long enough to act or commit to you. Founders, team, investors, media and the public are all awash in an overwhelming sea of social updates and news stories about startups and their new products and services.

Getting 15 seconds of fame is easy. But being memorable is harder than it’s ever been.

Hardest of all is getting people to retain and be persuaded by your metrics: those key numbers that you’re working so hard to improve – your CPC, your…


Australia’s rural and regional communities depend on industries that are being automated fast, and employing fewer people as a result. We’re currently in the midst of the worst drought in recorded history. And we can see that global demand for our coal and gas will be much less in future. How should regional Australia prepare to weather those changes? Knuckle down, scrimp and save, borrow more and hope for the best? Or is there a better way?

The solution is there for any community that has the imagination to repurpose itself for the tech industry, more specifically, the software industry…


Founders wishing that VCs wouldn’t contradict each other’s advice should understand that being a VC is all about being contrarian.

The job and incentives are designed and attract and reward people who question everything, especially majority opinion.‬

Nobody fulfilled and happy in investment management, banking, law, business or tech would ever dream of going into venture capital.

You sacrifice relative certainty for risk, effective tenure for a role where you’re only as good as your last fund’s returns. The odds are you fail and won’t get a second chance. Nor will you ever be able to go back.

Venture capital…


The truth is, $500 is not going to get you very far on most marketing platforms. Unless you’re incredibly lucky you’re not going to guess correctly the first time you experiment with the variables of [creative]+[placement]+[time]+[advertising channel] and it isn’t enough marketing budget to run even one A/B test and get some conclusive results.

But, instead of thinking about using your marketing budget to acquire customers, what happens if you think about using it to acquire more marketing budget? It’s not a magic bullet but it’s better than nothing. Here’s my thinking…

If you spend your $500 marketing on generating cashflow for your startup it’s going to get you nowhere. But if you can get your $500 marketing budget to create a $550 marketing budget, maybe you have the beginnings of a tiny marketing growth machine?

Growing a marketing budget is easy enough to…


The North Pole of the Moon. Photo credit: NASA/JPL

This week it’s the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. I watched the first Apollo moon landing live on black-and-white television, in my parent’s living room in Canberra, just after my after-preschool nap.

It was the first global television event. It relied upon so many revolutionary technological advances that to list them all would be the subject of a blog post on its own (but there’s NASA’s Spinoff for that).

I remember it so vividly because the space race was a really big thing in our family; each month’s issue of the National Geographic magazine for the past year…


Startup cofounder: “Which of us should pitch at Demo Day?”

Me: “Both of you should be rehearsing and prepared to do it.”

Cofounder: “But which of us is best?”

Me: “Doesn’t matter right now. You can both improve. Besides, a startup with two cofounders who can effectively pitch the business might raise capital, close new customers or recruit new hires twice as fast as a startup with only one pitching cofounder. Do you want to succeed twice as fast as you are, or half as fast as you could potentially be?”

Over time, you’ll probably find that one of you…

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Thoughts and opinions from M8 Ventures

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