At Startup Daily’s recent 2023 Tech Playbook From Idea to Unicorn event, our expert panel discussed the top startup trends that tech companies should watch out for in the coming year.
Driven by Microsoftwith social partners BDO and parallelthe November 17 event in the founders hub Fish burners emphasized the importance of sharing information and working together to develop and grow in today’s challenging economy.
“It’s about how do we create the startup community in Australia and New Zealand to get bigger, get better, get more startups through, attract more talent, attract and keep that talent in the country , instead of sending it abroad? said Andrew Boyd, general manager of digital natives and startup at Microsoft. “And then how can we grow more and more unicorns?”
Here are some of the key startup trends that our expert panel wants to prepare you for in 2023.
1. Pre-seed/seed funding is where the current opportunities lie
In 2022, late-stage investment and technology growth have declined as much as 60 percent year after year globally, but seed funding remains much more robust.
“In the seed to series phase, especially for us at AirTree, we did more seed deals this year than last year,” said Raaj Rayat, investment manager at AirTree Ventures. “So there’s still a ton of momentum and a ton of funding going to really strong early-stage startups.”
Raaj notes that the focus is on efficiency in growth, not just revenue growth above all else. This boils down to the burn multiple: “how much new revenue are you adding for every dollar of capital you spend?”
Samadi Pelenda, an investor at Tidal Ventures, adds that the focus is on “lengthening the runway” through sustainable unit economics. That includes focusing on your CAC (customer acquisition costs) and product-driven growth.
2. Recruit for diversity and drop the formality
This is more than just ticking a box or even showing that you are an inclusive, accepting organization. diversity stimulates innovation and growth.
To do it right, you need to create a work environment that will appeal to a wide variety of people. Rhea Shyamkant, director of human resources at Omnistream emphasizes the importance of balancing the candidate’s value proposition with the employee’s value proposition. “I think I’ve been too involved in debates with founders and hiring managers about intrinsic versus extrinsic,” says Rhea. “I truly believe that to hire and retain good talent, you need a balance between the two.”
The biggest risk is hiring people because of your own unconscious biases, says Alan Jones, CEO of Fishburners.
“Imagine you are a team of three white male software engineers, ages 25 to 30. Chances are very high that you will hire a fourth white male software engineer, between the ages of 25 and 30. Because that person feels more comfortable in your team, you feel more comfortable with him, but then you miss out on all the benefits of diversity.”
To broaden your comfort zone, Alan suggests setting quotas for applicants and looking for deeper connections. Some of its criteria are that they:
- not similar to your existing team
- don’t come from the same kind of background
- have different interests
- have different ways of working
In today’s talent scarcity, Alan advises founders and leaders to leave behind the formality of job interviews and try to get to know potential talent in a variety of environments. “Most people are willing to be interviewed within the context of a workplace and it can be quite another to sit in a cafe or just go for a walk,” says Alan.
The more informal you can make your application process, the more you let your candidate shine. “We hire people mainly because of passion because they say skill can be learned and passion cannot,” said Joseph Azar, chief technology officer at Forcite Helmet Systems. “So we’re trying to get people on board by seeing what passion they’re in when we tell them about the product.”
3. Be smart about using new hires and partners to scale
One of the big issues when growing your startup is knowing that you need additional staff, but not in a full-time capacity. Hiring people on a part-time basis can be problematic, because what happens when you get big enough to hire them full-time, but can only employ them part-time?
Joseph Azar, chief technology officer at Forcite Helmet Systems, says that while this is very difficult to plan for, there is a solution: “you can’t hire someone to do one specific thing.”
You need to bring people on board who are willing to get involved and contribute across the board. “We’re Series A going to Series B, but we’re still operating as a startup,” he says. “I develop, act as CTO test, sometimes do sales and marketing, and we do that all year round and everyone does the same thing. So there’s not one specific person who says, oh, I just do that, you know?
To bypass specialist areas, Forcite hires consultants to perform specific tasks when required. They can scale up or down cost-effectively and fill in the gaps until you’re big enough to take on internally. Just as your staff works throughout the company, it’s a good idea to bring in partners who can also take a company-wide approach. They can also bring fresh ideas and new ways of looking at things.
“I think there is something magical about the creative side when some people come in and have ideas or develop new areas of the business that you didn’t know you needed or had,” says Afonso Firmo, co-founder and director of NetNada .
4. Find funding opportunities outside of VCs
“VCs have too much influence on the narrative when it comes to early stage investments, at least unintentionally,” notes Rafe Custance, director of venture studios at Dovetail Studios. He wants you to look at options other than VC financing.
Venture studios are one such approach. Unlike VC financing, a venture studio is heavily involved in the operational and strategic direction of the startup they invest in. Because of their strong commitment, venture studios will often support a new company if a VC does not.
“Something that is incredibly overlooked and often lost in translation is that most companies just can’t support at the earliest stage…” says Rafe. “Our contention is that this leaves a lot of what could be incredible, highly successful, scalable technology companies sort of on the table as open opportunities.”
Other alternative funding sources include:
- Angel investors – good connections are central to this, so network, network, network
- Loans from friends and family – the people who believe in you the most may want to support you
- crowdfunding – small contributions from many keep you in control of your business
- Peer-to-peer lending – small loans accessible through various platforms
- Bank loans for small businesses – the old-fashioned financing method still applies
- private equity – a possible alternative for those looking for large-scale financing
For more tech startup insights, tech guidance, and mentoring advice, visit Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub. Sign up in minutes with no funding required and unlock up to $150,000 in Microsoft Azure credits as you grow.
Check out the full 2023 Tech Playbook From Idea to Unicorn session here:
Idea for unicorn
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This article is brought to you by Startup Daily in partnership with Microsoft.