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Tis the season to be reflective – 2023 in review on First Cheque

First Cheque

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Summary

Cheryl Mack and Maxine Minter reflect on the year 2023 and discuss the challenges and trends in the startup ecosystem. They talk about the tough environment for founders and investors, with many companies struggling to raise funds and facing down rounds. However, they also highlight the resilience and determination of founders who were able to survive and even thrive in the face of adversity.

The hosts discuss the increase in funding for female founders, although there is still a long way to go in achieving gender parity in the industry. They also touch on the growth of climate tech and AI as key areas of investment, with these sectors propping up the funding ecosystem.

Cheryl and Maxine express cautious optimism for the year 2024, noting the need for continued creativity and resilience in the face of challenges. They also highlight the importance of addressing issues of behaviour and inclusivity in the startup ecosystem.

Key Takeaways

  • The startup ecosystem faced challenges in 2023, with many companies struggling to raise funds and experiencing down rounds.
  • Resilience and determination were key traits of successful founders who were able to navigate the tough environment.
  • Funding for female founders reached an all-time high, but there is still work to be done to achieve gender parity.
  • Climate tech and AI were standout sectors, attracting significant investment and driving innovation.
  • The year 2024 holds cautious optimism, with the need for continued creativity and resilience in the face of challenges.

Quotes

  • “I think ingenuity was a real theme. I’m excited to dive in today, obviously. Tis the season to be reflecting.” – Cheryl Mack
  • “The founders that survive this are the ones that we are so excited to back as investors.” – Maxine Minter
  • “I think optimism and holding on to a sense of optimism won this year. Pairing it with creativity, also really effective.” – Maxine Minter
  • “I think 2024 is looking cautiously optimistic. Cautiously optimistic.” – Maxine Minter

Chapters

00:05 – Introduction to the podcast

00:25 – Reflecting on the year and the challenges faced

02:02 – Difficulty of raising funds and the resilience of founders

04:32 – Founders’ determination to survive and adapt

05:08 – Employment Hero becoming a unicorn

06:31 – Tentative re-entry of international investors into the Australian ecosystem

07:38 – Gap between top founders and average deals narrowing

08:49 – Overpaying in the early stages of funding

09:05 – Australian tech facing criticism from the media

10:46 – Turning point in sentiment with SVB collapse and Milk Run

11:18 – Discussion about the impact of FTX and Sam Bankman-Fried’s sentencing

12:13 – AI and climate tech propping up the funding industry in 2023

13:56 – AI adoption curve and its impact on the legal tech industry

15:01 – Tight capital environment in Q1 and Q2 of 2023

15:32 – Increase in interest and funding for climate tech

17:10 – Rise of climate tech-focused funds in Australia

18:19 – Lack of AI-focused funds in Australia

20:06 – Creativity in funding and rise of professionalized fund management

21:30 – Optimism about more fund raising in 2024

21:52 – Increase in funding for female founders, but still low overall

22:33 – Matching population demographics

22:48 – Lack of data on women-led funds in Australia

23:16 – Optimism and creativity in investing

23:53 – Early-stage startups cushioned from headwinds

24:23 – Emotional roller coaster in 2021

25:08 – Goal to surpass 2020 funding levels

25:51 – Cautiously optimistic about 2024

26:45 – Focus on behavior standards in the ecosystem

27:30 – Serious conversation on behavior in Australia

28:04 – Cautiously optimistic for the future

Transcript

This transcript has been A.I. generated.

Maxine Minter: Happy holidays. We made it. We’re at the end.

Cheryl Mack: is around the

Maxine Minter: over. It’s over. Thank God.

Cheryl Mack: What a crazy year.

Maxine Minter: Yeah. Wow. Honestly, I feel like I’m crawling over the finish line. My fingers are on that white line and I’m so ready to get over the finish line. And what a year, right? How crazy was 23?

Cheryl Mack: Like so many things happened this year. I just, I felt, I feel like I have whiplash from going What? What? What? What happened? What now?

More

Maxine Minter: Yeah, totally. I mean, I really, like, I’m just trying to think back to the beginning of 23. Like I really thought that we were, it was going to be marginally better than 22. Like remember the back end of 22 was

Cheryl Mack: Yeah, I felt optimism. Like, going into 23, I was like, Yeah, surely, like, 22 was nuts, and that was a tough year. Let’s, let’s, I’m ready for 23, like, this is going to be great. And then so many crazy things happened that it just kind of felt like the tech world was falling apart and putting itself back together again, over and over again.

Cheryl Mack: And we were just on this rollercoaster ride.

Maxine Minter: Right. A hundred percent. I will say, um, like looking back on the year, I think ingenuity was a real theme, but I’m excited to dive in today. Um, obviously TIS the season to be reflecting. Looking back on the year, uh, I thought, jump on the phone and chat about, you know, what happened in 23. A year in the rearview mirror, what happened, what didn’t, what saved us, what sunk us like a stone and, look forward.

Cheryl Mack: Yeah. I mean, like speaking of how tough of a year it was, I feel like we saw a lot of shutdowns and we saw a lot of companies struggling to get that next round. So a lot of down rounds, like probably the most down rounds I’ve seen in a number of years, um, so many, like so many things that just, it was a really tough environment for founders to be building in to be for funds to be raising in.

Maxine Minter: Mm hmm. Yeah, man, it was like the toughest market, to raise in, I think since 2012 on the data that I saw, at least for the U.S. Right there, like net new funds, what’s the lowest it’s been since 2012, um, which was kind of wild. If you think about that, and I was just blown away by the founders in this ecosystem and the founders in this market, like the ingenuity they needed to show the resilience they needed to show just every single day chewing on glass.

Maxine Minter: Um, you know, I actually, I spoke to one of, um, a founder in my network early on in the year, and I have this distinct memory of him catching up with me. Like, how are you doing? And he was like, I am in a daily knife fight. And I was like, okay, yeah, I think that summarizes it. Yeah. Okay. Okay. But I think that that’s accurate, right?

Maxine Minter: Like if you look at the headwinds that they had to face and what they had to endure through. And, you know, the, the difficulty of getting capital away, the difficulty of closing revenue, sales cycles were longer, contract values were smaller at the same time as costs were rising because the inflationary environment at Founders this year lived through that kind of classic economic cycle, but reading it in the textbook and living it day to day where you’re getting squeezed from both sides, just, it’s savage.

Cheryl Mack: the founders that survive this though, are the ones that like, we are so excited to back as investors. And I think we saw a lot of that from founders this year of like that just sheer resilience, perseverance, determination to survive through like the number of times I had conversations with founders who were like, I’m thinking about just closing the door, shutting it down or like looking to get acquired.

Cheryl Mack: Um, and then on the flip side, the number of conversations I had with founders who were like, we know, like, we just need to cut costs. We need to like, like create layoffs. We need to extend our runway. We need to cut our burn. And like, we know how to do that. This is how we’re going to do it. And I’m just like, I’m amazing.

Cheryl Mack: Like, I’m so impressed with the, with the founders who were able to show that resilience. Yeah,

Maxine Minter: I mean, and some of the companies are coming out the other side of this, like so much stronger. Right. I think about the employment hero round, which I think took out top of the pops in terms of size of round. Right.

Cheryl Mack: 263 mil and they were, um, one of Australia’s newest unicorns in 2023. I actually don’t know of any other unicorns that were minted this year, but Employment Hero was one of them. Do you know of any others in Australia?

Maxine Minter: no, I don’t. I mean, there’s surely there were, right? Like if you look at the data in 21, I can’t imagine we went from…

Cheryl Mack: There was six, six new in 21,

Maxine Minter: Yeah.

Cheryl Mack: six or seven new in 21. I, about the same in 22.

Maxine Minter: Hmm.

Cheryl Mack: Interestingly, actually, from like, 2018 or so to like, 2020, we minted like 1 or 2 a year. And then from 2020 onwards, it was like 6 to 7 a year. Like, we really jumped up. Um, don’t quote me on those exact numbers, but I remember somewhere around like, 2019, 2020, we went from like, 1 or 2 to like, 6 or 7.

Maxine Minter: Oh, that’s fascinating.

Cheryl Mack: really interested to see what the numbers come out this year as to how many, but the one I know of is employment here with the largest round of 263 mil.

Maxine Minter: Yeah. I wonder if, I mean, that would be an interesting trend line, right? If we went back to one or two a year. Um, and I wonder what that says about 21, 22 and. You know, not 23, I also, I mean, one of the trends we saw in this year is a tentative re entry of international investors into the Australian ecosystem.

Maxine Minter: You know, I started to meet a lot more folks that are Australia curious, I think is the way that I would phrase it. So especially big regional funds starting to spend a little bit more time down here after having pulled back pretty solidly in 22.

Cheryl Mack: Oh, yeah, for sure. Like, there was 0 to very little competition. Um, the previous 2 years, whereas I think the investment space is clearly shifting gears from defense to offense. Now, when it comes to international investors, and we’re starting to see them being squeezed out again.

Maxine Minter: Hmm. Yeah. Yeah. I don’t, we didn’t really see a correction in valuations at the earlier stage. Um, we saw it in the later stages, but in the earlier stage we didn’t see a huge correction. Of course

Cheryl Mack: Not huge, there was though, and I think it was more like there has been and has started to be less of a gap now between like founder expectations with regards to valuation and what is realistic. I think the biggest gap is like the top founders still were like. It’s still getting great valuations at the earliest stages, whereas I feel like the gap between like the top founders or the hot deals versus the average deal, uh, widened.

Cheryl Mack: And that’s, I think where we’re starting to see like less of a gap now, but the gap at the start of this year was still huge.

Maxine Minter: A hundred percent. I actually, I mean like top founders. I would actually double click on that and my phrasing of that is like consensus founders,

Cheryl Mack: Yeah, that’s why I said like hot deals in like quotations there, like hot deals is subjective, right? Like something can be hot just because, you know, Blackbird decide to go to decides to go in. Right? Like, doesn’t mean they’re a great company. I know. Right? Yeah. Yeah.

Maxine Minter: reminiscent to like middle of 2020 when there was a lot of uncertainty in the market and that kind of flight to consensus creating that huge gap between the like haves and the have nots. Like I was looking at some pre seed deals getting done at that like, you know, 18 to 20 mil.

Maxine Minter: USD round. So at the current conversion rate, that’s like a 30 mil pre seed deal. And like those teams were amazing and they’re chasing like really consensus spaces with like very in ingenious approaches to it. But those are like big valuations for pre seed, right? They’re big for the U S market and relative to the Australian market.

Maxine Minter: They’re huge.

Cheryl Mack: Yeah. Oh, I saw a few of those. Do you think they’ll continue though? Like, I’m not sure that’s going to slow down.

Maxine Minter: I don’t think so either. Right. I don’t think we will see a correction at that end of the market because. I do think that venture overpays for consensus, right? This is like, um, you know, uh, interview with, with, I was gonna say Tony Blair.

Cheryl Mack: with Craig

Maxine Minter: We haven’t interviewed Tony Blair yet. Um, with Craig Blair and this kind of idea of being like contrarian.

Maxine Minter: I just, I totally agree with him. I don’t think we really are contrarian. You’re like early and right, but not contrarian. Um, and I

Cheryl Mack: thing that he talked about. Yeah, absolutely. And the other thing that he talked about was like, if you can, oh, like, if you can get into a round by buying more of it early, then like overpaying isn’t the end of the world. And like, you know, he, there has been some judgment on bigger funds doing that, but like, at the end of the day, you have to do what’s right for your fun.

Cheryl Mack: So, like. Does it not make, does it, how does it not make sense to do that if you can? And given the amount of money that is still like dry powder in the ecosystem, I don’t think that’s going to slow down.

Maxine Minter: Right. I mean, that’s another trend for this year. Australian tech became firmly in the crosshairs of Australian media. Australian media really did a 180 on how they felt about Australian tech and like came after them hot and heavy.

Cheryl Mack: Hard. Yeah, we, like, we went from the, you know, being the darlings and always getting favorable news articles to not so much this year. When do you think that was? Like, I kind of felt it the most after Milk Run went down, but I feel like maybe it had started to turn pre that?

Maxine Minter: I think it had started to turn pre that. Um, when did Milk Run close? Early? Q1? Q2?

Cheryl Mack: just before June, I think. Or in June.

Maxine Minter: I Yeah, I mean I feel like there was some disquiet in Q1. Maybe the SVB thing was the catalyst.

Cheryl Mack: Yeah, cause when did SBB collapse? That actually, that was,

Maxine Minter: Mid March.

Cheryl Mack: I think Milk Run was just after that. So maybe Milk Run was like April, May

Maxine Minter: Hmm,

Cheryl Mack: And

Maxine Minter: yeah.

Cheryl Mack: because I remember we went from like a lot of panic about that too. I think that was the turning point. SBB might’ve been the like official turning point and then it went down

Maxine Minter: Well, I mean, there was the like, sentiment readjustment on crypto prior to that, right? Um, FTX was November the previous year.

Cheryl Mack: FTX was over a year ago. Wow.

Maxine Minter: Sentencing of, uh, Sam Bankman Freed happened, like, almost to the year. of that fraud being exposed.

Cheryl Mack: Damn.

Maxine Minter: Yeah. So that doesn’t technically make it into 23, but we definitely felt the

Cheryl Mack: felt the reverberations.

Maxine Minter: yeah, we sure did. I think, I think what was super interesting to me was to watch the like, um, movement of capital tightening through the stages, right?

Maxine Minter: I feel like we watched that over, it started in 22, but it like moved through. 23 and it slowly came for the backend or the like early stage investing. Cause the growth stage got compressed earlier, which I thought was super interesting. I mean, there was a lot of industries though, that were fairly protected from those dynamics, right?

Maxine Minter: Like we still saw a lot of activity in climate tech. We still saw a lot of

Cheryl Mack: Yeah.

Maxine Minter: in there. I say it AI. I

Cheryl Mack: I feel like ClimateTAC and AI just completely propped up our funding industry for 2023.

Maxine Minter: think that’s right. Yeah. Like if I think about

Cheryl Mack: Not that it’s a bad thing at all. I’m just saying that, like, we need that to continue or we need the next thing. And my money’s on climate tech and AI continuing to prop up 2024 while supporting the rest of the stages or, um, industries to come through.

Maxine Minter: Right. I think that’s right. I mean, I think that both of them, they have so much promise. Well, AI has so much promise and in terms of a technology adoption curve is the steepest we’ve ever seen. They got to a million users in like, what, the first week? That was

Cheryl Mack: they got, they went from zero to a hundred million users in just two months. Sorry, when we say they, we mean, uh, chat GTP

Maxine Minter: Yeah. Yeah. Um, but I mean, as I like an adoption curve for a new technology. Like unparalleled. And I think what that did is engage a whole bunch of folks that were either tech curious that didn’t, that kind of like stepped off the field or that wholesale hadn’t invested in there. Before, I mean, like, damn, it even got lawyers off the bench, which like, if you’ve ever spent any time around legal tech, getting a lawyer to innovate is like pulling teeth and for them to produce like Harvey AI in that period of time, and then a mass adopter, like, I just.

Maxine Minter: Crazy. For me, that’s the, like, most standout data point that like AI enlivened the imaginations of like the most, you know, uh, Luddite industry that exists. I tried there to be diplomatic. I think I missed.

Cheryl Mack: they’re also building as well. Like you see, uh, law firms have traditionally been like the PDF people who are actually building internally AI, which again, like it’s just nuts. And, and it’s not just, it’s not just builders, it’s investors. Like we saw people who. Didn’t invest in tech or even like let alone early stage tech, but coming out of the, you know, gates and saying, oh, well, Hey, let’s, let’s take a look at this space because of AI, because when you go from zero to a hundred million in that quick of a space, you capture the attention of really big investors who typically don’t look at this space.

Cheryl Mack: And so we’ve seen more money coming in because of this.

Maxine Minter: Yeah, I think that’s right. And I think that really propped up, like, overall sentiment. Like, I think it had ripples into the overall ecosystem, but definitely a portion, right? Like, if I take us back to Q1. Of 23, the number of investors I was talking to who hadn’t deployed a single dollar, actually even to Q2, right?

Maxine Minter: They were looking at the first half of the year and a lot of folks in my network hadn’t invested in a single company. It was some of the tightest capital environments, Q1 and Q2 of this year that we’ve seen in a very long time. Hmm.

Cheryl Mack: I think that’s right. Like. Again, well, I invested the earlier, earlier stages. So people in the angel space and the people in my network who I talked to are generally deploying, but like not at the cadence that’s AI brought out. And the conversations, I think we all kind of reached a consensus that like AI is something.

Cheryl Mack: And we all need to be paying attention to it. Like the number of conversations that we were having about it over the year, just skyrocketed. I don’t

Maxine Minter: 100%, 100%. And I, I mean, I didn’t get as much exposure to the climate tech space, but I do feel like it was a similar theme there. Although I feel like some areas of it cooled off a little bit, right? Like, I feel like we were catching the back half of. Increased sentiment in climate tech and kind of found a new equilibrium for it.

Maxine Minter: But I do think it kind of went down a little bit. At least that’s what I heard anecdotally from a lot of the founders who were building in that space.

Cheryl Mack: I necessarily agree. Like. I think there are definitely niches within climate tech that slowed down a bit, like carbon

Maxine Minter: Hmm. Mm.

Cheryl Mack: but the other spaces, like, absolutely are still heating up. And it’s probably the newer innovations that we see.

Maxine Minter: Yeah, yeah.

Cheryl Mack: In, in the climate tech space that I think has captured everyone’s attention and will continue to because the thing is, it’s not just like.

Cheryl Mack: Silence. Like, is the technology, whereas climate tech is actually the sector and there’s a lot of technologies that can be applied to climate tech to fix climate. So it just has a much broader scope and has the ability for different, like, different technologies, different business models within climate tech to kind of wax and wane.

Maxine Minter: Um, yeah, one of the things that I was blown away by, I went to WebSummit, I was a speaker at WebSummit this year, and, um, I had never really spent time in the EU prior, definitely in the EU ecosystem, obviously been there for holiday, but like never been there from a professional perspective, blown away by the number of funds and fund of funds that were focused on climate, at least that as a, um, like a segment of the market.

Maxine Minter: And I really wonder if we’ll see more climate funds in

Cheryl Mack: Absolutely. We’ve like, we’ve already got an exponential number of climate tech focused syndicates. And if we follow the trend of like syndicates turn into funds, then I see an additional like 5 to 6 climate tech focused funds over the next little bit, um, maybe 2 to 5 years, but even still, we already have more climate tech focused funds and funds that are over the next.

Cheryl Mack: Already existing, but now focusing more of their investment dollars in climate tech that alone, I think shows how much interest there is in this space. And we’ll continue to, like, the dry powder that is coming to climate tech alone is, is significant in, in the last, like, year or 2 and continues to.

Maxine Minter: Yeah. That’s it. I mean, like five to 10 new funds over that period of time is like a five to 10 percent increase on overall funds in Australia for five to 10 percent of the funds to end up as climate tech funds. Not by value, but by number of funds. I think is pretty amazing.

Cheryl Mack: Yeah, which also brings a point that, like. Of the 2 categories between climate tech and and I, like, do we know of any focused funds? Not really.

Maxine Minter: There’s one, um, Yash out of, uh, Canberra.

Cheryl Mack: Okay.

Maxine Minter: And then there’s a bunch of accelerators, right? Um, I think Aura and Annie are

Cheryl Mack: Yeah.

Maxine Minter: driving an accelerator in AWS. Yeah, yeah. Um, which they usually, like, predate the raising of a whole fund, right? Um,

Cheryl Mack: is that, like, we’ve seen an acceleration of our ecosystem because of these two trends,

Maxine Minter: Hmm.

Cheryl Mack: one of them has already, like, I don’t think I’ve seen a niche market generate so much dry capital this quickly before.

Maxine Minter: That’s fascinating. That’s really interesting. I wonder controversial opinion, but does Australia have a competitive advantage in AI? That’s not an opinion. Sorry. That’s a question. My opinion is that I don’t think we have a competitive advantage

Cheryl Mack: In AI, whereas I do think we have a competitive advantage in climate.

Maxine Minter: that’s right. Yeah. So I actually think the absence of an AI specific fund. Would make sense if that assumption is true. I don’t know if that assumption is true. Right. I think I would need to double click on, I would need to double click on kind of like, who’s coming out with the best universities here and like, what’s the quality of their programs, but I wonder if we will see more AI focus funds next year.

Cheryl Mack: possibly.

Maxine Minter: That’s another

Cheryl Mack: did we see this year?

Maxine Minter: Yeah. Another thing that I saw was the creativity and funding

Cheryl Mack: Yes,

Maxine Minter: those environments of. compression, there was a lot of creativity that was driven through those constraints. So I feel like I watched a whole bunch of people, you know, raise funds, scale their syndicates, change the way that they’re investing. At like Tractor had

Cheryl Mack: funds. Longer deployments, they did. They

Maxine Minter: I think we saw, you know, a, a need for ingenuity in the way that we were funding companies. Yeah. The fast list, the

Cheryl Mack: and they made the

Maxine Minter: in

Cheryl Mack: fast fast list. Is that, you

Maxine Minter: I don’t know if it’s called the fast list.

Cheryl Mack: I think it is.

Maxine Minter: Yeah. Cool. Cool. Cool.

Cheryl Mack: It’s definitely got fast and list in it.

Maxine Minter: Yes. I, I was actually interested when I read that list, um, how few of them were tech companies.

Cheryl Mack: Would you, I guess you wouldn’t classify Tractor as a tech company. They’re like tech enabled.

Maxine Minter: Yeah.

Cheryl Mack: Yeah. It’s also an interesting point, uh, that like Tractor funds, these like tech enabled companies aren’t always tech companies as well.

Maxine Minter: Yeah, they have a wider customer base for sure. But yeah, I mean, I feel like we watched a real proliferation of more professionalized fund management. I don’t think that was because of the macro dynamic, except for the groups that were raising, like, running syndicates or raising funds because they came to the end of their personal powder.

Maxine Minter: Um, but I think we saw A lot of people, like a stage of maturity of the ecosystem where more people were looking to raise funds or kind of get to the stage of their execution or their deployment experience that they felt like they were ready to raise. I think we’ll see more of that in 24 as well. I feel like we’re just at the beginning of that ramp.

Maxine Minter: Hey,

Cheryl Mack: yeah, absolutely. I think that’s right. And speaking of funding and optimism, uh, female, female founder funding has reached an all time high. We, uh, female founders have received 23 percent of all funding for 2023 so far, and all women teams have now gotten a whole 5 percent of the total share of capital in

Maxine Minter: Okay. That’s not so amazing.

Cheryl Mack: We’re, we’re seeing green shoots here I think, and Like, we can be optimistic that we’re on, we’re on the right trend, obviously not great, but like, if you subscribe to the theory that, and actually, um, Elaine, who wrote a fantastic article on startup daily recently, I, instead, who was on our podcast earlier, um, if you subscribe to the theory that, like, without bias.

Cheryl Mack: Money should be deployed as equal to the population demographics in that industry. So like actually getting 20 to 23 percent of funding may or may not like come close to where we stand in terms of just the number of female founders that there are compared to the number of men. Like it might match, we are getting closer to matching the population

Maxine Minter: Hmm. Yeah. Yeah. Interesting. I, yeah, that’s an interesting thought. I know the stats for fund managers, 2 percent of capital is deployed by women led funds in, but that’s globally. Yeah. That’s not, I don’t know what the stats are. We actually, we don’t have good data in Australia

Cheryl Mack: We don’t.

Maxine Minter: be fixed, but we don’t have good data in Australia, but I do think, I mean, you’re right.

Maxine Minter: The trend line is going in the right direction. It’s like one of those. bittersweet stats and trend lines. It’s like, Oh good. We’re moving, we’re moving in the right direction, but we are so far from where we need to be. Um, so much more work to be done there.

Cheryl Mack: Absolutely.

Maxine Minter: So it’s been a pretty cracker year in many respects. I think the kind of big themes for me, if I zoom out, uh, I think optimism and holding on to a sense of optimism won this year. Pairing it with creativity, also really effective. I watched the best investors I know entered this year with a sense of thoughtful risk adjusted optimism and picked up some really impressive assets. And this is kind of across, um, asset classes, right? They like are still betting on growth in the future. I think that’s probably why we saw, you know, early stage be. Cushioned to some degree from these headwinds, whereas kind of later stage wasn’t like, I think we, as an ecosystem, we wanted to be optimistic

Cheryl Mack: And when we say ecosystem, we mean Australia. If you like Australian, it’s, we are also like slightly more optimistic and also cushioned from the like global macro trends sometimes. And we absolutely held onto our optimism, myself included. I’m a very optimistic person.

Maxine Minter: Right. Likewise. I kept seeing us like both you and I, but also the ecosystem. Like every time we started to see green shoes, everyone was like, are we back on? Can we keep going? And then like SVB would collapse and they’d be like, no,

Cheryl Mack: nope, not this one. All right, cool. And then like two months later be like, Oh, yeah, is it, is this it? Are we good? Keep playing.

Maxine Minter: yeah, yeah, yeah. It was a bumpy year in that respect.

Maxine Minter: Like, I think it was an emotional rollercoaster, but I do, I do still think that, you know, if we look back on the cycles, you know, 2000 to 08, 09 to 12 slash to even through to today. Like, I think what wins is like cautious, thoughtful optimism. And I feel like I watched that DNA in our ecosystem this year, for sure.

Cheryl Mack: And I think where we’re sitting right now in terms of like total funding for Australian tech startups or venture funding, where like the race is on for 2023 to beat 2020 levels, obviously we’re not getting better back up to 2021 or 2022, but. I feel like that will play a little bit into like how we go into 2024 if we, if we are able to surpass our 2020 levels, then like 2021 and 2022 were like outliers, right?

Cheryl Mack: But as long as we’re growing better than 2020, I think we’re going to look good.

Maxine Minter: Yeah, I think we will look good. I think 2024 is looking, you know, cautiously optimistic. I’m like hesitant, hesitant to say it reflecting on the end of 22, but I think, I

Cheryl Mack: I know you say it and then something collapses tomorrow.

Maxine Minter: Fingers crossed, please. Nothing

Cheryl Mack: One day, one day left before Christmas, nothing collapsed tomorrow, please.

Maxine Minter: Yeah, please, please. Um, but no, I’m feeling good about 24. I do think we have our work cut out for us, though. Like, I think 24 is not going to be an easy year by any stretch of the imagination. I think we have a lot of work to do as an ecosystem in many different threads. I also think, you know, a big theme for the latter half of this year was a You know, actually Elaine kicked off a moment where we all looked in the mirror and asked ourselves, like, you know, what is the standard of behavior we expect for this ecosystem and, you know, what is the standard we will make sure we don’t walk past.

Maxine Minter: So that we, it’s clear that we don’t accept it. And I think we are still grappling with that. And I think it is a theme that will continue into 24, which I can’t wait for. To be honest, I think it’s so exciting to be at a moment in the development of the ecosystem where you have, I think, pretty much consensus that a certain quality of behavior is expected, and we’re not going to let anyone dip below that bar.

Maxine Minter: And I think it cuts in many different ways. There’s obviously the harassment and bullying element to it in relation to gender, but I think there is also, you know, this applies in many different vectors and I’m excited to see that theme continue to develop into 20, into 24.

Cheryl Mack: Yeah, absolutely. And I feel like 2023 was really the first year where that conversation has been had seriously in Australia and been taken seriously, whereas, you know, that maybe happened a couple of years ago in the US and globally.

Maxine Minter: years.

Cheryl Mack: I was being generous.

Maxine Minter: Yeah. I think it’s about time, right? That we like had that conversation and we moved that ball forward. It’s a long path and I think it’s one for all of us to be on. And I. Um, I’m really excited to do it as a community, right, for all of us to kind of lock arms and change the way that we behave, reeducate the way we think about, you know, a lot of these circumstances.

Maxine Minter: And so, um, yeah, that’s super exciting. So I have, like, I’m very. optimistic for

Cheryl Mack: Optimistic.

Maxine Minter: I think there are,

Cheryl Mack: you cautiously optimistic, Maxine?

Maxine Minter: I would say, cautiously optimistic, yeah. And please, no crashes by the end of the year, please.

Cheryl Mack: Amazing. Well, that is us going into 2024 feeling cautiously optimistic.

Maxine Minter: I can’t wait. See you in 24.

Cheryl Mack: Yay.

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