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Bronwen Clune on Risk Appetite and the Future of Australian Startups

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In this episode, Cheryl Mack and Maxine Minter engage in an enlightening conversation with Bronwen Clune, discussing her journey from journalism to startups and back to media. Bronwen shares insights on the Australian startup ecosystem, the future of journalism, and the intersecting landscapes of politics, markets, and entrepreneurship. Delving into the impact of risk appetite, the tension between traditional markets and startups, and the evolving dynamics of super funds, the discussion provides a comprehensive view of the current landscape.

Key themes include the shifting risk perceptions in Australia, the resilience and adaptability of Australian startups, and the impact of broader economic and political factors on the ecosystem. With a focus on building stronger companies and navigating challenges, Bronwen offers valuable perspectives on driving innovation and growth in an ever-changing environment.

Key Takeaways:

• Risk appetite plays a fundamental role in distinguishing between traditional markets and startups.

• Australia’s startup ecosystem demonstrates resilience and efficiency in the face of challenges.

• The housing crisis and changing economic landscapes are fuelling interest in startups and alternative investments.

• Tension between super funds and risk-taking behaviours may influence the entrepreneurial landscape.

• Australian founders are embracing independence and innovation, shaping the future of the industry.

Notable Quotes:

• “I think Australia punches above its weight in terms of producing founders that international investors are looking at favourably.” – Bronwen Clune

• “The housing crisis has spurred interest in alternative investments as young people seek to grow capital.” – Bronwen Clune

• “Risk appetite, or lack thereof, is a defining factor between traditional market players and startup enthusiasts.” – Bronwen Clune

Resources:

Capital Brief Website

Bronwen Clune’s LinkedIn Profile

Transcript:

This transcript has been A.I. generated.

0:00:00 – (Cheryl Mack): Okay.

0:00:00 – (Cheryl Mack): Three, two, one.

0:00:03 – (Cheryl Mack): Hey, I’m Cheryl.

0:00:04 – (Maxine Minter): I’m Maxine.

0:00:05 – (Cheryl Mack): This is first trek part of day one, the network dedicated to founders, operators and investors.

0:00:09 – (Maxine Minter): If you want to be a better early stage investor, this is the show for you.

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0:00:12 – (Cheryl Mack): So TLDR, if you don’t want to suck at investing, listen up. All right, well, our next guest, I’m so excited we are going to be talking to Bronwyn Clune. What I’m so excited to talk to Bronwyn about is just her history of going from media to startups to back to media to back to startups. She’s got so many different perspectives.

0:00:43 – (Maxine Minter): Totally. I mean, I think she is in an information nexus in the startup ecosystem, especially for Australia, that I think is super rare. Right? Like, she straddles so many different places, she has so many interesting conversations every single day and is so deep in the ecosystem and actually like quite an Og for the ecosystem. She was part of some co working spaces and communities super early on in the kind of development of the australian ecosystem. So I’m jazzed to just hear how she thinks it’s developed over time.

0:01:12 – (Maxine Minter): I think because she wordsmiths all day, she’s also just like a total delight to chat through.

0:01:16 – (Cheryl Mack): That’s so true. But yeah, I mean, like also going deep thing. Like, she goes deep on so many interesting topics that I’m always like, surprised I learned something every time I read her newsletter. And actually, that’s probably another thing. It’s one of the things that like, I actually do read on a regular basis. I sign up to a lot of newsletters, but the capital brief is the one that I do read quite regularly. And often I’m like, wow, you just like picked a topic that to me offhandedly would have seemed totally irrelevant and then talked about it in a deep way and then brought it back to the tech ego system, which like, I just love the way her mind works.

0:01:51 – (Maxine Minter): That’s the best. I actually cannot wait for this. Let’s dive in. All right, let’s get into it.

0:01:59 – (Cheryl Mack): Let’s do it.

0:02:00 – (Maxine Minter): I am so, so excited for this podcast and for this conversation. Today. We have Bronwyn on with us. Excited to dive in. So we asked the same question for every one of our guests when they join us, which is, what is the first thing you have ever invested in?

0:02:14 – (Bronwen Clune): Well, probably myself, I would say. You know, my journey into startups was actually when I was working as a journalist a few years ago. This story will age me. But anyway, the Internet wasn’t quite the thing we have today, but I was kind of very early using the Internet. I was working from home, I spree last year had young kids, and I kept saying to everyone in the newsroom, you guys, this changes the game we’re in. This is going to change the game we’re in.

0:02:44 – (Bronwen Clune): And for a bunch of people that pride themselves on curiosity, they weren’t very curious about what the Internet was going to do to our industry. And so I started what was probably one of the earliest citizen journals and news sites in the world at that time. And that actually is where I kind of blended up in my big entry into startups. But that was three years at the helm of something very new at that time.

0:03:12 – (Bronwen Clune): Never made any money, but I still think that was probably, you know, I think of it as a three year deep dive into startups, but really was a big investment, I think, in myself and taking that risk at the time.

0:03:25 – (Maxine Minter): Oh my God, that’s so cool. I had no idea. So what can you tell me a little bit more about what, like, what was the era that you were doing this? We’re talking like the nineties.com.

0:03:34 – (Bronwen Clune): So, yeah, early nineties sounded cool. It was around the time Twitter was launched, you know, Reddit, and the Reddit was big, and there was, who was their competitor, Dig Evan Rose. Like all these new things all coming onto the kind of scene where people were kind of like curating news live. And I really looked at it and I was like, this really fundamentally changes how we people consume news, but also how we gather news.

0:04:01 – (Bronwen Clune): So Twitter to me was the most amazing thing, especially back in the early days, like, just really was in my wheelhouse of Inca. So very early on Twitter. And, you know, I think it really did change journalism a lot. Obviously it had its own journey, but, yeah, that was sort of, yeah, the era. Look, back then, the startup scene in Australia, you could probably name the twelve of us. We all knew each other. There was an email list that had Mike cannon, Brooks and Scott Farquhar on it. Like, you know, there wasn’t a lot.

0:04:34 – (Maxine Minter): Yeah. Wow, that’s so cool.

0:04:36 – (Cheryl Mack): I’m impressed that you even, like, called it that there was even a startup scene back in the early nineties, like.

0:04:42 – (Bronwen Clune): Oh, it was, it was, yeah, it was very little, but, you know, we really, even back then, we kind of really punched above our weight. You know, Australians were some of the earliest podcasters. Like, you know, we had a Silicon beach podcast and, you know, we’d get on to recall with people at that time like Michael Arrington and, you know, Jason Calcanis I think, was on the podcast with us. Like, you know, it was really, the scene was tiny, but, you know, Australians were still doing kind of really impressive stuff back then.

0:05:16 – (Maxine Minter): I am forever. This might sound like a crazy thing to say, but I am forever just amazed by the way that Australians punch above their weight. Right? Like, most recently, I didn’t realize Peter singer was australian.

0:05:29 – (Bronwen Clune): Oh, really?

0:05:29 – (Maxine Minter): And then he was at sunrise and I was like, oh, my goodness. Like, think about the impact that that man has had. And that’s just like, one. Maybe I’m just, like, unreasonably patriotic, but I just think it’s so cool and really impressive the pace at which Australians kind of, or like, the front runners of Australians, run and pick up new initiatives and, like, new insights and really run with them. We’ve done some really cool stuff. And that’s. I mean, I was already super excited for this, but just, like, I’m wowed by the fact that you were like one of those twelve on that email distribution list building early startups.

0:06:05 – (Bronwen Clune): I know we had this joke at sunrise where everyone was like, oh, oh, yeah, Bronwyn, she’s really. She’s Og. And I was like, oh, God, this is starting to make us feel like the veteran elders of the ecosystem. But there are. I mean, and a lot of us involved back in that day, there’s still a lot of us still involved. A lot of people aren’t, but, you know, a lot of us still. I mean, I know, you know, I know Ian Gardner.

0:06:30 – (Bronwen Clune): I know Nikki Shabak from back then. I was, you know, at Polonizer on the day that Nikki closed Blackbird, I worked at Poloniezer with Levinskis, Bill Mol and Nickelbinskis. And, you know, when Blackbird closed, we didn’t really have BC before that. Remember Mick coming into the office at Colonizer and saying, hey, we’ve just started this thing. Start, mate, you guys better come down and let’s just talk to them about everything we know. We didn’t really know that much either, but, you know, it was very early. It was a very fun time to be involved in the thing.

0:07:02 – (Maxine Minter): That’s so cool.

0:07:03 – (Bronwen Clune): But that’s kind of where I got involved in the thing.

0:07:06 – (Cheryl Mack): Yeah, that’s awesome.

0:07:08 – (Maxine Minter): I do think starting a company, regardless of the nature of the business that you build, is an investment in yourself. I’ve seen it time and time again. Just the pace of development, both skillset knowledge, but also, like, personal development stuff. Like, I just don’t think that there is a better investment in personal development than starting a company, like stepping on to the field and doing a really, really hard thing.

0:07:29 – (Maxine Minter): You know, you just have to learn so much about yourself. So what was your journey back from that startup back into journalism? Well, I guess you stayed in journalism, but back into a different form of it.

0:07:41 – (Bronwen Clune): No, I actually stayed in startups. I worked in startups. Well, worked in Polonius. Yeah, no, I’ve actually worked more in startups than I have in journalism. So journalism is my first love. I created a startup because I really felt like news needed to get this right. Unfortunately, the trajectory of that industry has not been great. You know, we landed up chasing eyeballs. You know, it became about, you know, wanting hits over integrity of journalism.

0:08:12 – (Bronwen Clune): But fundamentally, I still think the thing that journalism has to sell back right now is the basics of journalism. So I think we’ve done this big kind of journey. My journey was really until this job, I’d worked in startups, most recently for Launchpeak, which is a victorian government agency. But prior to that, I was also in the founding team of Culture amp. So I went to San Francisco with John, one of the founders, and we grew culture out in the US and also the UK.

0:08:42 – (Bronwen Clune): So, you know, I was employee number eight, I think, at culture. Wow. And then I’ve always wanted to get back into news because, like I said, I think more journalists should be like startup people and, like, what’s broken? How can we fix it? And that’s always been a question for me about news. It’s so broken. We have to find a way for this model to work. And I actually didn’t know John McDonne. I knew of Chris Jansten. No, David Iceland, the founders of Capital Brief. But I saw this ad and I was looking for a job begrudgingly because, you know, like a lot of people, you don’t want to go work for someone else.

0:09:18 – (Bronwen Clune): But I thought I was advocating brief, and I was like, okay, they sound like they come and get it, but I just don’t think three dies out of Fairfax. Three dudes out of Fairfax are never going to really agree with me how they think. And when I met them, I was really pleasantly surprised. And, you know, at that stage, I was like, well, I care enough about this to help fix it. So, you know, that that’s why I’m hearing this role. But really fundamentally, I’ve had more of a career in startups than journalism.

0:09:51 – (Bronwen Clune): I edited startups smart, which is now a smart company, but we had a separate publication on startups as well, just before I joined Paul trade and at that stage, startups were still being reported in australian media as like, small businesses. So they’re through like franchises and new companies and everything into that startup thing. I was like, that’s not really what this word meaning.

0:10:16 – (Cheryl Mack): No.

0:10:17 – (Bronwen Clune): So, you know, maybe we didn’t have a big enough industry to sustain it back then because that would have been eight years ago now where now I think, you know, we certainly do. We certainly do. And apple brief, it’s really our biggest route in a lot of ways, just because there’s so much happening.

0:10:36 – (Cheryl Mack): Yeah, I mean, that’s the one that I readdevelop.

0:10:38 – (Maxine Minter): Yeah, me too, actually.

0:10:39 – (Cheryl Mack): I do read letter of intent as well. That’s. The capital brief is the one that I, like, actually read, whereas the others, you kind of skim through, get the points.

0:10:46 – (Bronwen Clune): Yeah, yeah.

0:10:47 – (Cheryl Mack): I think what you’ve done with capital brief is. And I’m so did you not. You started it with them, though. Like, they pitched it to you. But I. I’ve only ever known you as the person who writes for capital brief. Like, was there something before and you took over?

0:11:00 – (Bronwen Clune): No, no. So we. It’s brand new. We all came together. They had an amazing group of journalists. You know, we’ve got a great team. And, you know, the interesting thing is newsrooms are really kind of old school in the way they do things. There’s a big hierarchy, there’s a lot of ego involved in newsroom. We’ve really built something very different. It’s very collaborative. We’ve got a great kind of culture. And I think that’s also been a big part of its success.

0:11:37 – (Cheryl Mack): Why the content is so good.

0:11:38 – (Bronwen Clune): Yeah. And look, the other thing I think is, you know, we are a startup as well. You know, I think I’m the only person probably in the team who’s actually working startups. You know, Chris, David and John were part of the team at Fairfax that was originally given the task of go out and tell us how we can make legacy media work. And they essentially looked at each other and were like, I don’t think we can do it in legacy media, which is great.

0:12:09 – (Bronwen Clune): But I do think it’s interesting that a lot of the conclusions I’ve come to around what would work as a business model were very similar to the ones that I came to. And I also wouldn’t have joined. There’s no other newsroom I probably would have joined, despite it being something I’ve always wanted to come back to.

0:12:25 – (Cheryl Mack): Yeah, that’s super cool.

0:12:26 – (Maxine Minter): It’s so impactful to have something like capital brief in the mix. I mean, this is maybe selfish, but we’d love to kind of continue that thread and hear, like, what do you think the future of journalism looks like? Maybe in Australia and globally, if you have a view there, because it is such an important pillar of a thriving ecosystem, a functioning democracy, happy, well adjusted people, and it does seem like it is structurally under threat. And so from someone who has got this incredible interdisciplinary experience and insight, do you have a view on what you think is going to change there, or are you kind of just waiting to see the way it plays out?

0:13:09 – (Bronwen Clune): I’ve got so many views, Nathan. I don’t know how much time you have. Look, I think we had a really interesting precipice, and people are very critical of journalism today, and I would probably largely agree with them, because where we’ve landed up is not where it began. And I think that the fundamentals of journalism in being fair, honest and transparent in your work are still true. And I do think that the only things we have to sell back, you know, the old model of advertising, kind of advertising was the business model and journalism was the product.

0:13:48 – (Bronwen Clune): You know, it worked when it worked, but it’s broken and that is gone. So I do think paying for news, the model of subscriptions, is fundamental. I think it only works for niche news, though, like business journalism. People will pay for it. General news, it’s harder. But then I also think it’s important for institutions like the BBC and the ABC to continue to be funded and for politics not to become part of that. And unfortunately, it has, you know, in America, they have a much bigger history of philanthropic support for independent journalism. I think that’s also healthy.

0:14:24 – (Bronwen Clune): So when it comes to general news, the model doesn’t work. But I do still think, like, phase one is winning back trust of the public, and I think that’s going to happen. Like, social media is not what we all thought it was going to be. Kind of landed up a bit of a mess, hasn’t it?

0:14:46 – (Cheryl Mack): Perhaps a little bit. But what you don’t think people would want to pay, like, for ten ways to lose ten pounds over the next ten days?

0:14:54 – (Bronwen Clune): Like, well, they don’t. They don’t. And that’s the issue. It’s like, I think journalism sold itself out. Like, essentially the one commodity it had. It trashed itself. It trashed itself. And, you know, I do think there are enough people that care, that care about this. And I think that we live in a really complex world, and making sense of it has only become harder in some ways. But I do think there is a role for good journalism to play.

0:15:28 – (Bronwen Clune): I do think it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

0:15:32 – (Cheryl Mack): Perfect. That’s what I want. Definitely more click baby stuff before I get more qualities.

0:15:37 – (Maxine Minter): That was the prediction I wanted to hear.

0:15:40 – (Bronwen Clune): But you know, the idea that in journalism like that, you know, the old school used to be like, get two views, you know, make sure you get the yes and the no. And it’s like, come on, that is such out data thinking. There’s often many sides to a story, and also there’s not a right side to fundamental things like racism or sexism. There’s no, oh, let’s go get the alternative view on that. Like, I think the idea that journalists don’t have values and don’t have inherent bias is nonsense, but I think let’s operate in a mature way. Unfortunately, you know, social media and the discourse it’s bought on has made some of those things more challenging.

0:16:22 – (Bronwen Clune): But I do think it’s important enough that we will sort through it.

0:16:25 – (Maxine Minter): How do you think about that in terms of like, I mean, increasingly, capital brief is the preeminent business newspaper, as far as I’m aware. It’s the one that more people in the startup ecosystem are reading today than even the AFR. I think there’s been like a huge erosion of trust between the kind of quality of perspectives in the AFR and the startup ecosystem. And so as you think about like choosing the stories that you think are valuable to tell Ydev working out whether like the format of the story as well, like working out whose voices should be heard in a particular story or is it an opinion piece or should it be kind of fact based journal, like fact based report? Like how do you even go about that curation? Kind of knowing the leverage point that you are in the ecosystem?

0:17:13 – (Bronwen Clune): Yeah, I mean, look, it’s hard and really it depends day to day because you’re not just, you’re making a news judgment on a day like how much space do I have today? And you know, we are small teams, so there’s a lot we don’t and can’t report on. More and more we are making sure that the journalism we report at least is original. So, you know, often there’s times I love a story, but it’s gone out elsewhere.

0:17:37 – (Bronwen Clune): We didn’t want to do this in the beginning and it’s not a matter of being, oh, well, you gave it to them, so we’re not covering it. Look, the story’s out there elsewhere unless I can do something really new, and there hasn’t really been one. You know, we won’t cover it. Yeah, look, I’m constantly asking, like, myself that and particularly, you know, because we all are such a small, but we brought in new startup, more startup resources. So Hugo Mathers, who works in our briefings team, he’s increasingly writing more about startups. We’re kind of bringing it into more and more of the other rounds. But, yeah, there’s no, there’s no perfect answer. It’s, I try and bring, try and make sure I elevate the experience I have so maybe I can write about things in a way that other journalists can’t have. Like, I think, Maxine, I spoke to you very early on, actually, I spoke to both of you very early on about two things we saw happening. One was secondaries, the other was, you know, the rise of syndicates.

0:18:35 – (Bronwen Clune): You know, it’s just because I’ve been in the industry so long, I was like, well, look, I can see this change and I can understand why they’re happening. And, you know, we wrote that secondary piece. I think it was one of the first pieces we published last July, and it’s just proven over and over to be true. So, you know, those are the sorts of questions you know, I’m asking myself.

0:18:55 – (Cheryl Mack): I find a lot of what you write about, it feels like it’s relevant and directed at me as an investor, and I’m sure that’s not true. Like, you’re not sitting there thinking she’s.

0:19:05 – (Maxine Minter): Speaking directly to you.

0:19:07 – (Bronwen Clune): I’m writing to Cheryl.

0:19:09 – (Cheryl Mack): Dear Cheryl, I wonder what Cheryl, as an investor is wondering about today, but it does feel a little bit like that. Like, I’m curious when you think about the things that the average investor in Australia should, or needs to, or, like, likely should be across. Like, what are some of the things that actually, do you think about us at all? Is my first question, and please let that answer me.

0:19:34 – (Bronwen Clune): Yes.

0:19:35 – (Cheryl Mack): My second question is, like, what are some of the things that come to mind as you think about that audience and, like, some of the stories that you’ve chosen under that kind of headline.

0:19:45 – (Bronwen Clune): Yeah, so, look, I definitely do, you know, I think especially because we’re a subscription business, like, how can I add value to an investor, particularly because we have quite a small investment community. There’s a lot that kind of people chat amongst themselves anyway. There’s very rarely something you got to report on that someone hasn’t got a whip of somewhere. The way I’ve put it to people is if I can capture the conversations that I know the industry is having and give it wider awareness, the better the industry is going to be. So I know everyone’s talking about that internally or might be across the internally.

0:20:24 – (Bronwen Clune): The way I see that I help the ecosystem is give other people aren’t in the ecosystem insight into how the ecosystem is. And that’s how I think it’ll be stronger. You know, there’s still a lot of kind of poo pooing the industry in some quarters that I think we’ve well and truly gone past. You know, it’s not a novel cottage industry on the sidelines.

0:20:52 – (Cheryl Mack): I’d hope not with tech being like the third largest GDP.

0:20:56 – (Bronwen Clune): I know, but it still surprises me how it’s, it’s kind of twittered a little bit like that still. And some of that speaks to the conservative nature of your average reader in Australia, business reader in Australia. And, you know, so other publications are speaking to that audience. But we don’t just have startups as an audience. You know, we’ve got a really well read political section. We cover banking, we cover everything. So those are also decision makers in the country. We have really big leadership.

0:21:28 – (Bronwen Clune): So, you know, when I’m writing about startups, I’m hoping that they reading it and their insight is into how startups and VC’s are thinking. And I think that’s how, you know, the ecosystem will be elevated. I was asked on a panel like once like, you know, what do you do to help founders? And I was like, not my job to help founders, but I do see it my job to hold the ecosystem up and that includes making it accountable.

0:21:58 – (Cheryl Mack): I was going to say, I think a lot of what you do is holding the ecosystem accountable.

0:22:02 – (Bronwen Clune): Yeah.

0:22:03 – (Cheryl Mack): And that’s something that I think you do better than any other news source that I read is when I read capital brief, I’m like, this is something that I know is coming from a place of, you’ve researched this and you standing behind these opinions. It’s not just oh, so and so heard from so and so.

0:22:18 – (Bronwen Clune): Yeah, I mean, I look, I hope so. It’s good. It’s good to have that feedback. I mean, you know, it’s not like I think the industry is utopian without questions. None of us do. I mean, realistically, none of us do. It’s a hard thing. And the people doing this, they’re not elected leaders that we, you know, voting on good people or not. But sometimes I feel like they treated like them.

0:22:40 – (Maxine Minter): Maybe they should be.

0:22:43 – (Cheryl Mack): You get to be a journalist vote.

0:22:47 – (Maxine Minter): I think that one of the things that strikes me about the way that capital, brave rights and you in particular is that kind of interdisciplinary piece that you bring to it, right. Like you’ve had a lot of those experiences and especially for investors and something for this podcast, we spend a lot of time thinking about it, like how do we bring in a wider variety of perspectives so that we can be excellent at decision making because we have a wider set of information.

0:23:11 – (Maxine Minter): And so when you’re thinking about like the threads you pull in or the way that you think about, you know, especially from the political side, right. The political environment in which we’re operating is so impactful on the businesses that we’re operating or, you know, and vice versa. Right. The fact that there isn’t yet a deep understanding of the startup ecosystem in Canberra I think is a real risk for the australian ecosystem. I think we see it most acutely in the sophisticated investor test and the dialogue around that at the moment, right.

0:23:42 – (Maxine Minter): It’s like they are pursuing an agenda to protect pensioners, which I think is very important and admirable, is just kind of the impact on the australian startup ecosystem is kind of not really understood.

0:23:53 – (Cheryl Mack): At the expense of.

0:23:54 – (Maxine Minter): Yeah, at the potential of creating another crop of incredible companies like canva, like Alessia and similar. And so I think maybe just from your perspective, how do you go about curating your information set, making sure that you are across a wide variety of content so that you can find those interdisciplinary insights, so that you can bring those, the variety of perspectives to the table when you’re writing them? Because I think it’s a really useful skill set in everything that you do it, especially in investing.

0:24:25 – (Bronwen Clune): Yeah, look, you know, the one thing, and it’s such a basic thing, but I always made that last phone call. You always think you’ve got enough, and then I’m always like, eh, I’m just gonna make one more phone call because I’m interested in chatting to people. So not everyone I speak to is, you know, for an interview, I have a lot of people I’ll just ring to and just say, hey, this is what I’ve been saying.

0:24:46 – (Bronwen Clune): And every time I’ve done that, I’ve learned something. You know, we have this really, I have this really privileged position of speaking to so many people into the ecosystem day in, day out. And I do, I always push back on journalists who are like, well, I’m not the expert. And I’m like, well actually you’re in the pole position to be the expert in this subject. You know, you speak and talk to everyone about a day in and day out, but yeah, I think just always checking in with people.

0:25:16 – (Bronwen Clune): Light touch. I have a lot of people I ring to, I try not to ring the same people over and over again, but yeah, I think just always making that last bundle. And also I think that sometimes when my experience in the industry plays into it, like, there’s a lot of things you’ve seen before, so you’re like, okay, I know this is an issue, or this has been an issue in the past. You know, the issue we brought on last week, which was on changes to super funds and how they’re going to be taxing unrealised gains.

0:25:48 – (Bronwen Clune): That’s literally a fight we had a few years ago when everyone was taxed on unrealised gains and esops. Yeah, I think this isn’t getting as much coverage because people are assuming it’s a small amount of people, but I honestly think that’s going to have an impact.

0:26:03 – (Cheryl Mack): I also think that’s an area where a lot of people think that someone else will fix it. Oh, they think, oh, they couldn’t possibly be that silly. Like, somebody will fix this before it gets to the point of no return. And that’s just not the case. I think we’re all just a little bit as true investors, we’re all just a little bit too optimistic in that space.

0:26:21 – (Maxine Minter): Yeah, I mean, I think that’s such a real insight. Right. Especially in Australia. I have noticed, especially in Australia versus the US, there’s just this belief because we’ve been so lucky for so long for a system that has largely served you in the majority of circumstances, there’s such a quick default to like, oh, someone else will fix it, largely like, the government will fix it. But I actually think in startups that’s probably less like at least a startup ecosystem in Australia, that is like not a very helpful strategy because of what we were just talking about. Right. They’re not going to fix it because they don’t know about it.

0:26:53 – (Maxine Minter): They’re like not thinking about the implications.

0:26:55 – (Bronwen Clune): Yeah, look, we’ve always had that, you know, the industry’s always had that challenge that everyone’s so busy building and doing that. Not everyone has time to, to look up and talk about impact. There’s been a long history of kind of like trying to educate the government on these things, but then government’s change, you know, government is voted out, who is getting it? You’re dealing with a new minister.

0:27:18 – (Bronwen Clune): And, you know, I spent two years working at state government and let me just say for a startup person, it was like banging your head against a brick wall. Governments are the biggest, oldest, archaic.

0:27:30 – (Cheryl Mack): I couldn’t do it. I don’t know how you did that.

0:27:33 – (Bronwen Clune): Yeah, well, with a lot of deep breaths every day. But you know, really, it really was an amazing insight into government. Government is entirely about managing up. You do not do anything for below. You, you do anything for above and that is how it works. And all anyone at the tops wants is jobs, figures. And, you know, and startups, they employ a lot of people, but not in the same way that other industries do.

0:28:01 – (Bronwen Clune): They’re just not a voting, you know, not something that’s gonna like, you know, make someone vote for startups or not, you know, very few people gonna make it a reason they vote. So I think that’s the challenge. Of course we’ve got the Australian Tech Council who do a fantastic job, but at the same time there is a slight conflict because they also represent big tech and big tech and startups particularly lately have come into conflict, especially with something like AI. You know, big tech wants regulation, startups don’t want that. Big tech wants regulation because it’s gonna, you know, defend their territory.

0:28:39 – (Bronwen Clune): So, you know, it’s complex. But to me also as a journalist, it’s kind of what makes the industry interesting. Like there’s no shortage of things happening.

0:28:48 – (Maxine Minter): There certainly is not, for sure. And I think the other thing is that you seem to take quite a like international approach to your perspective. I know you’ve lived overseas and you lived in the US and you’ve lived here. How do you think about curating your information networks both here and internationally, so you can kind of bring those perspectives?

0:29:08 – (Bronwen Clune): Look, I just. Look, I think we definitely have to do it because I think right now Australia is in really strong position and the reason is because our industry hasn’t been nuked by the heavy us. I mean, I’m on a lot of tech sites in the US, I still kind of keep up with them. People have been looking for jobs for two years and not got an interview. The industry there is really, really struggling and AI is not going to bring back, bring back some jobs, but it’s also going to mean a lot more are not so relevant anymore.

0:29:46 – (Bronwen Clune): So I think that’s important to keep in mind that australian startups have always, have always done more with less. The things that Us VC’s are talking about right now, like get to revenue growth at all costs, is not a thing, you know, we want to see efficiency. That has literally been how all australian startups are built into now. And so it’s interesting to see that the kind of conversation shift in the US, and you two have both been there too, to those sort of things that have always been, you know, said, yeah. So I think.

0:30:19 – (Bronwen Clune): I think naturally australian startups have an ability to adapt to what I think is going to be the new yelp. I don’t think, you know, we’ve all talked about this, you know, this slump. I think it’s going to be a little bit more than a slump. It’s going to be here for a while.

0:30:38 – (Cheryl Mack): Both of our thesis is like Maxine and I’s thesis in general with investing is around that concept that we believe that Australia punches above its weight and is in a much more effective position for growing, like, and winning in all a lot of spaces, not every space, but I think winning in a lot of spaces as the US faces a much more challenging environment. Like, that’s crazy to me that you have people that, you know, people in tech that are searching for that long for jobs when, like, I don’t think I know anyone in tech who has been out of a job for longer than like three months.

0:31:11 – (Cheryl Mack): And I know a lot of people in tech.

0:31:13 – (Bronwen Clune): Yeah, no, it’s. I think it’s pretty brutal. I think, you know, I think there is a rebound. There certainly is a rebound. But, you know, I. I do speak to investors overseas. I really enjoy that perspective. And it’s also good to see how Australia’s kind of, you know, reflected back. I don’t see the slump as a bad thing. I don’t think it’s like this. It’s just the reality.

0:31:35 – (Cheryl Mack): It’s a correction.

0:31:36 – (Bronwen Clune): It’s got almost nothing to do with Australia. That’s the other thing. It’s all got to do with international factors. A lot of this post Covid the fact that money was free at a time. This is just the reality. It’s not a reflection. You know, all these headlines about startups being written down to zero. I’m like, well, us and every freaking country, like, this is not when you zoom out. Australia is actually in a very strong position.

0:32:05 – (Bronwen Clune): And I think we produce the kind of founders that international investors are looking at by now.

0:32:14 – (Maxine Minter): 100%. Yeah, I mean, I think from what I’ve seen in the US, it does seem to be rebounding pretty strongly, actually. Pretty much the whole, like, since 2019. It seems to me that Australia seems to lag the US market from a, like, sentiment perspective by about six months. And so, like, when the US was, you know, locking down and freaking out about, you know, what would happen to the market. Australia was kind of like, yeah, borders are closed, but internally we’re sweet, you know?

0:32:41 – (Maxine Minter): And then, like now, it really seems like sentiment is lagging. I saw in pitchbooks data, they just published their q one data and the average seed sage valuation is now the highest it’s ever been. Is that for AI company that’s averaged across the ecosystem? So I think my thesis would be it’s being dragged up by the AI valuations at seed stage. I also think that, like, both of those things can exist, right?

0:33:05 – (Bronwen Clune): Yes.

0:33:06 – (Maxine Minter): Like, you can have companies that are raising a very large amount of capital on average, but they’re not necessarily needing to hire as many people. Yeah, a la the, like, I think it’s Telegram has 30 people and they’re, you know, unicorn in size. I think we’re stepping into an era where we have companies with, you know, significantly less headcount and that those two correlated to revenue. It’s not going to be as tight a correlation to revenue.

0:33:31 – (Maxine Minter): My thesis is that actually this is based on data that benchmark put together. Like what happened in the ecosystems when they have recovered after corrections in the past. I think, like 2008 and more recently is it’s kind of like the sawtooth dynamic, right? Like, risk appetite rebuilds in the ecosystem at a pretty linear, fairly slow pace over the course of, across those eras, anywhere between like seven and 15 years.

0:34:00 – (Maxine Minter): And then it kind of builds up and then it comes off really quickly in a correction event.

0:34:04 – (Bronwen Clune): Yeah.

0:34:04 – (Maxine Minter): So I totally agree. I don’t think 24, 25, even 26, we’re going to start seeing like really fast paced, frothy market again. Like that risk appetite, that liquidity is going to come through slowly and it’ll rebuild over time. But I think this is the amazing thing about the australian ecosystem, right? Like, we are so well placed in that circumstance. We are a very rich country. We have a lot of people who are just starting to learn about the startup ecosystem and just starting to learn about venture capitalists as an ecosystem. And I started to get curious.

0:34:41 – (Maxine Minter): We have a whole bunch of second generation kind of alumni coming out of some of the best companies in the world. Yeah, actually I have heard, and I haven’t fact checked this, but I’ve heard that Australia is one of the only countries in the world that has a startup ecosystem where there are three companies that are over $10 billion in enterprise value.

0:35:02 – (Bronwen Clune): Oh, really? I don’t know.

0:35:03 – (Cheryl Mack): I think that’s right. I was talking to somebody from the UK the other day and they were like, the UK has none.

0:35:09 – (Bronwen Clune): Yeah. Yeah, I mean, it could be true. Yeah, it could be true. I think the other thing that has happened, though, in the last couple of years is that it’s also built stronger startups.

0:35:19 – (Maxine Minter): Yeah.

0:35:19 – (Bronwen Clune): A lot of founders have had to build better companies because they weren’t going to make it. They couldn’t go back to market for funding. And so we’ve even had, we’ve even got better at that kind of efficiency. So I think none of this is bad. And startups ultimately is learning how to work with the things that are thrown your way and these are just things that are been thrown, you know, the industry’s way and manages to dodge them all and, you know, keep going.

0:35:50 – (Bronwen Clune): I don’t think it’s bad news. I do think it’s, you know, and everything has to be put into the context of what’s happening globally. And the other thing is, I mean, I’ve been going to startup conferences for as long as they’ve existed, and now when I go, I don’t know, the majority of people there, like, it’s just like this new generation of interest. And I do think there’s something generational in, you know, I was in my early thirties when I did a startup and I was kind of seen as kind of crazy and this heretic journalist who was talking about how startups are going to interfere with the news business, it was, I was honestly kind of seen that way.

0:36:29 – (Bronwen Clune): And we’re now people just, it’s almost what they want. It’s the end goal. They don’t want to go and work at, they don’t want to work for a law firm. Those aren’t the big things that people are aiming for. They want to build something and they love that idea of independence and they really value that. And I think, you know, that’s also something I kind of see more and more happening. Most people are sitting at a desk job and thinking, how do I not do?

0:36:56 – (Maxine Minter): Yeah, absolutely.

0:36:58 – (Cheryl Mack): The same is true for investing as well. Like, I’ve never seen more interest in angel investing, in early stage investing, in people wanting to deploy capital to those businesses, because again, that’s the same thing. They’re sitting at a desk thinking, I don’t want to give up my day job, but I also want to participate in this ecosystem and it’s exciting and it’s fun and I want to learn something and also invest in my future.

0:37:20 – (Cheryl Mack): So that principle, I think, applies across the board for both starting a company as well as investing the number of people that are coming through. And I like asking to get educated and investing in this asset class still astounds me.

0:37:35 – (Maxine Minter): Certainly incredible.

0:37:36 – (Bronwen Clune): You know, my thesis on this is the housing crisis is actually forming interest in this thing because a lot of young people will never be able to afford a house, and they’re looking for ways to grow capital.

0:37:48 – (Cheryl Mack): Yeah, they tell me that all the time.

0:37:50 – (Bronwen Clune): You know, like, okay, I’m not gonna make money on buying a house. Where am I gonna make money? And, you know, they can’t get into the housing market. So, you know, in some ways, the housing crisis is kind of a good thing. But, you know, like, it’s also why I think a lot of them invest in crypto too. You know, it’s just that appetite for, like, I need to make money somehow because my wage is not going to do it. It’s intertwined. But I do think that, yeah, genuine. And also along with that, you know, I think Covid also, everyone sat down and thought, what do I actually want to do with my life? When you’re in a room doing the same thing every day? You really question, like, is this the.

0:38:29 – (Cheryl Mack): Thing I want to do every day?

0:38:31 – (Bronwen Clune): Yeah, is this the thing I want to do every day?

0:38:34 – (Cheryl Mack): From bed to desk to couch to bed to yet now hard pass.

0:38:41 – (Maxine Minter): Yes.

0:38:41 – (Bronwen Clune): So I think, you know, there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of really strong signals as to why this industry will take off and only get better and stronger. You know, we’ve also, we’ve also got really strong learnings on the, what works or what doesn’t.

0:38:55 – (Maxine Minter): Absolutely. When you, I mean, I feel like you are fully integrated into quite a few different ecosystems.

0:39:02 – (Bronwen Clune): Right?

0:39:02 – (Maxine Minter): Like, as you said, you’ve worked in government, you also cover politics. You’ve been kind of deeply exposed to startups. You cover the markets, banking, like the more kind of traditional markets. What do you notice are the biggest deltas between the kind of echo chamber of the startup ecosystem and the echo chamber of politics and the echo chamber of, you know, the more conservative markets. Like, what are the things that you hear on either sides of those fences that you’re just like, how do you guys see the world so differently?

0:39:37 – (Bronwen Clune): Look, fundamentally, it comes down to risk appetite. You know, there are two kinds of people. They’re those who are willing to take a risk and those who just aren’t. And I think fundamentally, Australia is a risk averse country, but also we never really had to take risks because it’s, you know, that whole idea of a lucky country, I think, has, you know, lacked a lot of motivation to do better and be better because things have been so good in itself.

0:40:06 – (Bronwen Clune): That’s a bit of an out there thesis. But. But I do think that’s sort of true in some lagards. You know, I don’t really agree that Australia has a tall population. I know we still kind of rule that out as an excuse at times. Like, well they’re just bashing people because that’s Australia. Tall, popular, warm. I think, you know, culturally, Americans are much more bullish and much more, you know, they’re willing to put their dreams out there and kind of, you know, just say it all and be really gung ho about stuff.

0:40:40 – (Bronwen Clune): And I think we could learn a little bit from that. Let someone have their dreams. And you know what, that’s a validate too. But you know, we shouldn’t just cut people down. But yeah, fundamentally the difference between, I think, traditional markets and startups is really around risk appetite. And interestingly in Australia, because super has underpinned so much of startup BC, I think there’s going to be a little bit of tension play out in that in the next year. I think that’s going to be a real test suggest how raw to take risks. In Sydney, super is, I think we’re already starting to see a little bit of friction.

0:41:23 – (Bronwen Clune): You know, the government has boarding new rules, you know, they’ve already boarding new rules around. You know, super has to have certain returns or they don’t get other things. And basically they’re telling super, stay in the safe lanes. So yeah, I think it comes down to risk. I don’t know. Did that answer your question?

0:41:42 – (Maxine Minter): Absolutely, yeah. I also think rain, I think most recently was quite public about his perspective on this push for australian venture to take more risks. Right. Like I think I would 100% agree with you that Australian venturism ecosystem is more conservative than us venture as an ecosystem. And there’s lots of, especially for early stage companies, there’s lots of consternation about the fact that australian venture just like is less comfortable to go earlier, hence us being the first pre seed fund or specialist pre seed fund.

0:42:14 – (Maxine Minter): And the way that they go earlier, like the way that they support you, the way they get behind you, but also angel investors and et cetera. And Ray made a really good point where he’s like, hey everyone, these fund managers are on fund one. Like they haven’t yet paid back fund one. And so a lot of these early fund managers, they start to prove to their LP’s who are more risk averse like that there’s actually value here. So they can’t start doing a whole bunch of things like things that are perceived to be creative or things that are perceived to be extra risky on top of the base risk of the asset class, because the LP’s don’t understand it. As you said, for the bigger funds who have super investing in them, they’re kind of structurally prohibited from doing that, or like disincentivized from doing that.

0:42:56 – (Maxine Minter): I think it is a very interesting thought exercise to think about. How does that compound over time? Right? Like if your biggest backers are, you know, having to reprice constantly because pensions are coming in, if they’re having to, you know, comply with APR risk requirements, that requires them to be structurally less risk. Yeah, comfortable for all the right reasons. But like, what does that do? The venture as an ecosystem, especially compared to the US, where like one of the biggest backers and definitely the big institutions that were first come into the space were endowment funds.

0:43:28 – (Maxine Minter): The fundamentals of those endowment funds, they are about building wealth for big universities that dont have constant repricing. They can think extremely long term, et cetera, et cetera. It’s just like they’re structurally very different things. And I think understanding that as investors and what that does to the incentives, I think is actually, I think a little bit concerning for me because I think about the earlier stage. Like if we’re risk off, like what does that mean our next generation of companies will look like, for example, I was just in Perth, and if you measured the most valuable startup, like the cities that have produced the most valuable companies in Australia, in aggregate, Perth would still be the biggest because of canva.

0:44:15 – (Maxine Minter): But everyone was saying essentially none of the distributed wealth back from this round of secondaries from canva came to Perth because no one was invested in them, even though that’s where Cliff and well started. And that I think also plays out at the national level, where we don’t have early exposure to some of our biggest success stories, we also don’t give them a running start. Right. Like the fact that Mel and Cliff were able to build canva kind of in spite of the australian ecosystem as opposed to because of it. I think it would be a huge tragedy if we replicated that into the next generation and kind of put drag suits on our startups so that they have to kind of play from behind relative to the international stage. But increasingly it looks like we’re making decisions that accidentally are doing that.

0:45:02 – (Bronwen Clune): Yeah, we look, there’s lack of differentiation, definitely most early stage vc, we still hear that saying eats this almost from everyone. I do think that is an issue. You know, we still talk about pattern recognition and, you know, this. We still have an obsession with SAS. I do think there is starting to be a narrative that is slightly different and that’s around deep tech, which Australia has always had as an advantage.

0:45:26 – (Bronwen Clune): Now, the costs of that have always been prohibited to VC, but they coming down rapidly. I also think there’s only so many SAS. Think of a SAS product that has not been solved or an issue you could solve with Sasa. They’ve almost all been solved. And how many more of them do we need? Not a lot. We can probably improve them with AI. So I do think we will see this shift and I think we’ll come down to cost because, you know, up until this stage, the tech has not entirely made sense for VC.

0:45:57 – (Bronwen Clune): But I do think there will be issues in that. And I also think we’re getting to the stage where there does start to be more a strong, differentiated thesis. I don’t know who’ve had the diaphragm to do that before, but I would love. I’d love to see that start to happen to me. That’s a real signal of maturity in the market.

0:46:20 – (Cheryl Mack): Yeah.

0:46:21 – (Bronwen Clune): I actually met melancholy in Perth, actually, when they had their first. They came to some of the first meet ups we had, but they started canva in Sydney.

0:46:30 – (Maxine Minter): Yeah.

0:46:30 – (Cheryl Mack): I feel like a lot of people associate canva with Sydney, not Perth, unfortunately, because Perth means some more wins for sure.

0:46:38 – (Bronwen Clune): I know. Well, not much gets associated with Perth. Perth actually had one of the most. It had one of the original kind of. I can’t even remember what was called prior to startups being a thing. There was like. Had the web industry association, I think it was called. That came out of. And a lot of people from there kind of went on to work in startups because we’re talking about the web industry, which is. God, it sounds like someone super highway now. Yes, super web.

0:47:10 – (Bronwen Clune): It’s just such an old school way of talking about the Internet.

0:47:13 – (Cheryl Mack): The web industry.

0:47:14 – (Bronwen Clune): Yeah, the web industry. Maybe AI industry will sound the same, which is. Yeah, maybe it will.

0:47:22 – (Cheryl Mack): Like 20 years from now, it’ll be like the AI industry.

0:47:25 – (Bronwen Clune): Yeah. I mean, AI is. It’s not a. It’s not. It’s not a. No.

0:47:29 – (Cheryl Mack): It’s horizontal and vertical.

0:47:30 – (Bronwen Clune): Horizontal. Yeah. I know. When I worked in government, they were like. They’d always said to me, well, the government wants to back AI. And I’m like, that’s tech. Like it doesn’t exist on its own, you know, what is AI gonna do?

0:47:44 – (Cheryl Mack): Could you call the AI and tell them we want to back the AI?

0:47:48 – (Bronwen Clune): Yes.

0:47:50 – (Cheryl Mack): Could you call them?

0:47:51 – (Bronwen Clune): I don’t know if they had this idea of a big computer that had all the answers to the world’s problems. This is not a Douglas Adams novel, you know? I don’t know, but, yeah, I think more differentiation and obviously, you know, the hard thing is you need one win to tell a story. You just need that first win. You know, canva is such a huge success compared to the other success stories. Really just dwarfs everything.

0:48:18 – (Cheryl Mack): Yeah.

0:48:19 – (Bronwen Clune): But I guess it’s a good, a good problem to have. But, you know, Canva is, I think it’s, it’s ten times the value of our next biggest starter, which is air wallet.

0:48:32 – (Maxine Minter): It is huge. But I mean, Atlassian also is huge.

0:48:36 – (Bronwen Clune): Atlassian was huge, but it wasn’t backed. There was no, there’s, there was no, no flow through back to Australia. But it also, Atlassian was what made australian investors sit up and go, well, we don’t want to miss out on this again.

0:48:48 – (Maxine Minter): Totally. I hope that the same dynamic happens with canva and their wallocs.

0:48:53 – (Bronwen Clune): Yeah. And look, I do think people, people still say, like, oh, we don’t want to miss the next canva. I don’t think the next canva is going to look like canva. No. I actually think I’ll make a bold prediction. I think our next canvas going to be in deep tech.

0:49:06 – (Maxine Minter): All right, you heard it here first, guys. Spicy.

0:49:12 – (Cheryl Mack): Yeah, spicy. All right, well, thank you so much for your time today, Bronwyn.

0:49:16 – (Maxine Minter): This has just been the best. I feel like we can keep doing this.

0:49:20 – (Bronwen Clune): Awesome. Well, thank you. That was fun.

0:49:22 – (Cheryl Mack): It’s been amazing.

0:49:23 – (Maxine Minter): Thanks so much.

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