Blog: Supporting startups today

Author: Terry Gold | 26 March 2020


 

Startups & staff at the Innovation & Collaboration Centre

Startups & staff from the Innovation & Collaboration Centre.


Last week I was asked in an email from SA Government to give my thoughts on what we can all do to support startups today. It actually seems like ages ago now, because the situation is changing every day it seems. But in some ways I’m more optimistic today than I was last week. While I’ve never seen a global pandemic in my life like this, I’ve lived through (as an entrepreneur) some pretty big downturns and periods of uncertainty. They were all different and all had different challenges, but some things I think are the same.

This is what I suggested . . .

  1. Founder mental health is number one. If they can’t keep it together, the company will fail, and the founder will feel even worse. We have to support them now.
  2. Honesty is critical with ourselves, our employees and our families. Having a ‘positive mental attitude’ when things have clearly turned down doesn’t fix anything, but being honest about what has happened, and what we can do to mitigate the damage will help more than just carrying on as if nothing is wrong.
  3. I believed that South Australia was the best place for me to be in the world before the virus. I am even more thankful to be here now because I believe Australians and those of us who have chosen to live here will have the right combination of determination, care for others, and a strong belief that things will get better, and we will get through it.
  4. In the short term, our companies will face sudden and significant cash flow issues as their customers and investors freeze up waiting to see what happens. Some may go out of business for lack of a month or two of operating capital to get through the freeze up. Then, some will actually do better either because the market goes in their favour or because this downturn caused them to reshape the business in a healthy way. Some of the strongest companies in the world were startups that survived those previous downturns, so these current startups are our future for jobs in five or 10 years, and a few will replace the big companies of today that fail in the downturn. Injecting cash now could save some of those future job creators. And even if the company still fails, the cash doesn’t disappear, it goes into the community via purchases and wages.
  5. Assuming more people are made redundant, and I think they will be, we know that some of those people will start companies. I believe more companies start up in downturns than in good times. And the ones that do start now and make it through will be even stronger in the good times, so we need to keep helping the very early stage startups. At the ICC we are giving them a place to learn and grow, even if today it is virtual, and we are welcoming them into the startup community. That is as important as helping them to get funding.
  6. There should be no competition here. When a startup community works together it thrives.

If you are a startup founder reading this, I urge you to talk to other founders and the many people in this community who support you. This community has not gone away, it has just gone online for the moment and we need you to be a part of it.

 

South Australian Government

University of South Australia

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