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How Covid-19 is changing Accelerator programs

How Covid-19 is changing Accelerator programs

Accelerator Software

Leaders of Innovation: Interview with Alan Jones

Leaders of Innovation is a series of interviews exploring the topics & trends impacting teams responsible for delivering Accelerator Programs & Innovation. 

In this episode we speak with the innovation leader Alan Jones about how Covid-19 is changing both Accelerator programs and the innovation landscape. 

Alan is renowned Startup Accelerator Entrepreneur in Residence, Startup coach and Angel investor based in Sydney, Australia.

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Welcome, everybody, to this episode of Leaders of Innovation, the show where we explore the topics and trends impacting innovation and accelerator delivery teams both here in Australia and also overseas.

Today, we’re very lucky to welcome our guest Alan Jones who is currently the entrepreneur in residence for the Remarkable disability tech accelerator in Sydney. Alan was also an early-stage investor in the Australia tech startup funds Pollenizer, Startmate and Blackbird Ventures. Alan has been an active angel investor and also is currently the third highest-ranked Australian athlete in the international hide-and-seek competition, which is a pretty epic claim to fame.

Alan, you’re very welcome.

Alan: Thanks for having me, Brian. It’s great to be here. Thanks for the lovely intro.

Brian: Not at all. [laughs] My pleasure. So I guess first things first: do you want to tell us a little bit about what you’re working on right now?

Alan: Right now, I’m entrepreneur in residence for an accelerator program, and having worked with you as an entrepreneur in residence, I know you know what that means. But for the folks at home, an entrepreneur in residence or an EIR is somebody who’s been a tech startup founder themselves who can work with the startups in an accelerator program to help break really big problems into little problems that are more easy to address, and to help teams make faster progress because we call accelerators “accelerators” because they’re meant to accelerate your progress. To be there in the good times, to help you celebrate your wins, and also the bad times when you don’t know what to do next and So it’s a little bit tiger mom, a little bit agony aunt, a little bit good friend, a little bit coach, if you like.

The program we’re working with at the moment is called Remarkable, and its primary sponsor is the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, one of the world’s biggest charitable organizations researching solutions for people with cerebral palsy. The Remarkable program works with seven tech startups this year, each of them working on different solutions for different forms of disability and also for people suffering from a lack of inclusion.

I won’t go through the whole seven teams, but we have everything from a resuscitation monitor which is going to potentially help save the lives of a million babies born every year who need resuscitation when they’re born, and another million children who suffer from long-lasting health problems as a result of receiving ineffective resuscitation at birth, through to a startup building an online community for people on the autism spectrum. A third example is a startup building a platform to help speech pathologists track the performance and the homework of kids learning to correct their speech difficulties.

Brian: Wow, that’s incredible stuff. That’s real impactful stuff, not just commercial, but actually to real human beings and their lives every day.

Alan: Yeah. It’s a really inspiring program to work on. Just because it’s disability and inclusion doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have commercial goals. Our goal here is to create growing, successful, viable businesses and also to prepare them for investment, potentially from angel investors, major health organizations and also venture capital.

Brian: One of the big things that we’re examining throughout this course over this series of interviews is really the impact that COVID-19 and the new normal, if you like, that’s having on Accelerator programs. How have you found that impacting the way you guys have been delivering the program, and even how you work, yourself?

Alan: It’s been a difficult adjustment for the whole world, [laughs] but it’s also been a difficult adjustment for us to make. I think we started to feel like we were going to need to plan for a transition to an all-online program around about when we were starting to plan the final stage of our application process.

We take online applications, we have interviews, and then we take a final subset of teams into a boot camp for a weekend where we study how teams work together through a number of challenges. It was around about then that we started to think, “You know what? This pandemic thing is looking pretty serious. We really can’t afford to take the risk of bringing people together into the same physical space.”

An accelerator so much is about the relationship and the dynamic of people working together. There are people like me: we have two EIRs in the current Remarkable program, myself and.

So we have to form trusting relationships with the teams that we’re mentoring, right? That just happens better face to face. It just does. We can go for a walk, we can go get a coffee. You and I have done this. You know how it is. We can socialize after, and then we can have real work discussions as well. We get to know each other, and then once you get to know each other, then you can start to listen to each other’s advice. Doing that online is very difficult.

There are other challenges. We have a lot of educational material to deliver to our teams, and that is taught by industry experts. Those industry experts might be really well-practiced at delivering it in a face-to-face workshop, but an online workshop is a very, very different from a face-to-face workshop.

The third and final challenge for us has been a lot of the benefit an accelerator program brings is the relationships between the startups and the people on those teams. I’ve worked with accelerator programs where a startup may be failing, and perhaps some of the members of that startup might get picked up by other startups in the program because you know and you trust each other because you’ve been in the same program together, working in the same space, going to the same place for lunch. None of that happens online. [laughs] And even if teams aren’t failing, you still rely on each other for support and advice and connections and help.

In general, the solutions to these problems have been to think about — a lot of the stuff, you do intuitively. You just think, “I need to get to know Brian. I’ll ask Brian out for a cup of coffee.” When you’re delivering those programs online, you have to think: what’s going on underneath that? What’s the psychology? What’s the social dynamic? How do two people relate? What aspects of that can we recreate online, and what can’t we recreate? And then how do we compensate that by creating more value in another area?

So in an online setting, I might give you more homework to do and less face-to-face work because this video interaction that we’re doing is really. There’s a burden to it. It’s tiring, much more tiring to do over Zoom than it is face to face. So I might give you more homework to do, more reading to do. There’s less that I can easily — I can just grab a whiteboard if we’re in the same room, and I can just start sketching, and you sketch and all that. It’s kind of possible to do it on Zoom, but it’s so hard that it actually gets in the way of the purpose of what we’re trying to do.

Brian: Do you think that’s impacting from the founders’ perspective? Speaking from firsthand experience, we’ve been through a couple of programs, and as you mentioned, you were actually EIR in the Collider accelerator program that we went through over in Brisbane. It’s really intense for the founders going through the program at the best of times. Bit of a roller coaster ride. Do you think that this kind of move to a more blended or leaning towards a full online model is leading to additional stress for those founders going to the program, or do you think in some ways it takes it off?

Alan: Not too much speaking about the Remarkable program specifically, but other accelerator programs that I see operating online right now, across all of them, I see a heightened sense of being alone. So I think they’re missing out on the feeling of camaraderie and support from being in the same space as other tech startup founders like them. It’s difficult to replace that.

I think the learning part of what an accelerator program does is very doable to do online, but it’s really mainly dealing with the loneliness, dealing with the self-motivation. It’s much, much easier to show up late to a Zoom call versus showing up late to a workshop class. Or it’s much, much easier to appear to be listening while also checking emails or your socials or supervising your three-year-old.

I will be interested to see — the Remarkable program will graduate this cohort in August, and we’ve got some really strong teams doing some great stuff. I would say that every time anyway, right? But we might not see the impact of the pandemic on the accelerator industry worldwide until two years from now when we start to see some of those teams: how did they perform in terms of how long it took them to raise an angel round? What sort of valuation did they go from accelerator to when they raised an angel round? How many of them succeeded or failed in the period between when they graduated from the accelerator and two years later? So I think 2023, 2024 will be really interesting when we look at that sort of vintage of startups across the world.

Brian: It brings us to a really interesting question that follows on: on a broader scale, more macro, if you step back and look at the innovation ecosystem, taking in the likes of accelerator programs and even corporate accelerators in that kind of spectrum, what are the key trends that you are noticing in the ecosystem at the moment?

Alan: I think there’s been a lot of standardization and differentiation in the last couple of years. We’ve seen an early generation of startup accelerator programs where everybody was just throwing stuff on the wall and seeing what stuck and what appeared to work. There was a lot of iteration, there was a lot of experimentation.

Then there was a period where I think there were a couple of globally successful programs that everybody tried to mimic as best as they could, and then they often found that there was a bit of a market mismatch against the industries that they were targeting or the stage that they were targeting or the geography.

Then we saw a bunch of localization happen where people took that sort of default approach and said, “How are we going to adapt this so it better suits our industry or our stage or our geography focus?”

And now, what I think we’re starting to see is we’re starting to see the benefits of making smaller, more considered changes that might perhaps be based on something more approaching data than we had in the past because our industry is still super, super new. Accelerators are a very, very young form of whatever they are. [laughs]

That’s one of the challenges when you’re saying to somebody who doesn’t work at tech startups, “What do you do?” “I work in an accelerator program.” “Yeah, mm-hmm.” [laughs] They don’t know what you mean. And when you’re trying to explain it to them, “Well, how do you do that?” “It’s a bit like a post-graduate business qualification, but it’s also…”

The metaphor that works best for me is actually accelerator programs are like reality television shows. There’s a season, and at the beginning of the season, you are in this state, and the value is in how you perform in the course of the season. And then at the end of the show, are you one of the winners or not?

And what happens in between? There’s going to be tensions, you’re on a team with other people, some of them you thought you knew. Others are complete strangers, but others you thought you knew until you went into this really high-stress, really challenging kind of series together, and suddenly all these new aspects of this person start appearing. Some of them are good, and sometimes some of them are really scary, but you have to try and make the team work.

Then there will be a series of challenges set for each team, just like a reality television show, where, “It’s time to get the business planning,” or, “You’ve got to be growing 10% week and week.” Observing how teams perform in those challenges is a big part of how an accelerator program learns about how to design better challenges, but also how it learns to introduce you to angel investors and customers and distribution partners and so on.

The third thing that makes it a lot like reality TV is that it’s very public. Your friends and your family and your ex-workmates, they’re all following along on your journey. They may not be tuning in for every single episode, but they see you when you post something on Facebook or on LinkedIn or Twitter. And when we all get to have barbecues again, when they see you at the barbecue, they’ll ask you, “How’s it going with that accelerator thing you’re doing?” And you can’t really clam up, you can’t really not say anything. You have to say something.

As a founder, you’re very aware that you’re on this reality TV show with these people who are kind of strangers to you. [laughs] And there’s big prizes up for grabs if you’re one of the winning teams, but abject public failure if you don’t.

Brian: Yeah, you get the slime bucket on the head if you lose, although it’s all part of it.

Alan: Exactly. [laughs]

Brian: It’s actually really interesting you came up with that analogy because I think it fits perfectly in many ways. It summarizes a lot of the things that people go through and obviously the nature of the programs themselves.

Alan: The emotional state of the teams influences the emotional state of the other teams as well. I always, always observe in the narrative arc of an accelerator program, there will be this point between about halfway and 75% of the program duration where all of the teams are down. They’re either angry or upset or both.

That’s just a natural part of a process where, “It’s been fun, but now we can see the finish line approaching, and we’re freaking out because our hair’s on fire and the wheels are falling off, and we don’t feel like we’re achieving the goals of the program they set for us. We feel like other teams are doing better than us. I hate this person who’s my co-founder that I’m stuck with.”

But then the narrative arc just takes care of all of that, and when we get to demo day, the release and the celebration and the relief and the joy of having a successful demo day — and everybody has a successful demo day — is a beautiful experience. And then we all group hug in the days when we’ll be able to group hug again.

Brian: Virtual hugs now. Emojis.

Alan: [laughs] And we promise to stay in touch and catch up and help each other and all that kind of thing. It’s a rite of passage. It’s a business rite of passage.

Brian: It brings me to an interesting question, which is that a lot of the focus in the programs is, and rightly so, on the founders and the teams travelling through. But obviously the infrastructure that that runs on and the real engine behind making it all happen is actually the team who have put together that program and designed it, who are fielding the questions of the founders and trying to source mentors and do all of those thousand tasks at the same time that are required to deliver successfully.

In terms of this new challenging environment that’s out there at the moment, how do you think that will impact against the dynamic of the teams? Not necessarily the teams of the founders, but the management teams themselves — how do you think it’s going to change the way that they work?

Alan: Delivering a program in the course of a remote program, especially pivoting from doing it locally to doing it remote in a pretty big hurry, lends itself to solving problems with tools rather than people. I’ve seen a lot of programs internationally in this time realize suddenly that there are a bunch of processes that they don’t have documented because they’ve needed to turn them into processes that are supported by tools.

So you might have a whole bunch of things that are just implicit and implied in the way the team usually works together on a program, and then you’ve got to go, “Okay, we need to convert this into Airtable. Before I put it into Airtable, what do we need to capture from the founders, again?” [laughs] And then you have to huddle as a team and go, “Do we need the email address? Yes, we need the email address.”

Yes, it’s required a lot of change to think about, “How do we usually do this, and how do we codify that so that we can turn it into software?” Software is absolutely necessary because we’re all having to also get the washing done and empty the dishwasher and mind the kids and get some exercise. Software really supports us all in that process.

It’s weirdly more difficult than ever before for us all to be in the same place at the same time even though it’s online and you can do it from your bedroom. It’s weirdly much harder than it would be because in person, you and I agree that for the six months of the accelerator program, from Monday to Friday, we’ll be there from about nine-ish to about five-ish every day. We can have relative confidence that we have a workshop or a master class or a lunch-and-learn session.

Alan: And we’ll all be there. Online, it’s hard.

Brian: Much more difficult.

Alan: I missed my check-in with Remarkable’s head today. I had one booked for 12 PM, and I missed it. Sorry, Pete.

Brian: [laughs] You can tag him in this.

Alan: [laughs]

Brian: I guess the question, really, for those teams, mental health is obviously a big challenge for everybody, again, in this challenging time. And again, rightly so for those teams that are going through, it’s just important for programs to talk with their founders, maybe to talk to each other, too, and make sure that their own teams and staff are doing okay because certainly, depending on the university they’re maybe working for or the program they’re working for, funding may not be certain. Some people are worried about stability when it comes to jobs, and other people are worried about other issues they may have at home, dealing with the pandemic.

One thing I want to hear about in terms of designing a program, you’re obviously a highly-experienced professional when it comes to this. If you have three tips for somebody thinking about designing a program now, what would they be?

Alan: Three tips for somebody designing a program now? I think the curriculum that you bring to a program is very important, but you need to learn from your customer. We all have to learn from our customers, right? I think it’s an ongoing challenge for accelerator program management to be observing how their founders respond to the curriculum that’s being delivered and make adjustments on the fly during the course of the program.

It’s difficult to achieve 100% compliance at any time. It’s super, super hard to do that when you’re remote with people. And you need people to be complying for the right reasons. Cracking the whip only works for a little bit of time. You have to also hang the carrot in front of the donkey as well and encourage the donkey onwards. You won’t be able to pick up whether the teams need the stick or the carrot unless you’re really observing rather than just delivering material and trusting that people are following along.

I think taking care or trying to take care of the emotional well-being of your founders is critically important in delivering a remote program because it introduces much more stress when it’s remote. When we’re not in a pandemic, the people doing a remote program are usually involved in the remote program because they can’t get to the geography where the program is being held or because they’re trying to squeeze it in on top of a side gig or a day job or parenting or something. So the cognitive load involved in learning some of the things that we teach is pretty significant, and if you try to do that evenings and weekends, that’s super hard.

Checking the emotional well-being of people is challenging because it usually requires us to be a lot more open than most of us would choose to be. We can put a little bot in Slack that asks everybody in the team to write their moods, and that can pop out daily and ping them. But everybody knows a bot has just asked them how they feel, so the temptation is, “Out of five, I’m just going to put three every day,” or, “I’m going to put five every day.”

Brian: Or create a bot that responds to the bot.

Alan: [laughs] Yes, exactly. That’s no substitute for — my preference would be, “Let’s go for a walk around the block and just have a chat about shit.” We don’t have to talk about your startup, we don’t have to talk about work, we don’t have to talk about the startup industry. I want to hear about how you got to here and what you like to do on weekends and your thoughts on politics and religion and sport and stuff because that informs much more for me about who you are as a whole individual, and also how you might be feeling. It’s very difficult for most of us to have a face-to-face conversation with a person or a walk around the block with somebody and not betray our real state of mind.

Brian: Yeah. When you’re concentrating on walking as well at the same time — I’m not joking, I’m actually dead serious. [laughs] When you’re walking, you’re looking at traffic lights, and you’re crossing roads and all that sort of stuff, so I guess it might flow a little bit more honestly, which is actually pretty interesting.

I think those three points you’ve given, which are tips for people designing programs now — listen to your customers, get their feedback on the content and the way you’re delivering the program, don’t just use the stick, make sure you’re also dangling the carrot there for them, and also checking in on your founders regularly in a human way — are really powerful things.

Alan: Some of the things we’re doing in the Remarkable program I think are working, and some, we need to tweak further. Our real genius in the program when it comes to the operation, the automation of a lot of things we do has been our program manager George Miller, who’s been incredible on Airtable and Slack.

Some of the things that we’ve attempted or encouraged the founders to attempt has been for them to have a weekly catch-up amongst themselves that doesn’t include us. I think we need to work more consciously on a more effective way to do that. I don’t think that’s gone as well as it might. We’ve brought the founders together for some things that have been not accelerator focused, more on team building and relationship building and having fun, and weirdly, the thing that seems to have gotten the best feedback has been a few games. We’ve had a few games of trivia.

Brian: That’s pretty awesome.

Alan: We’ve kind of turned it into a bit of a television production where we have a game show background on Zoom.

Brian: I’ve seen your shiny jacket. [laughs]

Alan: So we have the questions all pre-written in advance, and we have some script that we’ve pre-written and some background music. We have transitions between the different things.

Brian: That’s brilliant.

Alan: We send the teams off to go and try and solve the trivia questions. They’ve enjoyed that. We send care packages to the teams. Each member of the team, periodically through the program, they receive a little gift box from us with some stuff that might be associated with where we are in the program and what we’re currently working on. But it’s mainly just a little gift and a little handwritten letter…

Brian: It’s a token.

Alan: … a piece of chocolate or a glass of wine or something.

And then to a degree, we’ve tried to just gently press the people to check in more often. I don’t think we have that really totally nailed because we have all these scheduling tools now, and looking at the calendar for the day and going, “Brian and I have a check-in scheduled for 4 PM,” is very different to you going, “Hey Alan, do you want to pop out and grab a coffee?” You’re starting from a different place, and so you end up at a different place. If it’s in the schedule, there will be an agenda, and there will be items and crap. When you go for, “Let’s get a coffee,” the goal is to get a coffee and have a chat. And so you’ll end up at a different result.

Brian: It’s the elimination of the randomness, almost, in a way, of that social interaction. It’s almost too structured, it’s almost too planned. You know a day in advance what’s going to happen the next day.

Alan: Yeah. There’s so little synchronicity.

Brian: Great use of the word “synchronicity.” I haven’t heard that used in a while. That was the perfect place to put it.

Alan: Place: 1982.

Brian: [laughs] That was the year I was born, Alan. [laughs]

Alan: Is that right?

Brian: Yeah, genuinely.

Brian: Here’s a question for you. Congratulations. I’m giving you an imaginary check for half a million dollars.

Alan: Is that all?

Brian: Yup. You can take this half a million dollars today — only today — and you can invest it in backing a program, an accelerator innovation program in a particular niche. What would you choose, and why?

Alan: A hypothetic niche?

Brian: A hypothetic niche. You could choose something to do with a med tech niche, or you could go into crypto-currency, if you want. But you’ve got a half million bucks to run a program targeted on early or mid-stage startups, and you’ve got to choose your niche.

Alan: I’m going to focus on Remarkable, actually, on disability and inclusion. So I’m going to double down, I’m going to put more money and time into the Remarkable program, but I’ll explain why because I don’t think it’s just the Remarkable program. I think it’s the space that they target.

We’ve had assistive technologies to help people with disabilities ever since the Industrial Revolution, as soon as we started putting wheels and cogs and levers and things together. [laughs] I was kind of thinking if there was literally a steam-powered wheelchair. There’s been assistive technologies for a long, long time, but it’s really surprising how 1980s a lot of the current solutions are that are out there in the market that are considered to be best-of-breed. It’s surprising and it’s disappointing, and it’s a huge opportunity. There’s still a lot of technology in the disability space which is designed primarily for indestructibility.

Brian: Yes, but not necessarily fun to use or easy to use.

Alan: Yeah. When it comes to software, there’s still a lot of stuff which is uploaded to a ROM and stuck in a device permanently, and there’s no way to upgrade how that device works. One of the great beauties of the Tesla as a car is that it improves itself. You start it up in the morning, and it’s downloaded an update overnight, and now it does something that it didn’t use to do before. There’s almost none of that in disability space yet.

There’s also a lot of dedicated single-purpose user interfaces, so you see things that have far too many dedicated controls or knobs, whereas on a smartphone, it’s just a pane of glass, and the interface underneath it changes according to context, what you’re doing at the time.

A lot of devices in this space have hard buttons or knobs, and so to achieve a bunch of things, you might end up with a panel with way, way, way too many things on it. That becomes difficult to train somebody to use, and it can’t be improved over time, and it can’t be adapted to the needs of the individual as well as something which is all soft controls.

There’s very, very limited or very, very early-days use of machine learning, machine vision, artificial intelligence. You ship something, and it continues to perform the way it does until the customer buys the next version rather than the thing learning from the user over time.

And then there’s a lot of silos. A clinician like an occupational therapist will have their set of records on a patient’s rehabilitation journey, and then the insurance company will have a whole other set, and then the National Disability Insurance Scheme will have a while other set, and then you have the client, and the client’s carers, they all have their own sets…

Brian: [31:47]

Alan: And there’s not a lot of sharing and learning from each other. So all of those problems are really, really solvable. We have lots of solutions for them. In Australia, particularly, we have the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which is new and still has a lot of ways that it can improve, but it’s world class in terms of what it provides to empower the customer themselves to choose their own preferred solution to a problem.

It gives them a budget. It allows them to say, “I want this device and not that one because it suits my needs better.” That allows a startup in that space to go direct to a customer, so you don’t have to necessarily sell all that technology to a medical products distributor or to a hospital or to a rehabilitation provider, but you might perhaps go direct to the customer, the person with the disability. As you know, that allows us to use things like growth marketing and conversion funnels and landing pages and Facebook advertising and Instagram.

Brian: All targeted.

Alan: Yeah. So it’s greatly more effective, more efficient marketing where we can track how we spend, we can go up and down, we can use the money that we have rather than going out to raise more money to do inefficient, untargeted marketing.

Brian: So you’re taking a half million dollars, you’re pumping it into disability tech because it’s ripe for disruption, and you’re laughing all the way to the bank.

Alan: Yes. There’s been some really, really strong companies gone through previous rounds of the Remarkable accelerator. There’s been in excess of $20 million invested in the company so far. There’s been nearly 5,000 jobs created. It’s a global leader in accelerating in the disability space. There’s not really a program like it anywhere else in the world.

Australia has a first-class healthcare system when benchmarked against other first-world nations. We have the National Disability Insurance Scheme, we have some smart insurers looking to get better, we have some of the best hospital healthcare system in the world. It’s a very promising set of starting conditions to create a startup for solving problems in disability.

Brian: Incredible. We’ll prepare to wrap it up with a last two quick questions for you — quick-fire round. First of all, what is your biggest learning over the last 12 months?

Alan: [laughs]

Brian: Plots thicken. I thought I’d give you an easy one. No pressure.

Alan: Airtable. Next.

Brian: Airtable. Okay, cool. And with a crystal ball, take that out there and have a gander into it and tell me, what do you think the Australian innovation ecosystem is going to look like in 24 months? Here we are, we’re now in 2022, it’s July, and we’re having a conversation. What does the landscape look like?

Alan: I think we’re going to see a bit of a nuclear winter as a result of the economic changes that the pandemic is introducing. I don’t think anybody can say with any confidence how long and deep it’s going to be, and so the degree of the effect that has on the startup ecosystem is difficult to tell. But the dollars of angel investors investing in startups, the dollars that sponsors of accelerator programs invest in accelerator programs is all discretionary spending. It’s not something that from most organizations is core to their brand. It’s usually something they’re doing to explore innovation. And maybe most of their stakeholders aren’t even looking to see innovation from them in the next couple of years. They’re looking to see survival.

Most of the people who act as angel investors in Australia are investing money that they’ve earned through operating another business, and that other business may be going into challenging economic times. So an angel investor’s first instinct may be, “No, I’m just going to keep the money that I would have invested in startups for the next 12 months. I’m just going to keep that powder dry in case I need to apply it to keeping my existing business afloat.”

So I think we’ll see a downturn in angel investing, and that is the first bit of rocket fuel that a startup gets when it’s starting to show that it’s solving a problem that customers are prepared to pay for. I think that will flow on into the number of startups that make it to venture capital.

It will probably affect bootstrap startups as well because although they are building a business that’s driven by their own revenue and they’re not looking for sources of external investment, they’re much more likely to shelve the moon-shot ideas that they have and work on revenue-forward opportunities, things that might make money in the near term.

More of us, if we need to have a side gig or we need to have a day job, that sort of income is going to look more, and so we’re less likely to have a crack at doing a startup. The worry about that is that the innovation ecosystem in Australia has just got this really fantastic, promising growth at series A and upstage venture capital right now. That part of the industry is going really gangbusters, and so we need to be ready to feed it lots of really great startups that are ready for series A venture capital. I’m worried that there’s going to be a bit of a drought, probably starting in about eight, ten months to two years from now as the companies that should be ready for series A at that stage are few and far between because right now, people are starting to have second thoughts about doing a startup.

Brian: Well, as I say, we will hope for the best, plan for the worst. I think when it comes to startups, one thing we can always be sure of is that founders generally either believe they will find a way or they do actually find a way. That’s a remarkable thing. I think wherever there’s change, there’s opportunity, and the hope is that in all of this challenging times we’re going through now, there will be a bloom, maybe, of new startups we haven’t even considered, and you get to solve problems you don’t even know exist yet. I suppose that’s the beauty of the startup ecosystem: it’s just ever evolving, ever changing.

Alan: Absolutely. All customers in all industries already have a solution to the problem that you’re solving, and so when we disrupt their industries and when we disrupt the economy and when we disrupt society, that creates new problems that we might be able to go out and solve. In those spaces, there are no current solutions, so there’s a huge opportunity for startup founders to go out and solve those new problems or problems that used to be small that are now much, much larger as a result of the current pandemic.

Brian: Phenomenal. Alan Jones, you are a scholar and a gentleman. I want to thank you very much for gracing us with your time. It’s very generous of you. For anybody who’s interested in picking up this interview, of course we’ll be sharing it on our channel on YouTube, and we’ll also be publishing it as a text article as well with the illustrious Alan Jones’s beautiful profile photograph gracing the cover. Alan, thank you so much, and have a wonderful afternoon.

Alan: Thank you for talking with me, Brian.

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