7 startup founders share the lessons they learned in 2021 that they’ll be applying to the year ahead

- January 5, 2022 2 MIN READ
Jeanette Cheah
Jeanette Cheah, CEO and co-founder, HEX
2021 didn’t quite turn out way we’d hoped after the initial pandemic chaos on 2020.

With the past 12 months throwing up even more curve balls than the year before, testing the resilience of many, we asked several startup founders what they learnt during the past year and how it will shape their thinking in 2022. Here’s what they said. 

Maria Halasz

Maria Halasz, CEO & Managing Director, Cellmid

Maria Halasz

CEO & MD, Cellmid 

In 2021 I have developed a healthy respect for a pandemic.

I started 2021 with a sigh of relief that 2020 was over. Then I realised that it is hard to run an international business when Australia is still completely closed down and a second wave of lockdown can be worse than the first.

Strong supplier and employee relationships have been critical in ensuring that we pulled through relatively unscathed. 

I have also underestimated the mental/emotional impact on the staff and myself.

There was so much more heavy lifting all around. Ultimately it made me a better leader; coming from behind leading with compassion resulted in a stronger, more resilient organisation. 


Jonathan Moody, CEO and founder of Physio Inq.

Jonathan Moody

CEO and founder, Physio Inq

Patience is paramount, but eventually, you need to make a call one way or the other if things aren’t working out. Don’t be too reactive, but don’t procrastinate either!

As an owner or senior, make sure that you are transparent with those who report to you that you want to deep dive into their teams to help understand issues to help the manager.

Don’t just rely on your report keeping you informed. This isn’t micro managing, but rather staying connected to the people on the ground and hearing it from the horse’s mouth.


Jill Berry

Jill Berry, CEO and co-founder, Adatree

Jill Berry

CEO and co-founder, Adatree

That things are relative. You always think “once I get through this or get done with this, then life will be easier” but you end up growing and having different problems.

You learn year to year in business and every year is totally different from the last. 


Ben Lipschitz

MD and cofounder, FoodbyUs  

Never underestimate the power of culture to hold your team together during a crisis, as well as its ability to help attract new staff  


Jeanette Cheah

CEO and co-founder, HEX 

A top learning for me was to better recognise and respond to my own emotional and mental capacity – and to talk to my team about theirs.

Bringing these conversations into the open can help to flag potential burnout and increase empathy in the team.

Another top learning of mine is to not delay chasing your goals, because you’re probably ready six months before you think you are. 

Matej Varhalik

Matej Varhalik, founder and CEO of SpeedFit

Matej Varhalik

Founder and CEO, SpeedFit

It would definitely be about people.

I made a mistake and kept some people around that I shouldn’t have, hoping issues would resolve themselves and get better because they were a fundamental part of our business but culturally it wasn’t the right fit and it was holding me back.

As soon as those people left, everything started to fall into place and we moved forward big time.

I have learnt it is best to not wait to make those hard decisions, as soon as you feel something’s not right you need to act.


Dale Brett

Dale Brett, CEO and cofounder, Fl0

Dale Brett

CEO and cofounder, Fl0

Balance. My cofounder Rani Adam and I launched Fl0 in March 2021 and for the first few months I really didn’t pay much attention to my work-life harmony.

It was easy to forget about exercise, and catching up with friends and family.  Lockdown didn’t make it any easier.