Business strategy

The end-of-year financial checklist startup founders need

- July 1, 2024 4 MIN READ
Businesswoman working on laptop.
Photo: AdobeStock
Whether it’s your half-year or end-of-year marker, June 30 is an important milestone for founders.

It’s a time to reflect on the health of your runway and, depending on the diagnosis, it’s a time to determine your operational bandwidth for investor engagement. 

It feels particularly significant in 2024 when we see startups taking a minimum of six months to secure investment.

Speaking with our cofounder and President, Lucy Liu, her advice really stuck with me: capital raising might be a long game, but the delays (intentional or not) also prolong the inevitable dilution of your ownership. A little optimism in a tough market can go a long way! 

So it’s EOFY and you’re not only tasked with securing capital, but also deciding what type of capital and from which type of investor. The increased diversification of our investor landscape creates complexity for first-time founders.

They’re now walking into fundraising with a shopping list: venture capital, angels, family offices, crowdfunding, corporate venture arms, accelerators, government grants, and so on.

Sticking with the shopping list analogy, founders are also tasked with assessing nutritional value (values-alignment), meal prep (support mechanisms) and budget (term sheets) of their choices. 

All supermarket puns aside, systemic biases add another layer of consideration for non-male founding teams. Data from Cut Through Ventures showed that all-male founding teams claimed 85% of the $1.7 billion raised by Australian start-ups in the first five months of 2024.

All-female founding teams raised only 5%. When the odds are stacked against you on more than one axis, fundraising can feel like supermarket shopping on a Sunday: a nightmare. 

Fortunately, EOFY is a marker for all founders to meet with their accountants. A trusted advisor who can provide an outsider’s view on the financial health of your startup.

On top of optimising tax positions and ensuring employees get their payment summaries – founders can also use EOFY for your ESOP reporting and assessing eligibility for R&D Tax Incentives and Export Market Development Grants.

For cash-strapped founders, the latter can be a game changer in terms of preserving runway.

According to our community partner, Scendar, financial planning for EOFY is normally a growth-focused activity but at the moment there is a fair bit of “how do we survive until the market recovers.”

Strategic planning will be what sets founders apart in a new financial year – it’s a survival skill for founders. When it comes to strategic planning, I’d be asking one question: “What are three big bets I want to make with a minimum viable investment?”

In other words, “How can I do something big with a little?”

Having worked with first-time founders at seed stage through to experienced founders at Series B+, these are some of my suggested add-ons to your strategic plan for the new financial year:

Experiment with founder-led advertising

Once founders overcome the “ick” of personal branding, they will reap short-term rewards in the form of impressions, leads and brand awareness.

Simran Kaur is an NZ-based founder who is on a mission to increase financial literacy for women.

Kaur’s strategic marketing pivot to being the face of her startup, Girls That Invest, generated 2 million new faces finding them every single month, driving more sales to their e-learning platform.

The top-performing content? Videos of herself talking to the camera.

The goal? Generate leads from an unpaid channel.

The action? Set yourself a weekly cadence to post on LinkedIn – a video, a photo, a product update – and personalise the story with your real voice.

Level up? Analyse the performance after eight weeks and see which type of content is working for you – then double down. 

Experiment with automation in two core functions

Eg. sales, marketing, operations, investor reporting.  If you are not taking advantage of the new category creators – AI agents – you will fall behind.

They are designed to be tactical so that you have more time to be strategic. 

There are tools that can help you outbound to prospects (Relevance AI), take calls from clients (Curious Thing), prepare your HR compliance (OD-AI), write website copy (ChatGPT), design graphics (Leonardo.AI) and so many more.

But with all new technologies, startups run the risk of automating too much and losing their personalised advantage.

That’s why it’s important to start with an experiment in one to two core functions of your startup with clear measures of success, ie. the number of meetings booked for your outbound bot. 

Leverage 2024’s community boom and make time to network

One of the easiest hacks to creating better content and amplifying your personal brand is to be present and relevant.

These two words have guided me through my first six months building Airwallex for Startups and I can attest to the power of getting to events, creating content off the back of them, and expanding my network into new verticals/community spaces.

I’ve already clocked +130K impressions and doubled my followers – this is compounded by over 1,000 program participants signed in our first eight weeks of operation. 

Set and forget your tech stack

The investment that you make into the technology that powers your startup is incredibly influential to your productivity and viability. If you are an early-stage founder, find the four cornerstones to your tech stack that can scale with you.

In the same way that G-suite and Google Cloud can grow with the demands of your team, Airwallex is designed to power the financial ambitions of founders from Day 1 to unicorn status.

Whether it’s employee cards to help your first sales hire to connect with prospective customers, or embedded finance to power the sophisticated needs of your marketplace – Airwallex is an Australian-born startup that’s been in your shoes, so we’ve built to solve our shared problems. 

Experiment with a partner-led growth channel

My two roles before Airwallex were building partner programs for startups from scratch so that we could tap into scalable growth. If I can do it, anyone can.

The first two steps are the who and the how. For the who, find the folks with the right to sell your product to your ICP.

If you’re a PropTech, they could be real estate agents, if you’re a ClimateTech, they could be accountants.

If you’re an AI-powered graphic design tool, they could be micro-influencers on LinkedIn.

For the how, you need to remember that partnerships can take the form of referral (the easiest form of transaction), channel (a more sophisticated sales motion) brand and affiliate… pick a lane, set a hypothesis and give yourself 6 months to test. 

Our program, Airwallex for Startups, is designed to specifically address challenges and power hypotheses. By design, it’s a give-back mechanism.

Through our community partnerships with industry leaders like Annie Liao at Build Club, we are helping AI builders in Australia go to San Francisco to network and fundraise. With our VC partners, we’re able to create disruptive Open Mic Nights to help founders pitch their ideas. 

And finally, with our team, we’re able to mentor and amplify the next generation of unicorns. 

  • Taylor Fox-Smith is head of Community Partnerships at Airwallex.