Covid-19 has given us wicked problems to solve – and here’s how to get started on them

- October 30, 2020 3 MIN READ
Photo: AdobeStock
Back in April, US venture capital veteran Marc Andreessen published a call-to-arms to the US economy titled ‘It’s Time to Build’.

As the country watched the pandemic spiral out of control, Andreessen lamented the fact it was ill-equipped to respond, ultimately lacking the capacity to build the infrastructure and equipment required. America needed to re-learn how to build.

Across Australia and New Zealand, we have comparatively fared so much better than many countries. While there has been an impact here, it has not been evenly distributed, and some cities have certainly borne more of the social, economic and health-oriented brunt of COVID-19.

As we edge closer to what feels like recovery, the question becomes, ‘What now?’

Startmate Principal Lauren Capelin

How do we not just remain satisfied with the ‘new normal’, but instead see this as a turning point to improve outcomes for our economy, for our environment and for quality of life in general? How do we embrace this once-in-a-generation reset that creates the freedom and opportunity to question everything we know to be true, and design a better path forward?

At Startmate, we think the answer is simple. We need more of Australia and New Zealand’s smart, passionate and ambitious minds to turn ideas into action, launch new ventures and make their mark on the world. In other words, it’s time to start.

Over the past decade, our startup ecosystem has flourished beyond the wildest imagination of the original tech community. From humble beginnings, we have expanded businesses to global markets, listed on local and international stock exchanges, birthed unicorns and grown an incredible pool of high calibre talent, many of whom are onto their second or third startup roles by now.

Startmate itself has seen more than 130 companies come through its Accelerator program, which are now collectively valued at more than $1bn. But it’s time to up the ante yet again.


Accelerated change

Along with its challenges, COVID-19 has also accelerated changes that create unprecedented opportunities. Now more than ever, as we embrace virtual, remote and flexible lifestyles, it’s true that the next globally significant startups can come from anywhere in the world. We want them to come from Australia and New Zealand.

The wicked problems are here to be solved, industries and systems are ripe for reinvention, the capability of underlying technologies reduces barriers to entry for people without technology backgrounds, and access to knowledge, capital and talent is more available than ever before. What’s missing is you. It’s time to take the leap.

Startmate moved into remote-mode earlier this year, running both 2020 cohorts virtually for the first time ever. This created an opportunity for people living outside the cities of Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland to participate in ways never possible before. In 2021, we want to expand our reach even further as we continue to operate our Summer cohort as an online community.

Finally, where you live physically isn’t a barrier to entry to the best Accelerator program and startup community in Australia and New Zealand. We want to see applicants from all across our region as we aim for the most geographically diverse cohort ever.

Perhaps even more important than geography though, we want to expand the definition of what it looks like to be a startup founder. In the early days, our focus was to help technical founders learn how to be CEOs as we worked to legitimise the role tech startups could play in our economy.

Now, we’re focused on finding the domain experts, the problem solvers, the network builders and the visionaries. People who can bring a unique new insight to an existing problem, or who have uncovered completely new market opportunities as a result of converging trends. From health and education, to manufacturing and logistics; from banking and finance, to climate and energy; from media and social tech, to mobility and robotics; there is opportunity everywhere we look and we are on the hunt for those who are chasing it.


Office Hours

So where to from here? We are about to kick off our bi-annual Office Hours program, which opens up the calendars of the region’s best founders, startup mentors and investors to 500+ founders for invaluable 1-to-1 time across two jam-packed weeks.

From Airtree, Blackbird, Rampersand and Tempus to the CEFC, Startmate alumni and mentors, the best minds are on stand-by to help you work through the questions and challenges you’re facing on the startup journey. No question too silly, no idea too early – the Startmate community is here to support you to take that next step.

After Office Hours, applications will open for our next accelerator program, the Summer21 cohort. Open to companies across Australia and New Zealand, this will again include a dedicated climate cohort supported by the CEFC Innovation Fund.

You can catch up on the activities of our last cohort with this replay of our most recent Demo Day.

Apart from our most geographically dispersed cohort, we want to make Summer21 the largest one yet.

Yes, 2020 has been a year of reset for us all, but we have an opportunity to kick off 2021 ahead, ready to tackle what truly matters and make an impact. Despite having a decade behind us, at Startmate we know we’re just getting started. Are you?