Cheryl Mack, head of start-up and growth conference StartCon2016

StartCon2016: Why companies need to survive any environment

Sam McKeith

Cheryl Mack has a message for start-ups looking for funding in 2016 – it’s rough out there.

“What we’re saying is that investors are pulling back on making new investments in new companies and that, combined with uncertainty in the global market is creating a really tough time for start-ups to find funding,” says Mack, who’s the head of StartCon, Australia’s biggest start-up and growth conference.

The 2-day conference enters its sixth year in 2016, and this time around, is making the global battle for start-up funding its focus.

“What investors are looking at now are companies that can survive in any environment,” Mack says.

“What we’re calling them is ‘cockroaches’ – that’s what today’s start-ups should want to be.”

“What investors are looking at now are companies that can survive in any environment.”

She said the slowdown in start-up investment was partly due to private US companies known as “unicorns” that were struggling to find buyers, despite being valued at over $1 billion.

“There’s somewhere between 500 and 600 million dollars-worth of unicorns that aren’t able to find an exit,” Mack said.

“The trouble with these hyped up valuations is that obviously the companies can’t retain that valuation in the long run which makes them unsustainable.

“I think what we’re seeing is that clearly the unicorn funding model is not working and we should no longer be trying to get into the unicorn club.”

Mack said part of the answer was for local start-ups to refocus on attractive and innovative business offerings and “selling something that customers want.”

She said the goal for StartCon 2016 was to help make Aussie companies better global players that were able be sustainable and survive in the long run.

“We’ve tried to get some of the most amazing growth minds and entrepreneurs from around the world"

Speakers at this year’s event include Survey Monkey Growth vice president Elena Verna, Zillow vice president Nate Moch, BitTorrent senior product manager Annabell Satterfield and Meta co-founder Ben Sand.

“We’ve tried to get some of the most amazing growth minds and entrepreneurs from around the world, we are bringing over 15 international speakers to Sydney which is almost unprecedented,” Mack said.

Among the topics to be covered are how to find the best growth tactics, how to maximise revenue at minimum cost and how to access the best channels for acquisition.

Around 2,000 people attended last year’s event and another bumper crowd is expected this time around.

The event will also include a start-up pitch competition, with first prize a chance to compete in the global finals in Silicon Valley.

The conference runs on November 26 and 27 at Sydney’s Randwick Racecourse and more information about it can be found here.

Sam McKeith

Sam McKeith is Sydney-based media professional. He has contributed to many leading publications including The Huffington Post, The Australian Financial Review, The Australian and BRW Magazine. He was previously a senior reporter at the Australian Associated Press where he covered national affairs.