By Andy Hudson, Investment Manager at PFG Australia
With another fantastic Sunrise Conference firmly in the review, we decided to share a handful of our takeaways from one of ANZ’s marquee, founder-focused conferences.
We are reminded of the powerful “number 8 wire” mentality: founders tend to be humble and resourceful (or scrappy, as our US colleagues say), with clear plans for turning a dollar into five. The ingrained culture of New Zealanders is a powerful resource and advantage for founders. One benefit of a global investment mandate is that we have the opportunity to become familiar with the many permutations of the venture and start-up sectors in markets worldwide. What’s notable is how NZ remains a place where founders are genuine and often understated versus what we hear elsewhere. This can be a tremendous asset as it keeps teams grounded and focused, attracting talent tied to the company’s mission. However, it may also present challenges depending on how this culture/mentality adapts as the business moves into new and foreign markets.
When considering lending opportunities in NZ, we are regularly impressed by the founders’ thoughtful presentation of their company’s history and objectives. #Storytelling was a key theme of Sunrise, with Canva’s Cameron Adams using the conference’s concluding remarks to highlight the importance of storytelling in aligning people and culture in organizations. This theme certainly extends to the capital raising process and how the story is communicated to investors across the capital structure, with different investors focused on different parts of the same story. At PFG, we focus on getting into the details quickly, understanding the revenue model, go-to-market, unit economics, and path to profitability to provide swift feedback to founders during our initial due diligence on where and when debt capital may be a useful tool.
Finally, we are excited to see the continued growth and maturation of capital options, including increased awareness of debt and alternative capital. Our friends at Tractor Ventures (shout out to Jodie Imam and Gary Williams) hosted a session exploring the use cases for alternative debt capital, telling the stories of several of their portfolio companies and how debt capital was used to drive top-line growth while reducing dilution for founders and existing equity investors. Ultimately, a greater depth of capital options in the market across both equity and debt means the pie grows for everyone’s benefit. Seeing Blackbird collaborating with Tractor to host this session and help build awareness of the many alternatives to raising equity for start-ups and scale-ups in New Zealand was fantastic.
As the Sunrise Conference concludes, we are energized by the opportunities on the horizon. The emphasis on New Zealand’s unique founder culture and the importance of effective storytelling stands out. The discussions on evolving capital avenues further highlight the continued maturation of capital markets and capital availability for early-stage and scale-ups in the country. At PFG, we aim to deeply understand these narratives, collaborate with founders, and contribute to NZ’s innovation ecosystem’s ongoing growth and development. We look forward to further engagements and learnings in the coming years.