In his press conference yesterday, Daniel Andrews said “leadership in a crisis is doing what is right, not doing what is popular”.
Call it what you will, but the newly released roadmap is the wrong kind of right for new startups.
It’s not safe, and it’s not smart.
There have been many reactions to the timing and conditions of the roadmap from business groups: big business, retail, regional, small business.
Missed in this is the perspective of the startup community.
Because startups are so small, their revenue just a blip, their workforces small, early-stage founders can easily be ignored. But these are the essential workers.
What they do, or don’t do, now, we will feel in six to nine months from now.
More than ever, they are needed to drag us out of this malaise.
Our entrepreneurs have received a double portion of a bitter circumstance, because their personal lives and their businesses are closely entwined. At times superimposed.
They were working from home long before workplaces closed. They are less eligible for support than any of us.
Startup founders risk far more than unemployment, and for many, this prolonged closure has put to the sword long periods of ideation, hard-won investment in the customer experience, shredded forecasts, reverted business plans, generally in a pre-revenue haze.
They have had to confront the death of their dreams.
Which is problematic for us.
After all, they represent future value, future jobs and future competitive advantage for this country.
Many founders saw stage one restrictions as a chance to pull back from their launch and commercialisation roadmaps and rework components of their strategy they may have left undercooked. They played to advantage.
And when Australia reopened, they hustled hard and made up for lost time.
They reinvested and set new horizons, but were caught out in July with the sudden announcement of new restrictions. All bets were now off.
There were no longer stage one wins, as there was no confidence in how the government would resolve this.
They were told to stay at home from 8pm: an unprecedented hindrance for our most creative, insightful and canny, who are highly capable of understanding the health risks of COVID and self-restricting.
Our early-stage founders have specific lockdown needs that coalesce around their own mental health.
It’s not just customers they need to reconnect with.
It’s the coaches, mentors, solution providers and energy of their co-working hubs, without which, they are deflated.
Over Zoom calls, I see the dull eyes, the suppressed yawns, the resignation, the tears.
The pandemic has revealed a major opportunity for this country: innovation.
Last year, Australia was ranked sixth in the world for entrepreneurship, but we’re weak on innovation, where we’re ranked 22nd.
We can’t expect the miraculous from our founders if we can’t speak to their needs at this time of sustained, punishing dislocation.
Let our founders attend one-on-one outdoor COVIDSafe walking meetings with their advisors. This is make or break.
Let them access new forms of support that speaks to their circumstances. Again, make or break.
Let them anticipate how to trade by revealing practical market-facing arrangements that are absolute, not relative.
Anything less is just not smart.
And we know where that will lead this country.
This article reflects the author’s personal views.