The NASDAQ shedding 30% of its value overnight has had a wonderful consequence for startups: every single investor now only speaks of unit economics. And Europe is now following suit.
For most startups, the novelty is a system shock.
We are talking about the end of pitching a future business and just having to be sexy about it. A new era of normalcy is currently engulfing tech entrepreneurs as they will have to monetize something from day one (a previously untold horror only briefly witnessed for a few months after the dot-com crash of yore).
To say I'm enjoying this moment is a colossal understatement: I'm not sorry; I love rationality. And so should you for the foreseeable future.
This might also change a few things along the way for startup ecosystems.
Here are five predictions:
1. Less pitch, more grit
Training startups on pitching and raising money from business angels will not be a top priority anymore for top-performing ecosystems. I'm not naive, though. Most startup ecosystems will not budge and keep working as if we were still swimming in cheap capital. PowerPoint charisma was the best feature to develop for an entrepreneur.
Incubators and tech clusters are utterly conservative beasts and rarely apt at seizing the zeitgeist. But be on the lookout for the few ones that will shift gear in the next few months.
2. More founders as funders
I started to see the rise of many founders' funds lately. This is the future of early-stage investing for sure. I always have been very cautious around BA investment; you can't get skilled when investing 15K once a year, plain and simple. Innovation is a number and portfolio game. This will also push more vertical investment in sectors like biotech or supply-chain management and less in more prospective fields (which can be a mixed blessing).
3. From deeptech to diptech
Everyone will still be talking about deeptech for a while, but in reality, money will go to diptech. Startups that just dip in a specific tech to unlock a current market problem and that will show money within a year or two max.
See 1. and 2.
4. Seasoned entrepreneurs or bust
Despite what communicants and journalists love to broadcast, the startup demographic was mostly in the 35-45 age group. This will be reinforced further, not just for the experience's sake but mostly because of their professional network. Like it or not, it's easier to sell a tech prototype as a startup to an industry you've worked in for the last decade.
I'm afraid that this will also translate into fewer women in tech, as there are fewer women currently in a corporate jobs. And we will pay the negative dividends of never having taken care of this blatant issue. Surprisingly enough, France is not doing too poorly on this and is close to Sweden...
5. From city-driven to inter-regional ecosystems
Yes, the European Commission is asking for this no matter what, but I see more and more reason for startup ecosystems to stop being frozen around a few cities trying to rank in the Financial Times' top 10. Who cares about London when you can have Dublin - Edinburgh - Singapore? How fast can you find seasoned developers and business developers if you're only seeking in a 2Km radius around your metro station?
I will inevitably be off on a few things, but not on everything I've listed here. Startup ecosystems will be changing in the next few years in drastic ways. And the first moments of the end of an era are never easy to deal with.
I'm cautiously optimistic, though. I might like the new reality much more with a few concerns still.