Runway is one of the signature events on the Angel Association NZ calendar and provides founders with the opportunity to network and meet with other investors and founders from around the country.

BNZ Founder Scholarship recipient Elise Hilliam attended the AANZ Runway event in Auckland in May.

Elise is a cofounder of MenuAid,  a seamless menu planning platform that makes mealtimes easier with weekly recipes, an editable shopping list and flexible shopping options.

Here, Elise shares her key learnings for other founders, from the Runway event.

Earlier this year, I was the lucky recipient of the BNZ Scholarship for the AANZ Runway Event. Hosted in the Simpson Grierson office, it was a little overwhelming with the caliber of people in the room but it was hard not to be inspired! Thankyou AANZ for organising an incredible event and BNZ for supporting it and aiding me in getting there. 

Throughout the day, the panel discussions shared insights and advice that has stuck with me and will continue to throughout my journey. Mohan Nair spoke about the US Market and how to navigate the complexities and Rod Snodgrass spoke about “being a bit weird” (very relatable) and being backable as a founder.

 Every speaker had invaluable discussions however my key takeaways for founders were:

  • Look after yourself. As a founder, it is your energy, enthusiasm, and passion that is going to drive your idea forward, so you need to care for yourself like you would anyone else. I also learned of the Abroad Founder Wellbeing Programme they’re sponsoring and now am taking part in.
  • It is not a walk in the park. A panel of investors and founders got up to share their war stories which we all took so much from. It is relieving to hear others’ journeys and what they’ve gone through to get where they are.
  • Before Series A, make your company ‘multitaskable’. When you go to raise your Series A your time working in the company itself will be scarce, ensure the team is set up for success while you’re away.
  • It is never too early to plan for future rounds. Talk to investors, talk to NZTE, get advice, and plan for future rounds. They’re all willing to help so just ask.
  • ESOP’s (Employee Share Ownership Plans) – don’t undernourish your team. ESOP’s are a strong tool for incentivising your team and attracting great talent. When setting up an ESOP, don’t undernourish your team and leave a small piece of the pie.
  • ESOP can be performance-based. There was great discussion around ESOP and how rather than it being purely time-based, much like other bonus structures, it too can be performance-based. Some people perform well at certain stages and then it is good to have the ability to buy them out when the company outgrows them.
  • Don’t pay your directors/advisors for the first few years. We were told this is a big “no, no”, which was great to hear it from the horse’s mouth. Again there was a big emphasis on how willing everyone is to get involved and help out.

Above all else, what I really appreciated was the openness and transparency, knowledge sharing, and relationship building between the investors and founders present. I really felt the shift that is happening in our ecosystem where no longer are investors and founders sitting opposite ends of the table, but rather working together to get what is best for not only the founder or investor but rather best for their companies, their ideas and their entire startup ecosystem.

I strongly believe that the way for NZ to become globally renowned for startups and innovation, we need to build it up together, side-by-side, and this event is absolutely a step in the right direction.

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