Summit Expedition – A Journey To The Space Between

Key takeaways from our Summit Expedition in Thredbo 

Our community of later stage founders and CEOs (Summit), recently embarked on their annual Expedition, a three day immersive journey of personal and business exploration. The overarching theme was The Space Between with our members exploring three sub themes of You & Us, You & Your Team and You & Your Business. 

The power of our Summit Community is the nature in which we craft intimate, peer to peer learning opportunities within the network of exceptional founders.  With an average valuation of $200M, the group is made up of founders and CEO’s from across Australia. 

For our second Summit Expedition (the first in Tasmania last year),  we decided to step things up a notch by engaging a team of experts to help us craft something truly memorable. Cam Webb (the leadership guru), Anika Patel (the experientialist) and Olly Bridge (the wellness fanatic) – worked with us to curate an agenda to leave our community inspired, having gained space and a renewed sense of purpose . How, you might ask, did we achieve all this? 

Our journey kicked off in Canberra, where our community gathered to begin their Summit Expedition. Our destination – Theredo  In order to create a clear break from our current lives, we started with an ice bath challenge, in Thredbo, in winter. Nothing like putting the body into a high stress situation to create the space for clear thinking. 

Each day of the Expedition had a specific theme. Day one’s sub theme was The Space Between You & Us –  with a focus on connecting everyone and talking through the space between who you are today and the person you want to be. We started with analysing how we deal with and manage stress.  Talking as a group about what causes stress, how to think about it and how to manage it. The group found this to be an amazing way to kick things off, given how much our communities deal with stress, from delivering on your dream to growing a business, managing a team and investors, to being a partner, father, mother, friend and more. 

Day two was The Space Between You and Your Team.   Led by Olly Bridge, we started the day with an early morning breathing technique designed  to manage stress.  It’s amazing the simple  things we can adopt  that can have a profound impact on your day to day and this is part of the key takeaways of our Summit Expedition.  What can we use today, tomorrow and the next day that can positively affect  performance and well being? 

The average team size of a Summit member is around 55. Members were asked to share a questionnaire with their teams prior to the event to identify the stressors currently being experienced to ensure a true read on data.  The takeaways from this session were incredibly valuable for members; not just to identify headaches affecting their own teams, but to feel the camaraderie of shared experience – their fellow members were in similar situations.  

Though a great deal of the data remains confidential, we can share that the average stress level of the surveyed group was edging close to 7 out of 10. Some of the identified stressors included finances and revenue, competition, the world situation, macroeconomic conditions, limited resources, workload, bandwidth and time constraints, culture and work life balance. Members were offered applicable takeaways to assist with the alleviation of stressors and anxiety within their businesses. 

“…you ensured that the purpose was clear, the facilitators were fab, and everyone had a wonderful time.”  

Day two wasn’t all about work. We like to provide a unique mix of activities and workshops.  The day’s activity was an adventure race ‘Race To The Summit’ across the slopes of Thredbo designed by our amazing Events Manager Steph Yoon. This was in groups and included some challenging terrain with challenges from  finding an avalanche transceiver to  catching a ladybug (really just Ian Gardiner in a ladybug ski helmet).  The challenge was designed to drive camaraderie within each group, enabling more vulnerability and candor. 

Day three was a little slow to get going, after a fun night that included a poker tournament and an exercise to see who could tell the difference between the truth and a lie.  We learned more about each other on our second night than we ever thought possible. Again starting with an early morning exercise session, the energy in the room was contagious.   Day three saw us  turn the focus to the The Space Between You and Your Business. Given the current market conditions, we divided the group into three categories: rowth, conservation of cash and exit. These groups were led by members and the discussions went deep. There is nothing better than learning from someone who has just been there or in the middle of going there! To help us dive deep, our core Summit code was employed: advice giving is forbidden and only personal experiences can be shared. 

Discussion moved through to a consideration of who is exiting the business. Just the founder? Raising in the current market and conditions you need to include to close a round.  When is the best time to exit and how to best run a process? How to create a runway and how to communicate effectively with the team to be transparent. While all conversations were equally attended, some key take outs suggested that there is still capital available, but valuations have come off the high of the last couple of years. Customer engagement remains strong and there is a unique opportunity to hire exceptional talent as some of the larger tech companies slow growth.  I walked away optimistic about the next 12 months. 

An observation has been made to the change in speed of execution, with internal raises proving to be a timely exercise, in turn extending the time scale by at least a month. We’ve seen much change from what was reality 12 months ago. A different and new landscape has been evolving, with capital efficiency and the roadmap to profitability following suit. We’ve seen a driving down in cost, which has improved unit economics. 

Interestingly, there was advice that investors find bootstrapping attractive, something that may not have been so some 12 months prior. With VCs under the microscope, there was an opinion shared that VCs will discount future contract revenue (sometimes by 50%) if there is a termination by convenience clause.

The ‘I want to use this opportunity to scale and grow’ session we discussed the importance of making your runway last twice as long and that it is crucial to adjust financial plans every quarter. We were advised to contemplate the timeframe to impact. If hiring new staff, consider how long it will take for them to make an impact. There are difficulties around scaling a team at the required rate, with our founders advised, you could have the potential to be your own biggest threat. There was a caution to pump the brakes, and an (almost) guarantee that the price and quality of talent is going to improve in the next 12 months. 

Our facilitator raised a magnifying glass on whether there are opportunities to grow inorganically – for instance, acquiring an existing business. The current market state is an opportunity to reset, and remain product led; to not be too heavy on sales and think about the ratio of engineering talent to sales talent. 

Between early morning wellness sessions, dynamic team challenges, invaluable peer to peer learning, and a bite or two to eat, our members were treated to two terrific member-facilitated panels, featuring a handful of experts from Google Cloud, KPMG, Macquarie, Investment NSW, ASX and Preacta. We took a deep dive into topics associated with current market conditions both locally and globally. 

During the global discussion, topics meandered between focus. finance, talent and standing out in an equity-filled market. When thinking about global expansion, we were told it is critical that the narrative into the market be super tight. Equally crucial that there is enough time to plan and get it right. There was advice to not fear the government during a time of expansion. On the contrary; the government is in fact there to assist and wants to see success. 

There was a consensus that while the last 18 months have been incredibly hard to hire great talent, there is a big opportunity and much more efficient methods to do so. For instance, for US expansion, must the workforce be US-based or could there be a consideration for hiring in Columbia, where a vast talent pool exists? Another observation was seeing the headcount of marketing departments decrease but spends increase. But more than anything, a product that is useful and solves a problem is likely to succeed in an untapped market!  

We closed out day three with a vertical ski challenge (well done Coppo) and peer-led workshops with a communal dinner on the mountain followed by some quiet drinks and networking. We did hear rumors of a giraffe, bat and a pig wandering around the Thredbo Alpine hotel in the early hours of the morning..very strange indeed.  Huge thanks to all who attended – our members, partners and facilitators. Summit Expedition was exceptional and will go down in history as one of the best events Innovation Bay has ever run. 

“Thanks so much for such a great few days. Truly grateful for all the fun, learning and new connections.” 

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