Fortune’s Most Powerful Women: Finding Success During Economic Turbulence
Jun 14, 2023|
Editor’s note: Eclipse Partner Aidan Madigan-Curtis joined a panel at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen Conference to discuss what the current economic downturn means for business leaders looking to raise capital.
At Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen Conference, Eclipse Partner Aidan Madigan-Curtis joined Jesse Draper, General Partner at Halogen Ventures, Kirin Sinha, Founder and CEO of Illumix, and Monique Woodard, Founding Partner and Managing Director of Cake Ventures, to answer the question: What does the current economic downturn mean for business leaders looking to raise capital?
A big topic of discussion on the panel centered on the importance of supporting and prioritizing the founders and investment theses that are centered around real-world impact. In tougher economic times, VCs and founders tend to gravitate toward solving more critical problems that require the world’s immediate attention versus non-essential, “nice-to-have” ideas.
“What did people learn the hard way during COVID? It’s that our supply chains — how we build things and where we build things — have drastically changed in the past couple of decades. Eclipse is all-in on bringing new technologies with a modern stack into the way we manufacture industries like construction, last-mile logistics, energy generation, transmission, storage, and more. The things that quite literally power our economy are where we have been focused for almost a decade,” said Madigan-Curtis.
This is why, when asked which industries the panelists believe have the greatest opportunity for growth, Madigan-Curtis expressed excitement for where manufacturing and technology meet. Referencing the universal — and wild — experience of “toilet-paper-mageddon 2020,” when Americans couldn’t access imperative resources or said resources were spiking at exuberant costs, Madigan-Curtis believes the collective pain brought more talent to bear. As a result, she’s witnessed founders move away from “flashier tech focuses” like crypto or fintech that have dominated the past decade and toward solutions that will impact both current and future generations, like modernizing supply chain and manufacturing, which are also being hit by macroeconomic headwinds.
“It's really fascinating because manufacturing is always a leading sector, which also makes it an indicator of a downturn. It gets hit first and fast and there's a bullwhip effect. Not now, right? So, I don't think overall U.S. manufacturing is thriving right now, but there are significant pockets of growth. I'm very excited about where we can bring tech-enabled innovation to areas like 3D metal additive or metal fabrication and other types of componentry back to the U.S. or nearshore to cut out some of the carbon footprint and deal with some of the supply chain challenges,” said Madigan-Curtis.
She argues the same goes for automation in manufacturing and construction, specifically citing the housing crisis. “There's just simply not enough housing stock to help us curb inflation or to deal with a growing population. We need better ways to bring more housing to people. And there's a huge role for technology to help move the needle.” For example, Reframe Systems, an Eclipse Venture Equity company, is on a mission to accelerate the development of net-zero homes affordably and at scale by building modular homes through automated construction.
Additional takeaways included:
Great companies can thrive despite the current macroeconomic environment: There’s still a lot of money in the startup ecosystem, but now the bar is higher. While the past few years of rising tides and essentially free money allowed every idea to come to fruition, the current environment will shine a light on the companies that will actually go the distance.
Build the right leadership team to grow with purpose: The panelists agreed that in a downturn, profitability isn’t do-or-die, but rather, growth is a more important focus. In order to pave a path to long-term, sustainable growth during an economic downturn, standout leadership is required to drive discipline across the business.
By the end of the discussion, the consensus was clear: the startups born out of today’s downturn market that will succeed will be the ones that contribute toward a more resilient and sustainable future. For the full discussion, watch and listen here.
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