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Anna Sainsbury: 2022 was a challenging year for firms seeking investment funds

Going into 2022, I think collectively we were optimistic that we were beginning to put COVID behind us. Then we started the new year and the Omicron variant hit right after the holidays.
BIV Files

Going into 2022, I think collectively we were optimistic that we were beginning to put COVID behind us. 

Then we started the new year and the Omicron variant hit right after the holidays. Despite this setback, I think we did see the light at the end of the tunnel, and people were keeping a sense of optimism about the year ahead. At GeoComply, we took the necessary precautions but also considered ourselves lucky that we didn’t have the various waves of COVID take out any of our global teams. But this variant did hamper getting teams back together and slowed down our start to the new year. 

By the time it felt safer to start getting together, around the end of February, we saw the beginning of the war in Ukraine. This debilitating global setback reminded us of how dependent we all are on one another throughout Europe and the world. 

Across the technology industry, Ukrainian talent is held in high regard. At GeoComply, we’ve been fortunate to have our team based in Kharkiv, Ukraine, for many years. We quickly moved into action to get our team members to safety and set up in new locations. We opened an office in Warsaw, Poland, and supported affected team members with any resources needed to get them to our offices in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. 

Within the first five weeks of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we were questioning how this war was going to affect industries and technology. Then by the end of March, we began to hear questions about whether we were in a recession or if a recession was on the horizon, while the financial industry was saying that soon we’d be coming out of the recession. 

Mid-year we started to see companies making redundancies. Some of these cutbacks were messaged around COVID right-sizing after seeing rapid growth over the past few years. 

We also started to see companies that were pro-work from-home saying, “I need you to come into the office now.” We continue to see rapid growth here at GeoComply and still have many great roles open that we’re looking to fill as soon as we can. 

For our team, being back in the office this year was one thing, but we find incredible value in meeting with our customers face to face and attending conferences and trade shows. 

Over the past couple of years, I think we’ve seen industries evaluate their impact on the planet, having been able to continue to conduct their operations virtually. At GeoComply, we’re more selective and creative about balancing our environmental impact with our travel needs, but do make sure we meet customers in person, because it’s the best way to understand their needs. 

By November, it was remarkable to be in the same room as 70,000 other attendees at the 2022 Web Summit. 

Over the past year, we’ve seen challenges in the fundraising climate. Investors are looking closely at cash flow and burn rate. They currently favour investing in companies that are a safer bet and already know how to operate with positive cash flow. We are still seeing companies that need funding but aren’t cash-flow positive get stuck on attracting new investments. 

Looking forward, I think the recession we’re in will be here for longer than people were hoping. I believe 2023 will get harder before it gets better, and we might not see a positive change until we move into 2024. 

Over previous years, markets were optimistic for longer than I expected. It’s pretty hard to see many big tech companies being run far from profitably for a long time. The tech industry needs to learn how it can run profitably but still be innovative and deliver at a high-quality level, while retaining the talent needed to reach objectives. This is a pretty significant shift, but one that I think is necessary. 

There are many positives with these shifts, too, because it’s often through challenging times that we see processes get streamlined and we see more creative thinking with regard to problem-solving. I’m excited to see what the next year brings. ■ 

Anna Sainsbury is co-founder and CEO of GeoComply.