Building Success Beyond VC Funding The ‘Thriving Middle’ Approach

The landscape of startups is evolving, and Mentorloop stands as a testament to this evolution. Departing from the conventional growth-at-all-costs strategy, Mentorloop has been thriving profitably for over two years, steering away from the frenzy of seeking continual injections of capital—a shift the founders now advocate for other entrepreneurs.

In a climate where financial runways are contracting and the pursuit of capital is becoming increasingly challenging—reaching its lowest point in four years—many founders faced a sudden shift. Investors, once proponents of scaling at an accelerated pace, pivoted to emphasize preserving runway and capital. This change prompted job cuts and a significant restructuring of startups and their strategic plans.

Lucy Lloyd, CEO of Melbourne-based Mentorloop, stresses the necessity of this shift in business philosophy, considering it not only essential but also a more pragmatic path for sustainable growth. She believes it’s high time for more founders to seriously consider this alternative approach.

“As an ecosystem, it’s crucial to acknowledge that not every company needs to strive for unicorn status. We should appreciate and highlight the ‘thriving middle’ of our startup sector—businesses that have veered away from incessant fundraising and discovered alternative avenues for growth,” she asserts.

“Many founders grapple with securing funding, especially in the current freeze, making it an opportune moment to share our story as an alternative to the endless cycle of fundraising. Often, it becomes a futile distraction, diverting founders’ attention from building their businesses, yielding little in return.”

Following their profitable phase, Mentorloop’s growth trajectory continued upward, now collaborating with over 175 global organizations, including major local brands like Woolworths, Xero, REA Group, and Monash University.

Mentorloop serves as an online platform simplifying internal mentoring programs for companies. Operating on a subscription model, the platform facilitates mentor-mentee connections with precision, amplifying the impact of mentoring relationships. Since its inception in 2016, Mentorloop has fostered more than 40,000 mentorships.

While the Melbourne startup initially raised $725,000 in seed funding in late 2017 and accumulated $1.25 million from backers like Blackbird, Rampersand, and Folklore, their focus has since shifted.

Following our profitability milestone, we’ve redirected our efforts towards the community impact of our business. Initiating a Community Partner Program, we’ve supported over 58 community and nonprofit organizations, saving them over $350,000, enabling greater accessibility to mentoring within these communities, shares Heidi Holmes, cofounder, and chief operating officer.

Furthermore, our global expansion has been a deliberate, well-paced process. Establishing teams in the UK and entering the US market this year have been strategic decisions, not compelled by meeting benchmarks for our next funding round.