Dave Slutzkin talks about Flippa's Tech Fast 50 success, how to maintain innovation in the startup space and battling the Australian idea that failure is a bad thing.
Explain to me your role at Flippa.com and what does the company do?
Flippa is the number one marketplace for buying and selling websites and Web businesses. We're like eBay for websites — we bring together website owners and website investors.
I'm the general manager, which in our small team means that I do a bit of everything depending on the day, from marketing to development to support to strategy to business development. It's a really broad role and I like it that way.
What does your IT team look like?
We don't have an IT team as such. Our entire business is online and relies on our website, so you could either consider everyone or no-one as being our IT team.
We have a system admin who helps keep our infrastructure running smoothly, developers who create the website itself, marketers who consider customers and shape the product. But in a very real way, none of us can get too far from the website itself.
Can you tell me about your recent recognition at the Tech 50 awards?
We were very happy to be deemed second of the Rising Stars in the Deloitte Tech Fast 50. Flippa's only existed for a little over two years and Deloitte recognised our really strong growth through that time. It's pretty humbling to consider the other companies who've been recognised there over the years; from our sister companies 99designs and SitePoint, to great firms like Atlassian, Catch of the Day, Hitwise and Seek. We can only hope to get close to the success of these great firms.
How long have you been in operation and what kinds of projects are you working on?
We've been standing on our own two feet for a bit over two years, building a product that we're really proud of. However, it's safe to say that marketing is our Achilles heel. Most of our team, who are great, are from a development background, which means that we're really great at building a quality product but not so good at selling it. The main focus for us in the next year or two is to ramp up our marketing to the same high level that our development is at.
What do you think are the biggest technological trends that are driving innovation in the startup space?
In our area, we're seeing a big trend away from classic 'career work' into more entrepreneurial modes of living. Many people find Flippa and realise that they can create websites which people will use and which will pay the bills. This means they don't need to have a regular job but can work for themselves, with increased flexibility and more empowerment.
How do you maintain innovation in a sector that is growing so quickly?
It's not easy. In practice, it has to be an attitude of the whole organisation, as any member of the team can come up with a brilliant idea, see an amazing opportunity or find a great new technology.
Everyone at Flippa knows that I'm open and willing to consider any suggestions, so I get great input from the team every day. And then it's just about management and prioritisation. Not every innovative idea is a good one, necessarily. So there's a bit of strategic thinking required to get all the ducks lined up and make the right things happen.
Why do you think the Australian startup space has been growing so much recently?
Australia should be a great place for startups. We have one of the best education systems in the world and a comfortable life where no-one should be too afraid of failure. However, we've also got an entrenched tall poppy syndrome, an attitude of distrusting innovation and smart thinking and success. And on top of this, in practice, Australians seem to be quite unwilling to fail, which doesn't easily match with an entrepreneur's lot.
It's not obvious what's changing here, but obviously the last couple of years have seen an explosion of startups. It's possible that we're getting a bit more of the US mentality of celebrating successes and being willing to fail in pursuit of innovation. Certainly, this is an interesting time to be working in startups.
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