Ten tips for a successful startup

Take risks, think like a Luddite and be careful who you take money from.

Building and growing a successful startup in Australia takes hard work, dedication and money. Here are ten tips offered by successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists at the Microsoft Asia-Pacific Entrepreneur Summit in Sydney:

  • 1. Think like a Luddite.
    Luddites “don’t know the limits” of what technology can do, but they do know what they “want it to do,” says James Tuckerman, founder of Australian Anthill.

  • 2. Set high goals and take risks.
    “Success is defined by you, so if you don’t think you’re going to be successful … you won’t be,” says Viocorp CEO, Ian Gardiner. Risks are important and too much fear of failure leads to failure, he says.

  • 3. Get feedback.
    When shaping the business, talk to the “right customers,” says Founders Institute director of Singapore, Jeff Paine. Friends are unlikely to present an objective opinion. Don’t ignore your customers because they often have good ideas, adds One Venture executive director Michelle Deaker. “At the end of the day, you need to sell people and you need customers.”

  • 4. Choose investors carefully.
    “Be very careful about who you take your money from,” says Commercialisation Australia CEO Doron Ben-Meir. “Particularly at that early state where you’re relatively experienced, your business is relatively immature [and] you have a long way to go,” it’s important to have an investor that can weather the bad times as well as the good, he says. “If you’re taking money from people who don’t understand the business, invariably it’s a disaster.”

  • 5. Be clear.
    Presentations to potential investors should be formal and cogent, says Hall Capital director, Vivian Stewart. Startups should come armed with financial projections and a sharp understanding of the problem they are trying to solve, and they should “explain clearly” how they will solve the problem.

  • 6. Win the customer triumvirate.
    There are “three customers that every single business needs,” says Blue Chilli founder Sebastian Eckersley-Maslin: the target customer of your product, the scale and growth customer who will buy more than one product, and lastly the strategic customer. The latter type of customer is the one “who will buy you out” because “they can make more money than you can at your business.”

  • 7. Evolve.
    It’s OK to take a business in a new direction, Gardiner says. “If you can pivot and make money, even if it’s just selling yourself and your expertise, do it.”

  • 8. Think globally
    Australia is a “great proving market” but “not the largest of markets,” says Adventure Capital founder Stuart Richardson. “Entrepreneurs really do need to set their sights high and … into larger markets.” Southern Cross Ventures assesses startups through a “global lens,” says managing director Bill Bartee.

  • 9. Success isn’t overnight
    It took Gardiner 10 years to make his business successful. You can’t expect “overnight success” and perseverance is vital, he said. “Even when it’s hard, it’s fun.”

  • 10. Don’t name the business after yourself.
    ”You might go belly up” and your name will be forever associated with the business’s failure, says Eckersley-Maslin.

    SingTel and Optus recently announced a seed program to help Australian startups get going.

    Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

    Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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