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Five Aussie founders share their secrets for building a successful business

In 2020, the coronavirus crisis disrupted nearly every facet of life. In all the chaos, company priorities shifted; the way people worked changed; and lifestyles were uncertain. This disruption has left many industries ripe for new innovations and poised Australia’s startup community for success.

However, it’s no secret that launching a new business is challenging. Thousands of people do it every year – some more successful than others. So what is the make or break of building a business? Well it can be a few things and that’s why we’ve asked five successful founders and former participants of the UNSW Founders 10x accelerator program, “What’s the one piece of advice you would give for launching a new business?”

Execution and resilience is key to success

Tom Caska and Rakesh Routhu are the co-founders of Australian drone startup Aerologix (Uber for Drones). Earlier this year the company raised $1.5 million within a few months of completing the 10x program.

Tom’s advice for other aspiring founders is that execution and resilience is key.

“Swing for the rafters and leave no stone unturned. Take that extra meeting, make that extra call,  go to that networking event, expect knock-backs and knockdowns – this is all part of the journey, Embrace it! This is how you will learn and make yourself, your team and yourproduct even better! The big wins WILL come, it’s just a matter of time.”

Rakesh believes having the right team is also critical.

“Having the right team is one of the most critical things in building a successful start-up. Do everything to give them challenging things to work on and take good care of them. Motivate them enough to make them turn up to work in building this dream together.”

Really bring customers on your journey

Frances Atkins is the co-founder of Givvable, a platform that captures the sustainability attributes of suppliers, making it easier to search, engage, educate and track the sustainability/ESG profile of their supply and value chain. Following the 10x program, Givvable raised a total of $875k across grants and investments.

Frances’ advice is: “Firstly, bring customers on your journey (really on your journey – from clunky prototype to first functionality) and they will become your biggest and most valuable advocates. Secondly, how we described Givvable 12 months ago vs. today is like night and day (and there have been at least 100 versions in-between!). Explain what you do in different ways – when you start getting big long nods from your audience … you know you are on the right track.”

Jane Qiu founder of Kintell

Find a balance of sense and sensibility

Jane Qiu is the co-founder of Kintell, a platform that allows users to search through hundreds of vetted professionals and book time for one-on-one advice. Kintell recently won the Accelerating Commercialisation grant.

Jane’s advice is to find a balance between sense and sensibility: “Make sure you are working on a startup that solves the problem you are most passionate about in your life – not “one” of the many problems you may want to solve. The determination and passion of the founders are critical to pulling a startup through all the ups and downs – which will inevitably happen. On the other hand, you need to remain rational and not let emotion get too much in the way especially when it comes to challenging situations such as pivoting. You need to focus on the evidence from the market and to be able to go beyond your personal attachment to the original idea.”

share with oscar

Lisa Qi and Louise Chen founders of Share with Oscar

Be frugal, take accountability and trust your instincts

Lisa Qi is the co-founder of Share with Oscar, Sydney;s leading parking app that has been likened to Airbnb and Uber. Lisa had five core pieces of advice to share:

  1.  Surround yourself with doers. Sure it’s nice to have the dreamers and the thinkers. But when it comes down to it, it’s all about execution, and pulling up your sleeves to make things happen.
  2. Be scrappy, be frugal. You don’t need a fancy office in the city, you don’t need the excessive travel or to stay in nice hotels, you don’t need the upgraded versions of software. All of that money could be spent on investing on growth.
  3. Take complete accountability and ownership over what you do. When running a startup everything that you do or don’t do has an impact and you see that impact very quickly. It forces you to be more agile, creative, and problem solve, and that’s the type of environment where I feel most energised.
  4. Trust your instincts. It’s important to get comfortable with going off only your instincts when making decisions, especially in those early days. Much of the time, that’s all you have, as you don’t have the luxury of time and complete data.
  5. There will often be moments of self-doubt that stifle you. There will be days where everything feels like it’s going in the opposite direction, and you are just coming up against brick walls. I think it’s important to have a mental dialogue to lift you out of those moments. What works for me is to remind myself of why I started, what I want to accomplish, and that others are counting on me. And at the end of it all, all of the challenges I face will make for a great book one day.”

Written by Cec Busby, Business Builders 

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