I recently took part in the Startup Catalyst Female Founder Mission to London for London Tech Week 9th -15th June 2019.
As the CEO of inndox Pty Ltd, a tech company based in Brisbane, I saw this as an opportunity of a lifetime to be taken on a curated business trip dedicated to introducing female founders to the London startup eco-system and to be exposed to the real possibility of running a global business. I viewed this as a chance to make international long-term business connections, learn from globally successful founders, be introduced to technology and business leaders, engage and bond with other like-minded female entrepreneurs in the cohort and meet with potential investors.
There were so many highlights of the mission - some are as follows:
At Huckletree Tech Hub in Shoreditch - hearing from Chris Milligan, CEO of Adepto who had been on the same Startup Catalyst Mission just three years prior. I thoroughly appreciated hearing his raw and honest account of his eventful journey as an Australian entrepreneur that included many trials and tribulations faced while expanding his Australian based operations into the UK market. He spoke about the challenges in setting up his organisation in the UK, tensions with staff culture, time-zones and difficult decisions around determining the correct financial and corporate tax strategies. It was inspiring to hear from someone who had recently walked the path and was successful at achieving such a major business milestone. He was very generous to make the time to present to our group and openly share his valuable lessons and insights with others.
At Google - hearing from Tamzin Taylor, Head of Business Development, Apps & Games who came across as a very passionate and ambitious business leader. I learnt about how the top developers at Google test and launch games into the market. That “pre-launch” has become a strategic focus area – that they test by continuous evaluation in up to 5 different markets at once and do not hesitate to pull a product and pivot if the metrics aren’t coming back positive within a certain time frame. My takeaway was that this sort of thinking / strategy needs to apply to start-up businesses in order to get the right product/market fit as quickly and as cheaply as possible.
At TechHub - in convo with Aussie Founders - Kate Glazebrook (BE Applied) Ian O’Rourke (Adthena) and Iain Griffin (Seatfrog). Hearing from all three Australian founders and their stories was very inspirational. I gained lots of learnings from their individual challenges and successes that they each made very interesting and relatable.
It was good to get their opinions about:
· recruiting methods and access to graduates from the many universities;
· tax relief for investors (such as Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme “SEIS” and Enterprise Investment Scheme “EIS” which serve to empower a whole new level of angel investing that unfortunately is not available in Australia);
· cultural differences (lots of talent that is from a diverse pool of tech talent and this has a great impact on the culture of your business);
· adjusting your marketing messaging for UK based businesses; and
· London versus other UK locations. London is expensive however there are good options in other UK tech hubs outside of London such as Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham where the business costs can be 30 percent less. These less-expensive locations should be seriously considered before taking the first step of setting up a business in the UK.
At Everledger HQ - basement of The Zetter Towhouse - Leanne Kemp and her staff
It was very interesting to hear from Leanne Kemp and her approach to recruiting in the early days. Also heard great insights from Leanne’s first staff hires and how they viewed the Everledger journey to success. Calogero Scibetta was Leanne’s first hire and he spoke about his loyalty and commitment. He said that he was inspired by Leanne as a leader. Some memorable quotes from the discussions:
“Trust is what is needed to build your team in the early days.”
“ Don’t recruit just based on what someone has done but on their approach to work.”
“ Give people a big job and they’ll grow into it.”
“ Get on with it and say sorry if you have to later”
I appreciated the warm welcome by Leanne and her amazing 2IC and 3IC – they were very encouraging and delivered inspiring discussions about the culture and passion that is the driving force behind the success of the Everledger team.
Day 4 - informal discussion with Leanne Kemp - Leanne sat with us at a casual lunch and openly discussed some of her personal journey as a female founder - her many stressful times, dramatic events and the many difficult decisions she has faced and how she managed to overcome the daily obstacles. She asked us to consider “What does success look like to you as a Founder?” The difference between a racer, pacer and a chaser and what strategies come into play when others are chasing you or trying to overtake you or replicate you in the marketplace. She said that this is inevitable. She made it clear that investors want to lock in the founders but founders can take their investment off the table in an investment round and that is and should be acceptable. In the UK investors are open to giving founders this option – it’s okay to take a bit out in order to make your life more sustainable, more comfortable and it is healthy to do this. She said to keep a “mental note” of your health - find a micro-tribe as a support group to help each other because it gets emotional and raw.
At Royal Society of the Arts - interview with Julie Hanna “Silicon Valley to UK” (Exec Chair for Kiva, former advisor to President Obama)
Very apt place to hold such an empowering discussion! The RSA is an impressive historical building with incredible art and architecture on display. RSA was established around 260 years ago for the purpose of encouraging people to develop works of social impact. This establishment has led to some important inventions such as the lifeboat, fireman’s ladder and the first public toilet.
Julie spoke about purpose AND profit being business goals that should coexist and not be separated. Some memorable quotes from her interview:
“Purpose or mission driven businesses should not be something that you add on at the end.”
“Gen Z and Millennials are insisting on purpose in their organisations of work.”
“Culture is who you are to each other when no one else is looking.”
She posed the question to the audience - as business leaders – “Do you walk the talk?”
She spoke about the need to hire very slow and fire fast. “Hire for the character and teach competency”.
“Mentorship is with someone who can see something in yourself that you can’t and that makes for a special relationship”
At Australia House - Grow your Business in the UK. This session focussed on exploring the realities of customer acquisition, business development, marketing, branding and PR for the UK market as well as tips on meeting with UK investors. I heard very valuable insights from Joanna Dodd (MD, Rochester PR) about the true challenges that startups face - getting the message right - cultural nuances and the need to better understand the stakeholders involved in your business for marketing purposes.
Hearing from Addie Pinkster (Founder & CEO, Adelpha Capital) was a definite highlight. She came across as a very strong and confident person - no nonsense, tough talking, a straight shooter. Interestingly she has invested in Chris Milligan from Adepto and has invested in many Australians with 80% of her investments being in female led businesses. She said that women have contributed a lot to the ecosystem but unfortunately they make mistakes resulting in them not being taken seriously. She gave tips on writing emails – that they should not be flowery, no exclamation marks are needed, they should be succinct, bullet points, so you get to the point, be brief yet friendly.
· Work successfully in Australia first, get 3 contracts signed in the UK before moving over.
· As business owners, you need to know your hook.
· Show investors that you are reliable, disciplined, pushy!
· Reference key clients that you have in Australia
· Do your research and make sure that you can show relatability in the UK for your product.
· Do not overvalue your SAAS business. State your last month’s recurring revenue not your onboarding revenue.
At Australia House, Tech Australia Networking event. Thoroughly enjoyed this networking event at the grand Australia House building. It was a fantastic opportunity to mingle with guest VIPs - government officials from the UK such as Department of International Trade and other tech entrepreneurs from the UK and Australia.
In summary the mission was extremely educational and beneficial as it has made a very positive impact on my entrepreneurial outlook. I got to meet and make life-long connections with some incredibly talented, smart and very courageous individuals within the female founder group and other streams; I got to sit in surreal surroundings while listening to thought leaders and legends sitting right in front of me; I got to shake the hands of inspirational speakers and well-connected wealthy investors. I learnt that London is exceptionally start-up friendly. It opened my eyes to what is possible because there is an abundance of opportunities, business resources, networking and quality support available within the UK ecosystem.
Thanks to the Startup Catalyst Mission to London I now have a changed mindset and a new level of confidence. I’m now confident that my business has the capability of becoming a global business and can be taken seriously by investors, partners and customers overseas. I will nurture the highly valuable business contacts made during the London Mission – contacts that I acknowledge would never had been possible had I not been on the Mission.
I am very grateful for having been given the opportunity of a lifetime to participate in this important initiative by Aaron Birkby of Startup Catalyst and for the financial support of Advance Queensland for encouraging entrepreneurs - the leaders of Queensland businesses that may, as a result, become global business success stories in the near future.