Which way do I go? Start-up leaders share their lessons. Photo: iStock
While success stories like those of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg make founding a billion-dollar technology venture seem like a swift path to untold riches, others find the road much rockier - like 99dresses entrepreneur Nikki Durkin, who in June closed her start-up.
Whether it's being stabbed in the back by co-founders, investment funding falling through, massive technology stuff-ups or hiring the wrong people, there are many pitfalls on the way up.
Rod Drury, chief executive of Xero. Photo: Photo: Andrew Meares
IT Pro asked some tech well-to-dos to share their lessons.
"Don’t fly solo" - Rod Drury
A successful IT company often starts with one person and a bright idea – but it shouldn’t continue to be all about them, says Rod Drury, CEO of the cloud financial software developer Xero.
Steve Baxter at River City Labs in Brisbane. Photo: Glenn Hunt
“Being part of a team with a balance of skills is the most important thing,” Drury says. “By definition most entrepreneurs are fatally flawed but being part of a balanced group of people with diverse skills allows you to have a formidable capability and deliver operationally on your vision. It’s much more fun with others.”
“Overnight success means at least six years" - Steve Baxter
Seasons can change and technology supersedes itself multiple times before you hit the cash jackpot, says Steve Baxter, an ISP entrepreneur turned incubator founder and angel investor.
Mitchell Harper, co-founder and co-CEO of Bigcommerce. Photo: Louie Douvis
“The average success cycle is way longer than the average technology cycle. In my first business we were faced with six major upgrades of ISP access technology in a seven-year period, all requiring substantial investment and risk …s o you need to be prepared to move with technology and never be complacent with where you are.”
It’s not personal - Mitchell Harper
You may live it, love it and breathe it like it’s your newborn child, but it isn’t your newborn child, so staying emotionally detached from your high tech baby is vital, Bigcommerce co-founder Mitchell Harper says.
Fred Schebesta, CEO of finder.com.au. Photo: Nic Walker
“If you live and die by your business, you’ll be happy when it’s doing well and miserable when it’s not, and you’ll take that attitude home with you,” Harper says. “It can cause you enormous amounts of stress. Instead you need to surround yourself with amazing people and really challenge them to crush their KPIs. By doing that, you get rid of the attachment and can look objectively at your business with somewhat of an outsider’s point of view and see what’s going well and what’s not.”
Be ruthless - Fred Schebesta
Got a marketing plan that’s foundering? Or a supplier or distributor not fully on board? Ditch them quick, says Fred Schebesta, founder of the comparison website finder.com.au and web marketing company Freestyle Media. Getting a high-tech business off the ground means spreading yourself thin – and that leaves no time to focus on things that aren’t working.
Matt Bullock, CEO of eWAY. Photo: Supplied
“Kill losers early,” Schebesta says. “Focus all your energies into things that are winning … get rid of what’s not working and move on. I learnt that the second time round – don’t bother resuscitating things.”
Pay peanuts, get monkeys - Matt Bullock
You may be a new company trying to get going on a shoestring budget, but don’t be tempted to scrimp on senior staff, says eWAY founder Matt Bullock, whose online payment gateway is used by more than 15,000 businesses.
“Trying to cut costs and getting cheap staff for senior roles only slows you down and sometimes sends you backwards,” Bullock says.
“It’s absolutely vital to hire for quality over quantity. Experience counts and paying for it is important.”
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