Zilla Efrat
Business Journalist

Zilla Efrat is a freelance journalist who has spent the past 25 years writing on all facets of business and finance for print and online publications, and has been editor of Company Director, AB+F and Super Review

Zilla Efrat
Business Journalist

Zilla Efrat is a freelance journalist who has spent the past 25 years writing on all facets of business and finance for print and online publications, and has been editor of Company Director, AB+F and Super Review

Talking to lots of people and learning from their mistakes emerged as key lessons learnt by a group of start-up founders participating in a six month program run by start-up accelerator muru-D and backed by Telstra.

“Talk to everyone. Ask questions of industry experts, the competition and most of all, potential customers,” he added.

Likewise, speak with and learn from as many different people as you can was the advice from Cate Hull, CEO of Freight Exchange, which enables long-distance freight carriers to connect digitally with their customers to sell their excess capacity.

“Try out as many different things in your business as quickly as possible and as often as possible,” she added.

“It can be about your target market, your product, your marketing, the way you interact with your team, anything. The added benefit of surrounding yourself with lots of different people is that you're never stuck for ideas of something new to try.”

Group of people networking

Surround yourself with success

Brent Clark, CEO of Wattblock which offers customised, web-based energy saving roadmaps for strata buildings, had similar counsel.

“Surround yourself with other successful people,” he said. “Go out of your way to meet them, ask them for their stories, buy them a coffee and listen hard. Even though it’s your business you care about, it is not all about you. Make sure they are doing most of the talking, not you. Avoiding the pitfalls they made is your best investment in their time.”

“The biggest lesson I've learnt over the past six months was the value of the network and networking,” added Vahid Kolahdouzan, co-founder of vClass, a hybrid education platform that creates an online teaching experience just like face to face classes.

“Attract the right team (employees, advisers, investors and so on) with the same vision as you,” recommended fellow vClass co-founder Masoud Douzan. 

Know your vision

Douzan also stressed the importance of believing in your vision, a sentiment echoed by others on the night.

Ben Liau, chief marketing officer and co-founder of CrowdSourceHire (which helps companies assess the skills of technical hires using crowdsourced industry experts), also pointed to vision. “Have full clarity of your company vision and what you have to do to achieve it,” he said.

“Through the start-up process there will be many ups and downs, and business models will be tweaked and changed. But it’s important to focus on the end goal. Be agile enough to pivot and change based on the business needs, but still stay true to what you are passionate about.”

“Keep going,” was the message from Liz Kaelin, founder of online catering platform You Chews. “The journey is very tough for entrepreneurs and it can be tempting to call it a day. But if you persevere, and keep going, eventually you will find what works for you in your business and what will make you happy as a business owner.

Think global

Gary Elphick, the CEO of custom sporting goods producer Disrupt, suggested that entrepreneurs should think globally from day one.

“Having 10 per cent of the global market is easier than 90 per cent of domestic market,” he said. “Also know your growth strategy. If you want to retain 100 per cent ownership and grow organically, that’s great. But it leads you down one path – that is, to focus on maximising immediate revenue.

“However, if you plan to bring on investors and have a swing at being a global international company, you’ll be doing the hard yards proving the marketing. Demands exist in international markets, which are harder and might hinder some of your local growth.”

Find a mentor

Elphick also believed that finding a mentor was vital. “There are thousands of Australian entrepreneurs who have done the hard yards,” he said. “You will be surprised how happy they are to help. Form an advisory board early by reaching out to people for coffee to begin with and then those chats might build into something more formal. They will help you learn from their mistakes.

“Speak to other business owners. You’ll find out they are going through the same stuff. And finally, don’t wait until you think you’re ready. You’ll never be ready when it involves new markets, products or ideas. Go fast. Break stuff. And fix it up afterwards.”

Muru-D is a start-up accelerator backed by Telstra. In addition to offering selected start-ups $40,000 for six per cent equity, it provides them with six months in its co-working space with a crash course in entrepreneurism and innovation 101, an international trip to access a global market, mentorship and a wide range of other resources.

Think you’ve got the perfect business plan? 

Head to the muru-D website here, to see what's happening.

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