Lessons from an unlikely tech entrepreneur
The tech startup train is leaving the station and everyone is hitching a ride. From teachers to artists, stockbrokers to plumbers, no one is short of an idea for the Next Big Thing.
But even without a skerrick of tech expertise, entrepreneurs are popping out from the woodwork and sharing their most unlikely success stories. So if you’ve got an idea, don’t let a lack of tech experience faze you – there’s plenty you can do to get started, and it doesn’t involve learning to code.
Draw on your expertise
Melanie Perkins of online design startup Canva said it best when she stated: “It’s very important to first see a problem, build a product to solve that problem, and ensure your users are happy with the product you’ve built.”
She is articulating how if you’re skilled in a certain area, you should use it to your advantage. Chances are you understand a specific industry – which means you also know where there’s pain points and subsequent business solutions.
For instance, as a chartered accountant and CFO of a construction company, I knew there would be a niche in my market that would suit my skillset, I just had to find it. Numbers and construction are intrinsically linked, but a shared system for contract billing and payment approval was almost unheard of. Having an idea to solve this issue gave me the ammunition I needed to really get my business Progressclaim.com going.
Like me, the 2014 Australian Young Entrepreneur of the Year winners, Joe Davenport and Owen Kerr of Pepperstone, were already skilled in a single capacity – currency trading. They saw that the foreign exchange landscape was expensive and inaccessible to the everyday investor, so they created a better broker experience through automation and technology. Again, they drew on their experience and hired the right technical support to kick-start their business idea.
Which leads me to the next point…
Hire the right people
Don’t pretend you can do everything yourself – you’d be setting yourself up for failure. Having a team of consultants who are skilled in the technical areas you are not so skilled at is the only way to get your business off the ground.
Take for example the celebrities of the Australian tech startup scene, Atlassian co-founders Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes – they hired classmates in the early days of the company because they knew they had the skills they lacked.
Especially if you’re not a tech guru, find yourself a good developer, and if you’re planning on marketing online you’ll need a website designer and a marketing wiz to start. Don’t forget to hire someone to support you in sales and customer service too. I know from experience, Progressclaim.com wouldn’t be where it was today without the help of my Generals: Mark Ballinger, Director – Product & Technology, Mark Pratt, Head of Marketing and Adam Woodhead, Director - Sales. Remember, you don’t necessarily need to hire these personnel – you can always outsource.
Prepare to work. Hard.
You can hire all the best talent, but you still have to be prepared to work at it. With fewer than 5% of Australian startups scaling into sustainable, global businesses, entrepreneurs need to be even more dedicated to their cause.
It might even hurt your hip-pocket. Cannon-Brookes and Farquhar paid themselves just $15,000 each for the first two years while building Atlassian, skimping on the finer, or even just the average things in life to get by. But now they top the BRW Young Rich list.
To get there, you need to be open and willing to learn a whole lot in a short time, while simultaneously deciding how to grow your business, manage and motivate a set of staff, attract and retain customers, and still have enough energy to maintain the vibrancy and passion you had at the beginning. It’s not easy, but it’s what makes the prize all the sweeter.
Lincoln Easton is the founder of Progressclaim.com, cloud-based contract billing and approval for the global construction industry.
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