Last week, on a crisp, and surprisingly clear Friday Melbourne morning, I made my way down to the Docklands area, past the early morning runners and cyclists who’s foggy breath in the air reminded me that spring wasn’t quite here yet. A hundred or so other people turned up to give the baristas a workout. There was the normal scenario of groups and individuals mingling and old friends greeting each other, everyone seemed genuinely excited about the day ahead.
YeahNah 2018 was the second successive conference initiative run by LaunchVic, aimed at driving the local startup scene and providing a platform for entrepreneurs to hear first hand from some of our local success stories. This year’s theme was “Building Founding Teams”, a topic close to my heart at the moment as I’m doing just that with a new client.
Understandably there was a lot to digest and a verbatim recount of the day would possibly be the longest article ever, so here’s my highlights in no particular order.
Charlotte Perris from Timelio talked about her and her husband (who also works in the business) need to try and maintain balance. They started with a rule of not being able to talk about the business outside of the physical boundary of their home office when they weren’t actually at work.
Whilst a seemingly good idea at first, this soon gave way to just trying to not talk about it at the dinner table. I think any founder can relate to how easily your new venture can be all-consuming, I’m sure having the two of you involved in the same venture can make for boring conversation for your dinner party guests.
Nathan Chan from Foundr was really impressive. I didn’t know a great deal about him or his business prior to the day but he really stood out with some interesting insight into how he’s building something huge.
What was really interesting was his dialogue around how he now doesn’t build content without an audience that has committed to paying for it. In a content-saturated world, he’s devised a method of building content that people actually want and are prepared to pay for. His team is reaching out to their audience via their email lists and driving them to a landing page where they can select and pay for content that hasn’t been made yet.
They’re totally open about that and make commitments that if not enough people request a particular topic they’ll refund or credit those customers. It’s a great model and something that he and the team arrived at after testing various ideas. He mentioned that a true team of diverse backgrounds, ages, and interests gave them this spread of ideas and approaches to building the business.
He also mentioned the ClarityFM platform and Farnam St site as great places to go to find information to help you figure things out that you don’t yet know. Thanks, mate. My endless reading list just got bigger.
Kirsteene Phelan, the very quiet and reserved acting CEO of Rome2rio also made some interesting comments about hiring people that can deal with ambiguity and that hiring people with diverse backgrounds ultimately fosters healthy debate and alternative ways of doing things.
She went on to say that this means that they hire people who may not fit in “right now” which is an interesting concept. I’m not sure what that means from a practical perspective, and I’m going to try and get some face time with her soon to ask her about it.
Rob Phillpot from Aconex was last up for the day. Fresh off the back of the recent sale to Oracle, he seemed in a reflective mood. Going from building something for 18 years and then selling to a US behemoth seemed to have given him some room to look back for once, not just forward which is the typical entrepreneur mindset right?
Always pushing forward, always looking for the next milestone. His overarching message was one of making the most of the moment, and appreciate it. He commented a couple of times on how the things you’re stressing about now will be the things you laugh at a year from now. He even had the first prospecting letter they sent out to a customer. He said that it seemed so amateurish now, but at the time they didn’t know any better. Funny how time changes perspective huh? What would you go back and change now, if you could?
The phrase that stuck with me the most though was; “The good old days are happening right now.” This seemed to be him referencing his, almost mourning, the days when life was simpler. It’s a great sound bite though and I think one that anyone running or trying to build a business could do well to remember.
It was a good day, and well worthy of a shout out to Kate Cornick and the LaunchVic team who did an amazing job of curating the lineup and putting on a really good event. So they’re my personal highlights if you were there, add yours in the comments below and I’ll add them to this article so they’re all in one place.