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7 CEOs and execs share what it takes to succeed in the competitive world of startups

7 CEOs and execs share what it takes to succeed in the competitive world of startups

Startups are getting more recognition than ever before.

As awareness grows, more think about starting their own, and the support — whether from the community or government — is considerably higher than in the past.

And while it seems like a fun idea, with flexible working and being your own boss, startups are hard. The few that succeed have found a “special sauce” and stuck out from the pack.

So what does it take?

We asked seven successful startup leaders, who will be speaking at StartCon on December 1-2, what it takes to succeed, which technologies will be key to growth and scale, and what are the biggest challenges moving ahead.

Here’s what they had to say.

Roshni Mahtani, founder and CEO of Tickled Media and co-founder of the Female Founders Network

“Australian start-ups need to look at themselves as APAC and not just an ANZ play so they disrupt a larger market. There are cultural considerations, but so is there a great talent pool plus potential partners to ease the transition. If language is a worry, Singapore and the Philippines are obvious next steps.”

Logan Young, co-founder and VP strategy, Blitz Metrics

“Google and Facebook are a paid duopoly of increasing power. So startups must cater to their algorithms, which favor ‘hot’ content over direct selling approaches. Thus, startups increasingly are falling for ‘get rich quick’ stories, instead of using tried-and-true marketing principles.

Growth and scale is less about technology and more about platforms to distribute content, of which Facebook is now king. WordPress, social accounts, and a shopping cart are the necessary building blocks most startups need to get the word out.

80% of the effort in Marketing/Technology is in the setup. 20% is in ‘storytelling’ content that goes through these platforms.”

Emma Lo Russo, CEO and co-founder, Digivizer

“Prioritizing what you do, from your long-term vision, through to the strategy you create to win, down to what you do in the next hour, is crucial. I started Digivizer after leaving a COO role at a listed Australian software company, so I had developed these skills in that environment and context. What was different in a new startup was how you have to prioritize everything.

Always consider the implications of the choices you have – including the implications of delaying difficult ones. I thrive on difficult challenges and I use that fear to focus on how to create the strategies I need to take me from where I am today to where I want to be tomorrow.

As businesses grow, they hit inflection points, usually at around 20-30 employees, at which point entrepreneurs needed to think about switching from a control model to an empowerment model, and then at 70 employees, where systems, leadership and culture often need revisions.”

Michael Liedtke, Engineering Manager, Escrow.com

“Australian startups should think global from day one. Seek out companies that can help build trust as a competitive advantage, which in turn can help you launch into new markets.

Additionally, work out what will be important to your customers and focus on it, regardless of whether it’s an integrated experience with their favourite website, social media app or discounted prices.

Entrepreneurs need to think about how their customers will find them. With over 60% of internet traffic on mobile devices, you need to be memorable and therefore prioritise a seamless user experience across all acquisition channels. Be demanding of your team to enable the best customer experience and you’ll be rewarded with brand ambassadors.”

Fred Schebesta, co-founder and CEO of finder.com

“You will succeed in business if you are relentless with your pursuit of your goals. Your business needs to be your obsession and number one priority. ‘Everything else’ needs to come second.

Use new technologies to gain a competitive edge and leverage your smaller nimble size to beat bigger competitors. In a recent finder survey we found, 40% of small businesses don’t earn any revenue online. If you’re not online you won’t survive. With the latest newcomer Amazon, more foreign businesses are opening their doors in Australia, resulting in a more crowded market place. Cryptocurrencies are another area to explore, whether it’s a new way of accessing funding, being paid and paying for expenses.

Sourcing quality talent equipped with technical skills needed for tomorrow’s business will continue to be a challenge, however with cryptocurrencies and the internet, the talent pool is widening to a global market.”

Karen Borg, CEO at Jobs for NSW

“Successful startups actively seek out advice and guidance. They’re close to their numbers, and they understand what skills they will need to bring in and when. Joe Gebbia from AirBNB says simply look at the biggest risk for your business and hire talent in that area. Successful startups also know their point of difference. They’re clear on their customer base and the size of the market. Funding is critical to success but often many startup founders are so busy they might not be aware of what’s available to them right now.

When it comes to scaling, it’s not about technology in itself that’s the key – rather it’s about the way the technology is applied – eBay and a local car dealership both use the web but both have completely different opportunities for growth. The real key to growth and scale is to have a global market in an industry sector where you have a competitive advantage, with client acquisition at low cost as part of the business model. Technology enables rather than purely drives this.

The biggest challenges though remains access to finance, talent, stage-based mentoring — these are all big challenges. Going forward, you also need to constantly and honestly assess the adjustments you need to make to future-proof your business model.”

Samar Singla, founder & CEO, Jugnoo

“Following the stride of the latest trends coupled with the latest technology, has worked out well for Jugnoo and other successful Indian startups. As a result of this strategy, Jugnoo is now the third largest on-demand company in India and acts as a one-stop solution for hyperlocal needs of people.

Blockchain will define the future of businesses and economies worldwide. In fact, Jugnoo is already planning to launch blockchain based ride-sharing business model globally, starting with London. The idea is to establish a decentralized free market model offering ownership and decision making to drivers as well.

It is challenging as competitors have chosen to burn cash to gain traction on their platform. However, this is a short-term solution and we are aiming to solve it in the long run through decentralized ridesharing.”

By Sarah Kimmorley, Business Insider Australia

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