The Pulse – October Brisbane Meetup

My wife Jacqui and I just attended our first “The Pulse” meetup in Brisbane. The Pulse is a community of entrepreneurs who meet up monthly for expert panels with startup and business leaders. This was our first attendance at one of these meetings, which was held at River City Labs, a startup coworking enterprise in Fortitude Valley. We found it to be a great opportunity to hear a wide range of expert opinions and meet new people in the entrepreneurial start up space.

The session was a fast paced Q & A type format. Here some notes on what I got out of tonight’s session with Steve Baxter(@sbxr), Aaron Birkby(@AaronBirkby), David Eastes and Ben Duncan:

A question was asked on tips for transitioning from 9 to 5 work to a startup:

  • Do both for a while – working 24/7 as it were.
  • Try to save capital if you want to take it full time.
  • Hardest thing you’ll ever do is raise money from an investor – use your customers to fund your business.
  • If you can’t make a few thousand dollars from your startup don’t leave your job.
  • Turn first customers into walking billboard.
  • Sell something straight away. Get customers to bankroll your start.

One thing panelists would do different if starting again now:

  • Hire staff earlier. One panelist tried to do too much. He wasn’t doing vital stuff because he was too busy working in the business.
  • One tip was to potentially offer an equity stake to good staff after a year or two.
  • One panellist suggested being a digital nomad.
  • Hire more people you really like working with.
  • Don’t stress out

Which 3 processes most important:

  • Don’t be too process focused too early – otherwise you can’t move quickly
  • Need to have processes to track your effectiveness – e.g. Validation of A/B Testing and Conversions
  • Processes need to come later on as you grow.
  • One panelist suggested when you get your second staff member you now need processes but you need to be flexible.
  • Allow everyone to change their processes if they’re broken.
  • All the panelists stressed the importance of good consistent project management. Base Camp and Trello were suggested tools
  • Project management important from the start

There was a question about finding angel investors while still pre-revenue:

  • Panelists suggested use customers as your angels.
  • If you can’t sell your product maybe there isn’t market.
  • If no one is investing maybe take a harder look at the idea
  • Got to be able to sell it.

Does anyone gain funding after proof of concept?

  • It was agreed by some panelists that you do hear of companies gaining funding in this way a lot.
  • It was suggested it’s still better to try to get customers to fund the idea.
  • Talk to customers find their pain point. Ideas from customers can be of varying value though.

Biggest challenge for the panelists?

  • Having total confidence in your product.
  • Suppliers being skeptical.
  • You need to talk about it like it’s your firstborn even if you don’t believe in it to begin with.

What do you tell people who don’t believe in you?

  • If you can’t push through that messaging you’re not going to make it
  • Prove your idea by getting a customer to pay you something for it.

Do startups need to look to Silicon Valley?

  • It helps to look at whats happening in a successful place.
  • US Market is huge in comparison to Asutralia.
  • The USA is an easy place to get to as an Australian.
  • Good Australian ex-pat community in Silicon Valley you can connect with.

Struggled with self belief?

  • All the panellists said yes!
  • Don’t wait till your ready. Just do it!

Was success a series of events or just one or two big things?

  • Panelist David Eastes said that for him it came down to two things:
    • Getting into good rankings with Google
    • Investing time and money into customers
  • Other good points:
    • Advertising waste of money. All money on word of mouth. Make them want to tell their friends
    • Do things that customers don’t expect – travel mugs, key ring bottle openers, etc.

There was a question about time management and commitment:

  • If you have an ability to work full time on your startup don’t waste it
  • Be sure to manage your heath and family time however
  • Put a high value on your time – $500 per hour for instance. Would you be doing a task if that’s how much your time was worth?

There was another question about quickly validating start up ideas:

  • Use the Lean Startup formula and customer validation.
  • If you can’t make something work, give up, move on.

How do you pitch your idea without losing IP?

  • NDAs are worthless and investors won’t sign.
  • Do your research on the person you’re pitching. Find out if they’re trustworthy. Have they invested in a competitor?
  • You’ve got to share your idea

Someone asked about the best methods of selling to your customers in the early days:

  • Direct mail. Get in front of them 3 times and they’ll remember you.
  • Think outside the box.
  • Advertising expensive hard to get good ROI
  • Conventional media has a lot of power in USA
  • Celebrity endorsement
  • YouTube

A question was asked about outsourcing an online app startup

  • The panelists thought it was important to hold Intellectual Property tight and not outsource your core team.
  • One panelist said your startup is broken if you can’t build it yourself

There was a question on how to keep momentum and enthusiasm

  • Find a problem someone will pay to fix
  • If you’re not naturally passionate about what you’re building there’s a problem
  • Keep a good balance. Recreation helps with inspiration. Get away from desk.

At what point should you become a company?

  • The panel was unanimous that you should be a company from day 1 of your startup.

The last question was on the difference between an entrepreneur and a “wantrepreneur”:

  • An entrepreneur doesn’t die wondering
  • An entrepreneur is constantly thinking about doing things better
  • An entrepreneur take risks
  • Get s*** done
  • Fail a lot

There was also a suggestion to check out the Dan Norris 7 Day Startup.

I thoroughly enjoyed my evening at The Pulse and will definitely be going again. It was great to meet a positive group of people trying to achieve success. I hope some of you find these notes useful.