A colleague who runs a successful IT Managed Service business in Adelaide recently asked in an industry forum about how to get started in the tech startup scene in Australia. Wearing his entrepreneurial hat, he asked how hard it would be to pivot from his existing Managed Service IT business to jumping into developing a cloud-based application to disrupt a particular vertical industry (i.e. Xero disrupting accounting, or Workflowmax/Harvest disrupting traditional time billing software for professional services firms). While I don’t know much about the Adelaide scene – I know Sydney and Melbourne are particularly bustling with startup activity at the moment.
I’ve said in the past that itGenius is in part a stepping stone for me to step into the private equity/venture capital/tech startup scene in the future – with decent capital behind me. I think there is a massive opportunity for me to apply my knowledge of how technology is embraced in businesses to create software products to help serve our clients and other new customers better – all in line with my personal vision of helping to improve the way the world uses technology for business.
A good start for an IT firm is to think about starting some development projects under your MSP business to get a feel for creating your own applications… You can even learn in-part on client time (with transparency, and starting with small projects).
How do you get involved in the Australian startup scene? Start reading techcrunch for the latest startup news (and BRW is pretty up to date with market disruptorsÂ as well. In Sydney you canÂ check out events like SydStart (coming up next month), connecting with the FishburnersÂ network and also the Bluechilli Startrail map:Â http://www.bluechilli.com/startup-growth/sydney-startups/.
There are plenty of Sydney Startup groups on Meetup.com and it’s also worth heading along to Silicon Beach Drinks
When you’re ready to go creating your first startup, the first question to ask yourself is…. is Australia a good enough market for your product? For your startup team (ridiculouslyÂ simplified), you probably need a Hustler, Hacker and Hipster (business head, tech/coder and UI/UX Design) – oh…. possibly and an Angel (or private seed capital). There are plenty of B2C startups around at the moment however I’d suggest looking at the opportunities inÂ B2B rather than B2C as B2B is responsible for the majority of massively successful startups in the Australian market (think Atlassian, freelancer etc.).
If you’re a Young Entrepreneur (or young at heart) The Entourage is a great network of young entrepreneurs and startup businesses aimed at the under 40 crowd. You can check them out here: The Entourage
We mostly focus on developing the team rather than individuals. Having a healthy team promotes happy individual workers.
A few things we do:
– Have regular team dinners and do other fun things together (we did the Warrior Dash as a team this year, we had matching shirts printed to run in!)
– Encourage everyone getting out the door on time – some of us will commute together
– Make sure the office is a happy and healthy place, we have plants in the office, scented ornaments and always ensure there is good, natural lighting at each workspace
– Sometimes we’ll crack open a beer at our weekly team get-together (a.k.a. staff meeting)
What can you do to bring some ‘happy’ to your workplace?
Do you have mentors for your business and/or personal life?
I have always found immense value in learning from others who have ‘been there, done that’, and especially learning from others who are a few years my senior and therefore have experienced a little more of the world around us (without offending any of my mentors).
Here’s a quick list of some of my most important mentors to date (formal and informal):
My Dad (business owner in the building industry for 20yrs)
Family friend (lawyer who successfully built and exited London-based firm)
My Cousin John-Paul Wallace (Australian Chess champion who runs chess camps for kids in London)
Business Coach – Tony Lynch. I worked with Tony in the first two years of running itGenius full time who helped me grow it from a bedroom operation to a sustainable business. Working closely with Tony gave me the accountability to reach the goals that I had set for myself.
Bookkeeper – Cathering McMurtrie. It’s important to surround yourself with people who can help fill in the blanks in your skill-set and Catherine has kicked my financials into line and provided ongoing strategy and advice
Our Clients. We have always made ourselves open to the feedback of our clients and our business has been shaped over the years based on client feedback and suggestions of how things car be improved. Learning from business owners while being exposed to their differing management styles and company cultures (while working closely with them) has also been a phenomenal learning experience.
Countless friends, family and other business associates that have given advice, encouragement and support
Who are your mentors and how do you approach them? Do you have a formal arrangement with them?
A friend asked me what my VA (Virtual Assistant) works on each week. Cath is based in theÂ PhilippinesÂ and works for us from home.
Here’s a rough list of her current workload (which is being added to each week):
Process: Priority & Service Type Management – Categorising service tickets to the correct priority and service type
Process: Done Yet?’s – Follow up on service tickets that were scheduled but not completed by our technical team on the previous day
Process: Account Activation – Activate new accounts for clients, send contracts, prepare proposals, send invoices, set them up in our systems
Process: Business Cards – I take a snapshot of each business card I receive and email it to Cath to enter that person into our CRM and send them a card to say it was nice to meet them
Process: Accounts Payable – Collect invoices from suppliers and place them in a Dropbox folder for our Bookkeeper to lodge payments for me to authorise on a weekly basis. Cath also keeps a spreadsheet up to date in Google Docs so everyone can see where we’re at.
Process: Weekly Data Export – Export invoices from our ticketing/business management system and upload them into our cloud-based accounts package – www.Saasu.com.
Process: Sales Order Processing – Process orders with suppliers for goods clients have paid for
Process: Priority Cleanup (this must be done before our staff meeting at 4.30). – Go through and search for any tickets that might not have had their priority updated in the last week (slipped through the cracks) and categorise them correctly.
Email Peter with a weekly wrap up of any outstanding tasks or questions
1st of the Month (Must be done on the 1st, no excuses!):
Process: Agreement Invoicing – Issue invoices for all of our clients’ monthly accounts