4 key lessons to growing a successful start-up (from those who have done it)


CeBIT Australia’s strategic panel “Streamlining and growing business with the aid of technology” brought together some dynamic entrepreneurs at various stages of their journeys to share their experiences in founding their business, and creating a fertile environment for growth. This blog post summarises some of the key findings from the session.

1. Focus on solving problems that bother you

One of the key similarities in the panelists was a focus on solving a real problem for consumers that they had experiences first hand. For Tim Fung, Co-Founder and CEO Airtasker, moving house proved to spark the idea for his business. He recalled, ‘I was moving and I asked a friend (who had a large refrigerated van) to come and help me.’

The friend observed that he got this request a lot, which lead Fung to consider ‘why do we ask loved ones and friends to help us do these kinds of tasks when we know that Australia has an underemployment challenge?’ The result grew to Airtasker, a marketplace where people can post jobs they need doing and those who have the skills can bid for those jobs.

Anthony Millet, Chief Executive Officer at BRICKX also build a digital marketplace. Their business model was based on the problems they saw in the current Australian property market. BRICKX buys properties and offers users a chance to buy a small fraction of these properties (a ‘brick’) and use that to save money. Users can also sell their bricks on the platform.

2. Bring the right people together

All panelists were on the same page about the importance of having the right people on your team. In fact for David Hunt, Chairman at CarAdvice it’s the most fundamental aspect of having a successful business. He advised, ‘Work who you can afford. Then beg, borrow and steal to get them.’

For Nicola Mills, Group MD, Pacific Retail Management, having a good team allowed her business to keep on going when she faced severe health problems. She recounts: ‘When I had a difficult time, I had key people who stepped up and really kept the business afloat. Without these people the business wouldn’t have survived.’

3. Evolve as a leader

As your business scales rapidly the way you’ve structured your team might not be viable anymore. Having your founder be everything to the business not only can prevent you from seeing the wood for the trees, but it can also create an unhappy work environment. Fung learned this lesson when AirTasker scaled to 30-40 employees. He thought that he was creating a great place to work, but a staff survey proved him wrong. He says ‘I went to a business coach and I realised that I was still heavily involved in the day-to-day aspects of the operation. I ended up breaking our team into product teams and we hired a head of people. Building that new skillset is a real challenge, the job description changes every year, but that’s what keeps things interesting.’

Greg Symons, Founder of SocietyOne found that adding someone with a business background to the team gave the company a real boost. He observed, ‘If you are a technology-driven person, you really need that ‘business-person. Having said that when you’re an entrepreneur, you have a maniacal need to see your business succeed. So when you see that business changing, or being compromised, it can be very tricky to give the reins over to someone else.’ 

4. Be prepared to fail

Mills adroitly commented that ‘failing in business was my real MBA. You’ve got to go out and give everything a go.’ One of the key lessons that she has learnt from failure is ‘to act fast when something isn’t working. Success is great, but failure will give you the lessons that make you a better person and a better business person.’

How to launch a start-up