Six lessons from 2013’s Hot 30 under 30

Read through the list of this year’s entrants in SmartCompany’s Hot 30 under 30 and it’s hard not to be impressed by what they’ve achieved at such a young age.

They’re bold, optimistic and not afraid to put themselves out there.

It’s inspiring stuff and there are many lessons from this year’s Hot 30 even for those with vastly more business experience.

Some may seem counterintuitive, but here are six lessons that can be drawn from the Hot 30 of 2013.

1. It’s not all about technology

Think of a young entrepreneur and you probably think of a tech genius.

This year, out of our 30 young guns, half have founded businesses that operate predominantly online. There are good reasons for this – plenty of industries have yet to see established online players, hence the barriers to entry can be lower. It’s easy to scale an online business up or down as demand fluctuates, and as people become more comfortable spending money online, there’s huge growth potential for the entrepreneurs selling to them.

But this isn’t the only story in our Hot 30.

While almost all the businesses on the list make heavy use of the internet, plenty are predominantly brick-and-mortar enterprises.

For example, Wealth Enhancers has found a niche in the financial advice marketplace and in the three years since it launched is already managing $150 million in funds for its young clients.

Even manufacturing provided an opportunity for Nu-Tank, founded by Kaylee and Wesley Boccalatte along with Kaylee’s brother Stephen Trails, which makes heavy-duty, reliable water tanks. Finding a way to avoid the brass fittings prone to cracking and splitting in traditional water tanks, the trio grew their business to turn over $4 million a year in revenue.

Dane Cornish’s Activate Group provides sporting programs to schools across Australia, while Richard Chua’s Talent100 is a tutoring company specialising in personalised study plans.

This all shows there’s no blueprint to being a successful young entrepreneurs – there are niches to exploit in every market.

2. You can never be too young

Everyone on the list is 30 years old or under, which makes them young to begin with, but some of our Hot 30 this year are scarily young.

There’s Nick D’Aloisio of Summly who can’t even vote yet at 17, but can – and did – create an app he sold to Yahoo! for $30 million.

And don’t forget 19-year-old fellow app maker Brandon Cowan from Crazy Dog Apps, Taylah Hasaballah of Tiger Temple, who’s also 19, and Ash Davies of Tablo Publishing, who’s only 20.

Cowan’s approach to business is typical of these super young guns – they look for a problem and then set about solving it.

“My app ideas come from real-world problems with poor or no solutions already available,” he said.

“First I identify a problem and then I come up with an app idea that solves the problem.”

3. Spot a trend

Being an entrepreneur is as much about spotting trends as it is about solving problems. Entrepreneurs notice the world around them and convert emerging trends into business opportunities. Lorraine Murphy from The Remarkables Group came up with her idea while working in public relations.

Murphy, who had worked in the PR industry for eight years, noticed the increasing number of bloggers and realised the opportunity for brands and bloggers to work together. This realisation inspired her to create the first talent agency for bloggers. Now with clients such as Woolworths, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Telstra, she’s on track to turnover $1 million in her first year of business – quite a feat.

Similar to Murphy, Hugh Stephens’ business came about because of the prevalence of social media in everyday life and its increasing importance to businesses. Capitalising on this trend, Stephens set out in 2011 to help businesses with their social media strategies through his company Dialogue Consulting. Stephens continues to innovate and he’s currently developing software to allow businesses to quantitatively measure their social media presence.

“It’s a pet project. The initial market is sporting teams so they can measure how much an athlete is worth in terms of their social media presence,” Stephens told SmartCompany.

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