Key takeaways from our webinar: How to build, launch and scale your startup

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HotDoc founder and CEO Ben Hurst, AirTree partner Elicia McDonald and Blackbird principal Tom Humphrey share their advice for founding and funding startups.

Formulating an earthshaking business idea is only the first piece of a large and complex puzzle. So what happens next? How do you build, launch and scale your startup while juggling the many challenges that come with being a business owner?

In our latest webinar, author and journalist Emma Alberici sat down with some of the best minds in the business of founding and funding startups. Now it’s time to weaponise their advice and turn that kernel of an idea into a profitable business.

Finding that spark

Every entrepreneur’s journey begins with an idea — and the reasons for deciding to transform that idea into a real business differ widely depending on your own experiences. For Dr Ben Hurst, founder and CEO of HotDoc, his ‘spark’ was a culmination of experiences growing up in a medical family.

“I used to be at the dinner table, listening to Mum and Dad trying to get Mum’s GP business off the ground,” he says. “[There was] the frustration of the red-tape bureaucracy and the difficulty of providing really good staff experiences. They just wanted to be great doctors.

“What gave my idea that engine, that excitement, that passion was to help doctors like my mum to just be great doctors. And that was being really aware of all the challenges that she had gone through over her medical career.”

Want more advice on how to manage your business at every stage of the journey? Watch our webinar in partnership with AWS, How to build, launch and scale your startup, in full and on-demand to get even deeper insights from our expert panellists.

Turning it into a viable product

You could have the best idea in the world, but without support and a clear direction it will likely fall flat. For Tom Humphrey, principal at Blackbird Ventures, he believes startup founders often endure an indelible sense of loneliness, particularly in the early days. 

Whether it’s by reaching out to friends and family, joining a network of like-minded entrepreneurs, or getting support from your investors, you can’t create an incredible product entirely on your own.

“I definitely look to help people, to formalise some structures around helping founders,” Humphrey says. “I think coaching can be a bad word; it’s more just about being there to help, because when you are running a startup or you’ve got an idea, it can be really lonely and scary. 

“You’re looking down the barrel of this idea and you have to take a lot of risk to jump into that. So being able to reach out and help is something we [as venture capitalists] can do.”

Growth requires the right funding

Even startups that have evolved into stable businesses have to battle against the torrid storm that growth can bring. Finances — as with all business types — are critical, and even the most marginal cashflow woes can spell disaster if you don’t have the right funding partner.

That’s why Elicia McDonald, partner at AirTree, advises entrepreneurs to consider the benefits of choosing a VC fund over a bank.

“There is a risk appetite that a bank would expect when they make an investment, so there is certain collateral that they’d want and interest charges,” she says. 

“With investment from a VC fund, you obviously get the capital, but you also get a whole lot of support. You’re getting strategic board-level support. You’re getting access to our talent and recruitment services.

Choose the right people for the right jobs

We can’t be all things, all the time. Even entrepreneurs who are jack-of-all-trades have their weak spots. So for a startup to truly take flight, you need to uncover those gaps and plug them with people who have the right skill sets.

“Hiring people is expensive, and making the wrong hire in the early stages can be very costly, not just to cash flow but also to your culture,” says McDonald.

The technical success of the HotDoc app is an excellent case in point.

“It doesn’t make sense for me to have teamed up with other doctors,” Dr Hurst says. 

“We never would have been successful. But because I teamed up with someone who is much smarter at business than me, and there were two other technical people, it was a really good gelling of diverse skill sets.

“My job at HotDoc is not to teach people how to be more technical. My job is to set a vision, to tell a really good story that inspires people who are more technical and can solve those problems. It’s really, really important to find those people.”

NOW READ: An interview with Rory San Miguel, founder of drone-mapping tech startup Propeller Aero

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