In the four-and-a-half years since Pollenizer came onto the scene as a new tech start-up incubator, Australia’s tech sector has morphed beyond almost all recognition.
The industry has mushroomed at a rapid rate, with tech start-ups now spoilt for choice when it comes to dedicated seed funds, accelerators and co-working spaces.
However, Pollenizer has remained a focal point in Australia’s start-up ecosystem. In March, it was named Best Start-up Investor at the 2012 StartupSmart Awards – and for good reason.
Last year alone, Pollenizer tested 16 ideas, started eight new businesses, raised $7 million for portfolio companies, raised $1.1 million for incubation, and sold group buying website Spreets for a cool $40 million.
So what is it about Pollenizer that keeps the tech sector buzzing? StartupSmart spoke to co-founder Mick Liubinskas about the inner workings of the Sydney-based incubator.
Below, Liubinskas reveals the five secrets to how Pollenizer assesses and works with start-ups:
1. The priorities
One of the biggest things we add to a business is to bust procrastination, and over-analysis and over-planning, by just action.
I think that has a big effect on people. We have people who have been thinking about ideas for months, years even, and we start sometimes within an hour. Definitely within 24 hours.
Another part of the language we use is “top right, bottom left”.
A good business should have a big and exciting “top right”, which is a big market or solving a big problem, but you need a “bottom left”.
If the opportunity is so big you can’t find a way to start, that’s no good. You need a place to start and you need somewhere to go.
“Bottom left” is really important. Because we know you’re going to learn a hundred things running this business, we just want to do them fast and cheap.
2. The people
If you have one big idea and you think it’s going to be implemented once to perfection, you’re not going to work well within Pollenizer.
Both the idea and the co-founder we work with need to be tailored to our process. Both are critical.
We bring a big team to every business – a trained start-up engineer and a trained lean product manager are added to the enterprise as a full-time team. That’s what we call the pod. They’re the core of every start-up business.
Surrounding that, we have a trained start-up designer and start-up operations people. There’s also a network of 250 mentors and investors.
Every business also gets a board member who is one of the senior members of the Pollenizer family.
However, it still really relies on a very commercial, hands-on entrepreneur getting it done.
That leads to another principle of the Pollenizer effect – the very important balance between freedom and pressure.
Entrepreneurs have the freedom to test the idea in any way they want, but after three months are expected to come back with a result.
Plus each week you have to sit down and fess up to what you’ve done and what progress you’ve made.
It’s fine to say, “I failed 10 times this week” but it’s not acceptable to say “We’re still working on some things”.
It scares a lot of people. That’s a really important test for us. In the past, we’ve sometimes convinced people we’re the right way but if they don’t get it and can live with it, at some point they will get very uncomfortable.
The funny thing is experienced entrepreneurs really respect it because they’ve learnt the lessons. First-time entrepreneurs question it and say, “I’ve thought through this. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be right”.
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