When you’re running a startup, who do you reach out to?
The average Australian tech startup founder is not a young person in a hoodie but a 30-40 year old, mid-career professional. While this professional experience tends to mean Aussie tech startup founders have a mature understanding of business — a distinct competitive advantage — it can be quite a transition to go from working at a large company for a number of years to heading up a small company of your own.
I know what this is like. When I moved from working for a major multinational corporation to leading one of Australia’s largest co-working spaces, it was exciting but daunting. At that stage the co-working industry was starting to experience significant growth but there were still very few people I could talk to locally who understood how to successfully run such a space.
To make good business decisions, you need fresh perspectives and the opportunity to talk through ideas — but when you found a tech company, you really need business confidants who understand the startup life too.
Last year, 44% of Australian startups reported they were producing a product that’s the first of its kind (significantly above the global average). This proves that Australia is batting above its weight in innovation, however, it comes with a challenge: who do you talk to when you’re creating a product that didn’t exist before? When you have no peers?
Co-working spaces provide vital opportunities for peer-to-peer learning and the flexible conditions needed to scale a high-growth tech company. They also provide social opportunities to prevent some of the isolation that can come with working alone or in small teams.
However, sometimes that’s not enough in itself and that’s why we also run ‘sounding board sessions’ for the startups based in our co-working space in partnership with Vitae.Coach, an AI startup company that specialises in neuro-leadership coaching.
The ‘sounding board sessions’ are not traditional counselling sessions and they’re not meant to replace professional help for mental illness. They provide the opportunity for startup founders to talk through those small, drawn-out or challenging business decisions that don’t seem to have a clear-cut answer with someone who understands the startup life; the things you would normally turn to a colleague for help with if you worked in a large traditional organisation.
Shelley Laslett, co-founder chief executive of Vitae is also a startup mentor and advisor, so she understands how important it is to help founders grow a high-growth tech company without breaking themselves or their business.
Startup founders rarely get opportunities to reflect and analyse but it’s critical to their growth and the growth of their company. We want to see each one of our founders get to where they want to go in the fastest and easiest way possible — but, most importantly, we want to provide them with a support network. Startup life can be tough with long hours and a lot of rejection so it’s important to give founders that back-up.
Sydney’s tech scene has grown enormously since 2012 and there are now lots of co-working spaces — including the new Sydney Startup Hub, which we’ll be moving into in early October (in addition to our existing property, such is the demand for space for tech companies in Sydney). This means more people who will be going through the same unique startup challenges and greater opportunities to share ideas and challenges.
With the Australian tech community booming, it’s important we put in place support networks like these now to help our tech community grow in a healthy way and avoid some of the burnout and isolation we too often see in founders based in more established tech ecosystems.