For Melbourne entrepreneur William Strange, the most valuable experience he’s received as a startup founder wasn’t found at a startup at all, but at a commercial real estate firm.
“Commercial real estate was where I learnt to take being told no in my stride, and anyone who’s worked in the area knows those first few years are really rough,” Strange told StartupSmart.
“But if you don’t get knocked out by that then nothing will. I don’t think you can live as a startup founder if you don’t have that sort of determination — the determination to pursue opportunities and prove people wrong.
“I always knew that entrepreneurship was the way I wanted to go. I used to have a little black book that I’d write business ideas down in,” he says.
Strange’s time as a commercial real estate agent started right after he left high school, and he says “pounding the pavement” for two years taught him a strong work ethic, eventually leading him to dive into the Shark Tank in 2015 with subscription-based underwear company Three65 Underwear
While the entrepreneur locked in an on-screen deal worth $120,000 from sharks Janine Allis and Naomi Simson, Strange revealed in 2016 that he didn’t end up going through with the deal and instead sold Three65.
At the same time, Strange had also been running sport GPS tracking and analytics technology company Sports Performance Tracking (SPT), which specialises in offering GPS technology to amateur athletes in local sporting clubs. In 2015, he raised a $1 million seed round to kickstart the company’s growth.
Now, two funding rounds totalling $2.5 million later, SPT has today closed a $5 million oversubscribed raise, comprising of equal parts new and existing investors to help the company tackle global markets and to make some key hires.
“Probably about six months ago we decided we wanted to take the next step. We were fielding a huge amount of organic interest, but we didn’t have the infrastructure to take it on,” Strange says.
“We wanted to make sure we had the capital to build this infrastructure, so that’s why we made the decision to get things ready and raise.”
A drive for three-dimensional business
But even with the healthy level of interest in the capital raise, Strange doesn’t view the achievement of closing an oversubscribed round as validation for his idea and journey, acknowledging his time running the business has changed his perspective on success.
“If you had asked me two years ago, a $5 million raise would have been well on the way of where I want to be. But the hard part of running a business is you’re getting more money in all the time, and you’re doing more spending and wanting more investment, so it just continues to grow and snowball,” he says.
“The biggest validation for me comes when we get in on Monday morning, and we’ve got calls from American colleges we’ve never spoken to saying they want our tech. That’s the validation I seek.”
Having started enough businesses to be nearly getting to the ‘serial’ stage of entrepreneurship, Strange is unsure of if his future could lead to him launching another startup; he says SPT was something to sink his teeth into, and it’s currently “well and truly a big enough meal”.
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But the continuously changing world of tech makes Strange wonder what the company could look like 10 years down the line, saying if SPT solidifies its market position, he “doesn’t know” what could happen from there. The one thing he is sure of, however, is his keen desire to avoid a “one-dimensional” business environment.
“The way my brain works is that it needs something to consume. I’m living in a multiple dimension in terms of business, and I’m not sure what would keep me occupied if I didn’t have SPT around me,” he says.
“I know I’d find it hard living in a one-dimensional business world again. I crave that ability to manage things up down and sideways.”
“It doesn’t need to be a perfect product”
Another layover from Strange’s commercial real estate days is a sales-focused approach to business, which he says has done him well in the world of startups. Strange told StartupSmart in 2016 founders should endeavour to take on as much advice as possible, and now he’s passing on some of his own, encouraging other founders to adopt a similar sales-focused approach.
“A lot of founders are focused on making the perfect product, they want it as clean as possible. My background means I’m all about working out what the market needs and giving them a little bit more than that,” he says.
“It doesn’t need to be a perfect product if enough people in the world have the product in front of them.”
Strange says he also calls on a classic adage when running SPT, doing his best to “never sweat the small stuff”.
“Someone told me once to worry about the cents and the dollars will take care of themselves, but if you look up and into the future, if you’re focused on the small things you’ll lose control of the bigger ones,” he says.
“If you worry about all the small things, the big things will never get done.”