The 6 Degrees Salon rocked last Thursday when over 40 local entrepreneurs packed into the Cellar Lounge be inspired by Brendan Yell, Manager of the Catalyst Startup Program by SoftLayer, an IBM Company. Softlayer provide high performing cloud infrastructure for many startups that have gone on to big things such as Mailchimp and WhatsApp.
We had a diverse group attend and it was great to see our existing 6 degrees members meeting up with some new faces and tech talent that we have here in the Coffs Coast. Brendan has a wealth of experience which he openly shared with us.His is a long and varied story – from the emerging days of the very concept of ‘online’ with his role in CompuServe bringing the first cable modem to Australia; on to a number of successful (ShopFree.com.au) and not so successful online ventures; and a serendipitous meeting with INXS which led to running their digital operations for a number of years.
On being a rockstar startup
Based on his work with INXS, he believes that being a startup founder is a lot like being in a rock band. A successful rock band (and therefore successful startup) requires the right combination of complementary skills – guitarist, bassist, and drummer.He advised our startups and local entrepreneurs to avoid the pitfall of hiring people that are too similar to yourself “we all like to hang out with people like ourselves, but for a startup you need a bit of tension” said Brendan.“ You need someone to pull you up and test those assumptions, not agree with you.”
Our local entrepreneurs were encouraged to “make a decision and act on it quickly, rather than waste time overanalysing and not taking action” said Brendan. “By taking action you can learn from it, even if is not the right decision you can quickly learn from it and make another decision. If you don’t do anything you can’t learn anything.”
The Coffs Harbour Advantage
Brendan also had some insights for Coffs Harbour and the advantages of being in a regional setting. First off he noted how well Coffs has positioned itself with the advanced rollout of the NBN. With this infrastructure in place Coffs is ready to do well on the global stage.
Being regional increases the collaborative nature of all our businesses. We know that if we can assist some of our local businesses to grow the flow on effects are exponential. Using the rock band analogy, when Dave Grohl was asked why there were so many great rock bands coming out of Seattle in the 90s he said “because we all helped each other”. And this is the advantage that Coffs has to harness today.
Surprisingly, Brendan also suggested that it was an advantage being away from all the hype and hyperbole surrounding startups in the cities such as in San Francisco, as well as Sydney and Melbourne. In these startup capitals everyone can get caught up watching what everyone else is doing, what moves they are making and generally being a voyeur rather than a doer. Away from the bright lights, startups in Coffs can avoid the distractions and just get on with the job of growing their business.
Live Mentoring Session
Two of our local startups had the opportunity to be “live mentored” by Brendan in front of the crowd. Whilst being nerve-wracking initially, as they had no idea what they were in for, both came away with valuable insights.
James Hay, My Therapist said it was “encouraging to see that we stood up to the test and our challenge now is growth in other geographical areas.” Brendan also provided an interesting viewpoint and suggested there are opportunities to learn from the primary healthcare sector and how they are starting to take online bookings.
Ken Thaine, of PowZat Promos learnt from Brendan that you “must get your App out there quickly, no matter if it’s not perfect!” Since his live mentoring he is focusing on maximising the number of users as Brendan highlighted to him that “it’s the number of users that puts the real value on the business – NOT the cash flow!” He said overall the message for them is to “get a move on and get it out there!!”
After the formal part of the Salon, Brendan was very generous with his time and discussed startup strategies with all of the eager locals.
Brendan’s meeting with INXS is what we at 6 Degrees call accelerated serendipity and that is why we brought our local entrepreneurs together for this Salon so they can listen, learn and and connect with others that can make their startup happen…faster!