Finding true north: how to define your growth compass.

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-4-42-34-pmLessons on growth from Envato’s Ben Chan

It’s always a great learning opportunity when the founders in our startup accelerator gather together for their weekly workshop. When the guest presenter happens to be a General Manager from one of Australia’s most successful startups, the excitement and engagement step up another level. Ben Chan, General Manager of Envato Market, captivated our startup founders last week as he shared some key pointers on how to measure and pursue growth. Since its launch in Melbourne in 2006, Envato has grown its community to over 6 million users, making it the world’s leading market place for creative assets.

With a background in investment and management consulting, Ben has an incredible wealth of knowledge and experience from which to draw. After completing his undergraduate studies in Commerce and Engineering at the University of Melbourne, Ben worked in Investment Banking in Melbourne, before moving to Goldman Sachs in New York. While based in the US, Ben completed his MBA at Stanford University. In 2010 Ben returned to Australia to work in management consulting for McKinsey & Company, later moving to Envato as Director of Growth and Revenue in 2013.

“Growth should serve as a compass for startups, helping to guide your movements at every critical decision”, Ben revealed. If you’re making decisions that do not clearly link back to your growth objectives, you’re missing out. Ben shared the four key pillars of Envato’s impressive growth with our founders, who were keen to learn from his wealth of experience. For Envato, growth comes down to: a strong user focus; delivering products that address those users’ needs; having the right team to deliver the product; and ensuring the right processes are in place to assist your team. This last step is critical for startups struggling to scale their business.

Envato’s stellar growth is fascinating to consider, given the challenges that typically face online marketplaces. While trying to grow both the supply side (their authors) and the demand side (their customers), Ben explained how crucial it was to understand what is important to each. He admitted that, at times, one side of a market place can be easier to develop than the other, but that in order to grow, you need to double your efforts to invest in the side that proves to be a greater challenge.

Through Envato’s careful market analysis they discovered that authors of digital assets wanted to earn a living through freelancing, but that they also were desperately seeking a sense of belonging and a community where they felt cared for. On the other side of the equation, buyers of digital assets wanted good value, trust, high quality and diversity of product. Ben and the team at Envato provide proof that both suppliers and customers in a marketplace can be satisfied simultaneously, and have continued to expand their marketplace tailored to the specific needs of each group.

Taking this advice on board, our founders were keen to learn more about how Envato have grown their customer base. Approaching digital marketing by channel, Ben was quick to stress the importance of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). “Search Engine Optimisation is critical. It doesn’t matter if you have the best product in the world, if Google and your customers can’t find you, that’s the end.” Paid acquisition can be used to bolster your audience, but, as Ben stressed, it is often costly and only generates small volumes. “Affiliate marketing is a huge industry and can be a great way to encourage a virtual sales team – but you need to make it worth their while” said Ben. Our founders had plenty of questions on this topic, discussing how best to select and engage with affiliates. Email marketing was also discussed as a key tool in pursuing growth. The founders were challenged to think beyond the use of email for existing customers, instead using it for new customer acquisition by collaborating with complimentary organisations, where benefits can be realised for both user-bases through joint marketing campaigns.

As the discussion turned to focus on the processes needed for growth, Ben shared the value in iterating fast and gathering customer feedback at every stage of the sales funnel. Laying down the challenge, Ben encouraged the startups to push out at least one market or customer ‘experiment’ per week in order to gain valuable feedback which can then be used to make data driven decisions. “While focus groups are useful, even the best focus groups can only give you a few voices. Some of those voices may be louder than others but not necessarily point in the right direction”, shared Ben. “Real data should always trump anecdotes”.

Ben concluded the workshop by covering the two key growth metrics that Envato consider the most valuable: conversion rate and value by cohort. While most people think of conversion rates from a ‘visit to action’ point of view, Ben suggested our startups break this down even further to gain a more comprehensive understanding of their sales funnel. Each step in the sales funnel from should be tracked, in order to minimise leakage. Looking not only at page visit to purchase, but also at customer lead to face-to-face interaction, or event view to event registration, can provide useful insights that can be used to improve your offering overall.

Value by cohort groups users and customers by common factors, including but not limited to the channel that brought them to you, the geography they’re from, the product they’re interested in, the campaign that won them over, and when they engaged with your business. This data can then be used to understand the revenue generated by a cohort, in comparison to their cost of acquisition. Particularly valuable for startups to identify where traction and revenue is being generated, and consequently, where marketing efforts should be focused.

Ben was incredibly generous with his advice and time, staying behind to talk to our founders after his workshop. We are very grateful to Ben for sharing his wisdom and advice, and we look forward to having him back at MAP again soon.

Morning tea with Ian Bernstein, co-founder of Sphero

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Co-founder of Sphero, Ian Bernstein shared his startup experience with us in a special visit to LAB-14 on Thursday 25 August. The MAP team was incredibly excited by Ian’s visit, as he truly is a leader in the development of interactive toys and applied technology. Sphero’s star product is a robotic ball that can be controlled by smartphones, which as we learnt, played an integral role in the creation of the iconic Disney Character, BB-8.

Ian’s journey started when he and co-founder Adam Wilson were accepted into TechStars. Accelerating their growth through sheer determination, hard-work and a commitment to take advantage of every opportunity, by the end of the program, the boys had developed the basic prototype for Sphero. At this point, and after demonstrating significant success through sales of their robotic balls, Ian and his co-founder Adam were invited to the Disney Accelerator program. After a chance meeting with a Disney executive involved with the Star Wars Episode VII movie, in in the space of 4 hours, Ian and Adam developed a (very) rough prototype for BB-8, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The film was a huge success, BB-8 was a stand-out character, and Sphero’s BB-8 app-controlled droid went on to achieved ‘Toy of the Year’ status.

Here’s a sneak peek into the Q&A session we had with Ian.

MAP: There are many different accelerators around the world. How do you figure out which one to apply for?

IB: The easiest way to find out is to search for the companies that those Accelerators have funded, to give you a better idea of who they cater to. In the U.S, for instance, some of the commonly known Accelerators include Y Combinator, 500 Startups, and TechStars, which are mainly for early-stage startups. Other Accelerators such as HAX and Disney Accelerators are designed to help more established startups to scale up.

MAP: How do we go about choosing where to manufacturing our products?

IB: Most hardware companies (including Sphero) manufacture their products in China. Firstly, it is important to choose manufacturers that you can trust to reduce the likelihood of being copied by other surrounding manufacturers. Secondly, manufacturing in China requires founders to stay highly involved with the production line to ensure the quality of their products. I personally spend a substantial amount of time each year visiting our manufacturers to solve all kinds of technical issues.

MAP: What should we do if we want to expand our product line?

IB: BB-8 has been the most popular product by Sphero to date. This doesn’t mean we won’t continue to develop. How will Sphero expand our product lines to stay relevant in the market? We have products for users at different levels, so that when they have developed or progressed beyond one product, we can upgrade the speed for players or the challenge from intermediate to higher levels. This has proved effective to keep our users engaged and challenged so far.

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MAP16 Launch Party

The impressive Plaza Ballroom at the Melbourne Regent Theatre was a fitting setting for the launch of the 2016 Melbourne Accelerator Program, where the ten startups that have been admitted for this year’s intake were formally announced. With a crowd of over 750 people at the launch, this year’s program is set to be the biggest and most successful yet, with MAP looking to build upon its ranking of 8th best University accelerator in the world.

MAP’s startup accelerator received over 120 applications this year – more than all of the applications combined from previous years. Applications were diverse in every sense, which MAP looks forward to continuing to improve upon and encourage. The program rewards successful applicants with office space, industry-leading mentorship, pitching opportunities across Australia and Silicon Valley, and A$20,000 funding – equity free. This year, ten startups were accepted, up from eight last year as a result of Australia Post’s support of two additional startups.

The evening kicked off with a sense of anticipation building in the ballroom. Seats filled, standing areas filled, stairways filled, Accelerator Manager Maxine Lee began proceedings with an overview of the program and this year’s application process. Rohan Workman, MAP Director, then took to the stage to outline MAP’s grand design for growing the entrepreneurship scene in Melbourne. Taking us on a brief history of MAP, the program has gone from Rohan working part-time in 2012 to today’s format where MAP fills a ballroom for its events. Rohan stressed that MAP is just part of a startup’s journey – a facilitator to provide the conditions for growth and success. Partnerships are a key component of this – MAP’s collaboration with Australia Post was represented by Greg Sutherland, who described his delight at working with the program and in helping broaden entrepreneurial talent and training in Melbourne and beyond into regional Australia. Before the Startups then pitched their ideas, Entrepreneur-in-Residence Jeremy Kraybill explained his involvement in MAP, particularly how the program has inspired him to volunteer more time and even move his business to Lab-14. It was suggested that at the current rate of growth, MAP may need to hire the MCG for the 2017 launch party….watch this space.

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The main feature of the night was for the accepted startups to pitch their businesses to the diverse audience – given three minutes each. In a telling sign about the sense of community fostered in the program, each startup introduced the next, with high-energy performances and the crowd evidently engaged. The ten startups who shall complete the 2016 Melbourne Accelerator Program are:

  • Allume Energy – A renewable energy technology company focused on grid sharing and solar as a service for Australian communities.
  • Kind – Provides home care services to help seniors live a fulfilled life in their own home.
  • Onomap – Identifies unique insights from customer data.
  • Black – A collective of hackers looking to build a smarter world.
  • Bajaboard – An all terrain buggy at your feet.
  • Shacky – Tiny house getaways.
  • Honee – The discovery and booking platform for all wellness, beauty and fitness services in Melbourne.
  • Deliciou – Offers premium blends of healthy snacks and seasonings that are fun and easy to use.
  • Axon – Connections in health.
  • CNSDose – Genetically Guided Antidepressants: Fast-Track Finding the Right Antidepressant.

Congratulations must be extended to the successful startups, who join the program at the start of June. However there are so many more points of contact through which to get involved in MAP. Masterclass speeches, Velocity Series workshops, Founder Meet-Ups, Open-office hours and the grand Melbourne Entrepreneurship Gala in August make up just some of the activities that MAP offers to Melbourne’s entrepreneurs and interested parties alike.

13235506_1189826957704790_6877187366151880926_oWith formalities complete, drinks flowed and networking continued late into the evening – with the venue even having to announce that the event had concluded, such was the sustained energy in the room. The Launch represents just the start of what will be a massive year for MAP and entrepreneurship in Melbourne. Many events will be running throughout the year, so make sure that you keep an eye on MAP’s eventbrite and keep in touch.

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MAP Masterclass Recap – ‘How to Grow your Startup’ with Willix Halim

A packed house was treated to the latest MAP masterclass on Wednesday, focusing on the key concept for any startup business – growth. Willix Halim, VP Growth at Freelancer.com, provided core insights into how to focus, learn and build for growth. At a company where 95 per cent comes under the ‘growth’ department, and with a Gold Bravo Award at Honeywell International for his work in growing revenue, Willix is highly qualified to inform the next generation of scalable startups in Australia.

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Willix started with the first of his three central take-aways for the session – your team matters. He explained Freelancer’s divide into 15 product teams, ensuring that accountability is at the centre of any decision. Metrics from across each team are visible from wherever you are in the Freelancer organisation. Whether in London, Melbourne, Jakarta, Palo Alto, or any of the 10 Freelancer offices, you are able to track what other teams are doing. Transparency in Willix’s team is paramount. It allows for rewards and reprimands, ensuring that everybody is on the same track and meeting similar performance standards.

This led smoothly into Willix’s next central thesis, and perhaps the idea that he stressed the most throughout the lecture. He outlined the vital role of statistics and data in order to ‘track everything’. Whilst this certainly applies to the performance of the team, there were wider applications across the whole business that Willix explained could drive growth and provide focus for a company. Data ‘reduces every step to work’ and allows you to locate value in your business. Willix recommended tracking your competitors and copying what works for them, and going beyond tracking just revenue, traffic and users like most firms. Testing and data analysis are at the centre of everything that Freelancer.com does, and can be used to inform every decision made in the business.

Willix then stressed how this needs to be done in a speedy manner, with conversion rate being the major priority. He claimed that ‘everyone’s ideas are the same – speed and prioritisation are the only difference’. He introduced a ‘growth sprint’ concept to his team based on delivering 3 targets per day, achieving 7 times more revenue just from slight tweaks to the ‘call-to-action’ page on their website. Marginal gains were stressed as influential. ‘Fast is always good’ and ‘conversion rate is everything’ were Willix’s major pain points and the areas upon which to give the most focus for growth.

Willix provided some absolutely central insights during his masterclass, and the full-house at Lab-14 were engaged throughout. With people, product and market at the forefront and a focus on conversion rate and speed through data analysis, Willix gave a clear message to the audience about how they too can achieve similar growth to Freelancer.com.

Watch Willix Halim’s Masterclass and other speeches again on our Youtube Channel.

Don’t miss out on MAP’s next speech in the Masterclass Series. Book now HERE.

The 10 Selected Teams for MAP16

The Melbourne Accelerator Program is proud to announce that we have selected 10 teams for the MAP16 Startup Accelerator!

After reviewing 124 applications, we shortlisted 36 teams at Pitch Night and 17 teams for final Selection Interviews. The process was gruelling and we saw many exceptional teams this year.

The 10 selected teams are:

  • Allume Energy – A renewable energy technology company focused on grid sharing and solar as a service for Australian communities.
  • Kind – Provides home care services to help seniors live a fulfilled life in their own home.
  • Onomap – Identifies unique insights from customer data.
  • Black – A collective of hackers looking to build a smarter world.
  • Bajaboard – An all terrain buggy at your feet.
  • Shacky – Tiny house getaways.
  • Honee – The discovery and booking platform for all wellness, beauty and fitness services in Melbourne.
  • Deliciou – Offers premium blends of healthy snacks and seasonings that are fun and easy to use.
  • Axon – Connections in health.
  • CNSDose – Genetically Guided Antidepressants: Fast-Track Finding the Right Antidepressant.

Each team will receive $20,000 in early stage funding to support the founders in accelerating their businesses. Startups will be given access to office space in LAB-14, at The University Of Melbourne. The 5 month program will involve structured mentoring from industry leaders, development workshops and will conclude with pitching opportunities in Melbourne, Sydney and Silicon Valley.

It’s an exciting time for MAP! The program will kick off on June 1 2016 when the teams will move into the Lab-14 space.

Grab the opportunity to meet our 10 teams at the MAP16 Launch Party on May 25! Tickets available here.

Any media enquiries can be directed to map@eng.unimelb.edu.au.

Master Class Recap: How to make great people decisions – with Richard Turner.

At the genesis of any successful startup, as crucial as any ground-breaking idea or innovative business model, is having a great team. Hiring the right colleagues with complementary skillsets to drive your venture forward is a crucial step that often proves the difference between scalable success and insurmountable issues that Kostan for MC blog.pngput into question the survival of the business. In the first of MAP’s Master Classes for 2016, Richard Turner of Egon Zehnder, shared his key insights about how to hire with confidence with a packed Lab-14.

Richard began by explaining the sheer importance of making correct hiring decisions at the startup level. Over 40 per cent of any above-average business growth has been attributed to leadership qualities – indicating the make-or-break nature of such choices. This has been made even more critical in what Richard described as a ‘VUCA’ world – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. The founding member of a startup needs to hire with the future growth of their business in mind, whilst avoiding common pitfalls such as overrating or lack of attention to personal branding. In terms of hiring, Richard emphasised the importance of identity fit, especially for young ventures, posing a number of helpful recommendations for what a founder should look for, and how they can operationalise the hiring process.

The attributes for success have changed dramatically across human history. Usefulness is often defined by intelligence, professionalism, and most recently by competency. Richard challenged us to consider a new core attribute when hiring; potential. Every job is broken down into its core roles in order to meet competency requirements, however, increasingly with the dynamism of the global economy interlinking industries and businesses, an employee’s potential to adapt quickly and apply transferable skills is highly valuable.

Potential can be broken down into determination, engagement, insight and curiosity, Flexibility and adaptability are also key, as they allow employees to adjust to the changing needs of the business. Potential requires the ability to connect dots in complex situations and approach issues from numerous standpoints – combating the challenges of the ‘VUCA’ world. Potential has many different definitions, so how can a startup founder seek it out in their applicants?

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True to the purpose of the class, Richard shared some unique ideas about how top-level recruiters interview with ‘potential’ in mind. Studies indicate that multi-criteria, competency based, and non-employee-named references are some of the most crucial methods through which to obtain information from applicants. For Richard, his preference is to interview by story, in order to learn more about the various candidates. He stressed that discussing formative experiences before filling any gaps with more closed, competency-based questions allows for both a conversational feel and a wider scope of issues to be covered in an interview.

Recruitment is an art and Richard’s appreciation of the subtleties of personalities and motives sets a fine example for how to ensure a good fit between employee and startup. Attendees at the Master Class came away with an understanding of how hiring is crucial to startup businesses, and which attributes are the most important to look for in today’s economic climate. Successfully identifying potential will provide startups with an advantage as the needs of the business change, and so getting to the core of a candidate’s curiosity is the holy-grail of judging suitability.

Hiring the right people is important at any stage of a business’ life, but even more so at growth stage when paths are being set, and when the ‘VUCA’ world has its greatest impact. The first of our Master Classes for 2016 taught us how to navigate this uncertainty, helping to ensure that we make great people decisions in the future.

Don’t miss our next Master Class ‘How to grow your startup’ with Willix Halim on May 11. To keep informed about other exciting events offered by MAP, sign-up for our newsletter here.

MAP16 Startup Accelerator Application

Applications are now closed!

Applications for the MAP16 Startup Accelerator are open from 17 March-17 April 2016.

Once a year, the MAP Startup Accelerator funds a group of startups (currently 10 per intake) and we work with them to grow their businesses.

Top startups are awarded access into the Startup Accelerator. Startups are provided:

  • $20,000 funding (no equity taken)
  • Office space
  • Structured mentoring
  • Unparalleled networking opportunities
  • Pitching opportunities across Melbourne, Sydney and Silicon Valley

Our 24 alumni teams have raised over $10.0 million in funding, created more than 150 jobs and generated over $10 million in revenue.

MAP funds all kinds of startups across a broad range of categories.

In order to be eligible for the MAP Startup Accelerator, at least one founder needs to be a student, staff or alumni from our participating faculties:

  • Melbourne School of Engineering;
  • Faculty of Business and Economics / Melbourne Business School;
  • Faculty of Arts;
  • Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences;
  • Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning;
  • Melbourne Law School;
  • Faculty of Science; or
  • Faculty of Victorian College of the Arts and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music.

 

Startup Accelerator Selection Process

  • Online application (17 March- 17 April)
    • As a first step, you will submit an online application (including a pitch video). Your 3-minute video should outline:
      • The problem you are solving
      • Your solution
      • Market size and total addressable market
      • Your business model
      • You traction and progress to date
      • Existing competitors (and how you’re better)
      • Your team
  • Pitch Night (28 April)
    • Successful applicants will be invited to the Pitch Night and given 3 minutes to present their idea to the MAP mentors. There will be no Q&A during this time
  • Interview- MAP Team (4-6 May)
    • The next stage will be a discussion with the MAP team around your business specifics
  • Interview- Selection Panel (12 May)
    • Finally, teams which progress to this stage will present a 3-minute pitch and have 12-minute Q&A with the MAP Selection Panel.
  • The Journey Begins (18 May)
    • MAP16 Startup Accelerator welcome, briefing and inductions for the selected teams
  • MAP Launch Party (25 May)
    • Get to know the top 10 teams of the MAP16 Startup Accelerator and watch them pitch at the MAP Launch Party

If  you have any questions please email map@eng.unimelb.edu.au