The startup ecosystem is in a period of great change. Looking at recent events in Australia, such as the decrease in innovation initiatives, the defunding of startup support programmes and the movement of big business towards scale-ups and later-stage start-ups, it can feel daunting to take an idea and strike out on your own.
With the startup landscape changing before our eyes and 2020 on the horizon, it is more important than ever for founders and small business owners to adopt new strategies in order to continue developing their brand, as well as their own entrepreneurial skill set.
What can startups do to find their place — and thrive — in an increasingly challenging startup landscape?
Isolation isn’t the answer
Like Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak building the first Apple prototype in a garage, there’s a well-worn idea that startup success comes from toiling away in isolation. But when starting a company often means battling limited resources and little to no staff, being surrounded by a community of like-minded and talented individuals can provide a unique opportunity for accelerated learning, support and growth.
And communities can arise in the most unlikely of places. I joined WeWork in Sydney, a mere six weeks after founding my own business. I was looking for a location with the strongest sense of community and the least friction for a startup to scale. After getting to know the team on the ground, I became the first member to join WeWork Labs, the global platform for early-stage startups and enterprise companies.
The decision to prioritise community over isolation is one that has been incredibly beneficial for me. No matter how knowledgeable you are, unforeseen challenges will always arise, especially when you’re building a business. Being a few seats away from another business leader who has experienced a similar challenge can make all the difference.
Feedback, feedback, feedback
In today’s highly saturated and disconnected market, remembering that human value lies at the heart of any business can play a significant role in survival, and contributes to success.
At Zenify, we are continuously building a retail business not from bricks and mortar, but rather as a data-driven factory for fulfilling real consumer demand. We ask our growing community what problems they face and then make it our business to source everyday products to plug the gaps. This feedback loop reflects my own process as an entrepreneur. It is practically impossible for a founder to have the perfect solution to every problem or to be continuously switched on in order to recognise how and when to accelerate the business. When losing momentum can mean missing an important opportunity, having a community of like-minded mentors to share key learnings, skills and observations can help you make more informed business decisions when you need it most.
While each industry has its own challenges, taking inspiration and insight from professionals across different industries and walks of life can lead to more innovative and lateral thinking, which can in turn differentiate your business.
The future of work is right at our fingertips and global thinking is a crucial piece of this puzzle. No longer are businesses restricted by size and reach; increasing digitisation has enabled us to move quicker and quicker into a highly competitive global space.
Potential unicorns need to be thinking, and planning, on a global scale right from the start. Having access to a variety of education, mentorship and investment opportunities can significantly impact on a founder’s ability to take a bird’s eye view of their company’s expansion and plan accordingly.
However, ‘thinking global’ doesn’t merely mean planning for increased reach. ‘Thinking global’ also means developing a world-class product on a larger scale. As Zenify is a technology-driven retail start-up, being at the forefront of global logistics and data analytics is key to the development of my product. Having access to technical experts across WeWork’s 73 labs in over 40 cities has helped with this immensely.
As we enter a new decade and in a market of incredible flux, surviving, let alone thriving, as a startup can be incredibly challenging. In spite of this, turning an idea into reality can still be one of the most rewarding experiences. As policy around innovation continues to change shape and funding initiatives come and go, a startup ecosystem can be an immensely valuable resource for education and support, giving you the tools to hone your own entrepreneurial skill set.
Andonis Sakatis is the Founder of Zenify — the data driven retail technology platform that supports profit for purpose businesses.