Startup Catalyst Participants Blog

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My “WTF” Moment

Mark Johnson, the previous CEO of SkyPilot Networks (later acquired), blew my mind on the second day of our trip and introduced our group to the startup ‘”WTF” moment’. His belief was that every truly successful startup had a moment in which a user would experience a WTF moment – when they were struck with what the tech or company offered and how it was going to change their life. Similarly, a WTF moment could be an extreme juxtaposition to what you would expect in any given situation or experience. My moment occurred a few days later. I had tried to organise a meeting...

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Catalyst Crew takes Google Mountain View!

Today we visited the Googleplex in Mountain View! This was something that many of us had been looking forward to and there was definitely excitement seeing Google self-driving cars whizzing by as we approached the area. We started the visit with two interesting tech talks from Googlers Ian and Wayne. Ian is a manager in the privacy and security area, and gave us great insights into the value of data and the fact that no company is immune from data breaches. He also touched on the fact that even Google has made mistakes with collecting more data than was actually...

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Lessons from Startup Weekend Santa Cruz

So we finished up at Santa Cruz’s first ever Startup Weekend. The focus was on sustainability and social impact and boy, did we nail it. Startup Catalyst led teams took out First Place, Third Place and Honorable Mention while Second Place had some excellent guidance from another Startup Catalyst veteran of Startup weekends. The other teams pitched some amazing ideas too so overall a huge success and a lot of people commented that the energy and outcome of the Startup Weekend would have been totally different without our ragtaggle band of Aussies. After the fervor of the awards ceremony and...

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Our Facebook visit

Insights from our Facebook visit: 1. Move fast and break things. Here we have only one mission “connect the world” we don’t get distracted by anything else such as self driving cars. 2. The dilemma is whether to Discourage change in the interest of stability or allow change to happen as often as it needs to? In Facebook we are all about change. The business requires change. 3. We are not done. We can’t say we’ve made it let’s be happy. If we do that in a year we’ll be gone and people will be like “remember Facebook? That was...

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Visit to Service Rocket

We met Robert Castaneda the CEO and founder of ServiceRocket ($26m revenue) and this is his advice for entrepreneurs: 1. My journey started at IKEA when I was 14. Worked there for 5 years. The amount of innovation there was amazing, it was the best place to learn things. They kept changing the products. Their ability to furnish the world at the scale they have before technology is mind blowing. Then went to do a computer science degree at UTS. I luckily knew someone that had connection with Borland and started as an intern but the role then became full...

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Visit to Atlassian

Today we visited Atlassian and here are some of the most memorable insights: 1. We don’t treat our company values as after thoughts. They underpin every decision we make, and they mean everything to us. Our values: – build with heart and balance (make decisions, move fast, use your heart, use your gut and at the same time don’t wear yourself out). – don’t @”$& the customer. – be the change you seek (take initiatives and change things). – open company, no bullshit. – play as a team. Products come and go. Culture stays. When you make a company make...

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Product Focused Panel Discussion

Today at Wework we had a Product focused panel. Here are Mick Liubinskas’ advice for entrepreneurs: 1. In Australia, you don’t have the severe competition you have in SF. You don’t have the whole world trying to get there and compete with you. Here from all over the world, companies come here. That means you need to be ridiculously product focused. 2. You want to become a manopoly but the smallest monopoly possible. 3. Something that is not very well known: Investors here want the phone numbers of three real customers and they want to talk to them. If all...

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Visit to Xero

Today we met Sid Maestro, developer relations manager at Zero. Sid’s advice for startups: 1. Xero founders would go to people and accountants and would ask them “show me how you do your books”. They did their market research, a lot of startups don’t do that and they go straight to coding. 2. Culture is something any startup should think about. I recommend watching Simon Sinek’s TedTalk. One of his best quotes is “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”. If you get the culture right, most of the other stuff will just take care...

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Panel on “How to Succeed in Silicon Valley”

Insights from the panel discussion on “how to succeed in Silicon Valley”, panel members: Mark Johnson (ex-CEO of Skypilot networks acquired by Trilliant, advisor, investor), Hamish Hawthorn (UpGuard: “Silicon Valley minus the bullshit”) and Stephanie Carullo (startup adviser and investor, ex VP sales, Apple). Mark: 1. To be successful in Silicon Valley you can’t be shy. Seriously. 2. I’ve been working with Australian companies for 7 years and Silicon Valley is a totally different world. Don’t assume that if it works in Australia it will work here. 3. When pitching Australians are too polite which is good but too humble...

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Silicon Valley Billboards

At first glance Silicon Valley looks like a village. For the Tech capital of the world and the centre of innovation, my expectation was that everything should be extremely technologically advanced, from buildings to cars and everything in between. But as we were driving from the airport to our hotel, everything looked very jaw-droppingly village like. Boring old houses, old cars, what was so advanced about that? But don’t let the looks fool you. The first clue to the fact that you have just set foot in a new world comes from the billboards. Oh the fantastically other worldly billboards....