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News » Partner Content » Scaleup growing pains: A VC and tech engineer’s 3 tried and true lessons for founders
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Our Ask Me Anything event brought together some of the brightest and most experienced minds in the startup community, giving attendees a unique opportunity to grill them with their most burning questions. Spread across 20-minute sessions, four breakout sessions explored everything from generative AI strategies to maintaining and optimising cash runway in the current climate.
‘Scaling Everything, Everywhere All At Once’ was a breakout session that grabbed the attention of most attendees. Here, conversations about global growth and scaling were led by Tom Humphrey from Blackbird Ventures, and Matt Allford from Parallo, a Crayon company.
Coming from different angles and experiences, the panellists answered questions around startup growth and shared these valuable lessons:
Before joining Blackbird Ventures as an investor, Tom launched a startup in San Francisco called Kanopy, a B2B video streaming company that eventually exited to private equity. Spending 10 years in the US in total, and returning to Australia in 2021, Tom recalls the difference in culture to be one of the biggest barriers to immediate success.
“We built a team in Australia and then we started building a team in the US, and actually trying to make it ‘one team, one dream’ was a little bit challenging,” he says. “When you break down a startup, the people are the most important.”
When it comes to bridging the culture gap, Tom advocates for transparency across the board.
“Transparency goes a long way to bring people and get them to buy into the strategy, but then also take a little bit of ownership over coming up with some of the solutions,” Tom says.
Matt Allford, a DevOps engineer and tech specialist at Parallo, who support scaling SaaS companies with cloud services, echoes the same sentiment. Having found value in open communication in a range of roles throughout his career, Matt recommends adopting the practice wherever you decide to scale.
“The transparency in the early days helped bring a lot of context to things that would have been otherwise unknown to me,” Matt shares. “Other than just coming in and writing some code or delivering that thing to that customer, it had a bit more meaning to it when you knew what was going on.”
No one understands the power and potential of tech better than Matt. At Parallo, Matt works closely with the technical teams of his SaaS customers, helping them to automate, grow, and scale.
He’s found that while startups are more than used to juggling a million responsibilities in the early days, many founders hold on to some tasks for far too long.
“There’s a lot of business functions that you can offload,” Matt says. “Lean on some of that technology that’s coming out because it is changing the game.”
For someone who has spent their career doing highly technical tasks like writing code, Matt says the recent developments in AI and similar technologies are worth keeping an eye on.
“It’s not necessarily about looking at your business and thinking ‘where can I put AI into my app or my product?’, but it’s also about ‘what are other people out there creating that can help you alleviate some of the stuff that you do day-to-day?’” Matt says.
Having been through the hardships himself, Tom says it’s important to maintain your focus through even the toughest days.
“From the get go, good days and bad days are exaggerated,” says the founder-turned-investor. “You just have to figure out really quickly, how do I manage these emotions? And I think one of the biggest things I learned is really focusing on just what you’re doing and not focusing on competitors.”
On the topic of competitors, Matt urges startups considering scaling not to just go global for the hell of it. He says it’s important to perfect your product in one market, before putting any muscle behind expanding.
“Have you actually saturated the Australian market?” Matt asks. “Are there other adjacent things that you’re doing with your product that you can do in your localised market or change the model of what you’re selling or how you’re selling it in the market?”
Above all, both agree that expanding on a global scale is much easier when it’s been a goalpost since day one. According to Tom, there are invaluable conversations and pieces of advice to be heard from the Australian startup community.
“I went on this journey of exploration and conversations, logging all these notes, and it was through that that I learned a lot about the startups that were going on [around us],” Tom says. “I think VCs are very integrated into the ecosystem, so navigating your way through an ecosystem gives you a lot of touch points.”
Startup Daily’s Ask Me Anything event was made possible by AWS and supporting partner Parallo.
If you’ve got more questions to ask about startups, SaaS and growth, get in touch with Parallo here.
This article is brought to you by Startup Daily with Parallo.
Mia Erickson completed her Masters of Media Practice in 2021. Since then she has joined the Pinstripe Media team and is busy immersing herself in the world of Australian small business, startups and finance.
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