Everyone has an Agenda – (or why is diversity only about gender diversity?)

I’m pretty sure that what I’m about to say isn’t going to win me any fans among some sectors of the community – but I really don’t care. It’s something I feel pretty strongly about.

In the past year or so, the argument for diversity in the workplace has seemed to get extra legs. Article after article has written about how women still haven’t achieved parity in the workforce and how there’s still a pay gap between women and men in particular jobs, and certainly, apparently in the C-suite.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for fairness. There should be the same pay for the same job in my book so, if there is a differential, I’m all for holding the flags to protest about evening up the stakes.

What does get up my nose, however, is that it seems that the diversity argument has been hijacked by some to relate to gender-only diversity.

While groups of women (and some men) get very vocal about making it fair for them, they seem to forget there are others for whom diversity is, unfortunately, still just a concept, for whom unfairness is running rife – and there’s just nowhere near enough of them to be heard.

Surely, if we’re protesting about unfairness, it should be for everyone, not just our own particular group. And that’s what gets me angry.

It seems that everyone is out for themselves – and themselves alone.

While groups of women (and remember, I’m one of the fairer sex so I’ve, quite obviously, got nothing against my own “tribe”) argue that things aren’t fair for them, and that men aren’t considering them enough in their decisions, they simply disregard other groups which are also being discriminated against.

When did we all get so narcissistic?

Maybe I’ve got it wrong, but aren’t we just being hypocritical arguing that we’re being discriminated against and that men are the big, bad wolves who only think of themselves when we’re pretty much doing exactly the same thing? Why has the diversity argument been hijacked to be “all about us” when it obviously goes so much deeper.

There are those that would argue “When it comes to diversity campaigning, let’s look after the biggest group first, then we can tackle the others” or “but women are the second largest group*, we need to take care of that first”. Puh-lease!!! Don’t pretend that we haven’t got anyone other than our own interests at heart. (*Second largest in the C-suite).

If women’s groups want to get involved in the diversity debate, how about we do it for all of the sectors that need to be considered in the said debate – those with disabilities, those in rural Australia, indigenous Australians, young Australians (especially those entering the workforce for the first time), mature age workers et al. Ladies, where do those groups fit into your campaigns for equal treatment?

Women are typically exceptional care-givers. Corporate women need to show that same care for other groups in the workforce – not just themselves.

I’m all for diversity and will happily join the chorus to argue that there needs to be equal pay for equal work, that every group in the workforce should be equally represented and that work opportunities that exist for one sector should exist for all of them, but we’re still a ways from that, it seems.

With International Women’s Day on the approach, wouldn’t it be great if we could lead with the message “women want to drive diversity for everyone”. We’ve come a long way – but we still have a long way to go. But let’s do it for all – not just ourselves.

Why Entrepreneurial Paranoia is your Best Friend

I’ll admit it.  I’m paranoid.  In fact, both my Co-Founder and I are.  It’s not the looking around corners type of paranoia – it’s entrepreneurial paranoia and we both have a really healthy dose of it.

You see, we don’t just believe people are watching us – we know it.  We see our own marketing “speak” on our competitor’s websites, we see competitors copying the terms we use and even the layout of things we’ve done.  A couple of months ago, we released a unique feature only to hear from our supplier that a competitor had immediately approached them to do the same.

We should be honoured.  You know what they say – “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” – but, to us, having competitors doing what we’re doing just means that, if we keep the status quo, we’ll blend into “them” crowd.

We’re right to be paranoid.  There are a lot of copycats out in the market and it keeps us running – and fast.  And it means that we are always looking at ways to do what we do better and differently from the “pack”.

In fact, I’d go as far as to say that if you’re not suffering from entrepreneurial paranoia, you’re probably not leading, but following.

Watching your competitors too closely, and trying to one-up them, is following rather than leading.  You’ll never disrupt a market, or make a huge impact, by copying. Rather than watching what your competitors are doing, you should be thinking about what you can do that hasn’t been done before.

One of any businesses biggest strengths is being able to invent, rather than re-invent.  Look at some of the fastest growing businesses around, the Ubers, Airbnbs, Facebooks, LinkedIns and Googles of the world.  They haven’t copied someone else, they do something completed different – and they’ve “disrupted” whole industries.

Do they watch what others are doing?  Of course.  Are they consumed by it, making sure that they have the same features, trying to one-up competitors?  Absolutely not.  They’re too busy leading the charge.

They sit around tables and ask the “what if” questions.  They are driven by innovation.  And they’re driven by a healthy dose of entrepreneurial paranoia.  They’re not worried about who’s copying them.  But they are paranoid.  Just enough to think that someone, somewhere might be – right at this very moment – designing something better than them.

And, for a true entrepreneur, that’s a scary thought!!

Innovation doesn’t have an end date – or “Life in Perpetual Beta”

beta11One thing we pride ourselves on at Workible is our culture of constant innovation.  “Perpetual beta” – as I heard it put at innovation hub, Ideo, in Silicon Valley a couple of years ago – beta being the term that technology companies have used for years to describe their testing period.

This term made a lot of sense to me.  You see, technology is never really finished – not if you’re serious about it.

It’s why companies like Facebook and Google have massive teams of developers always looking at additional features, user experience tweaks and a better, smoother user interface.

Recently I heard my friend and entrepreneur Dale Beaumont put it a different way.  He said “if you’re not innovating and moving forward, you’re not standing still, you’re actually moving backwards” and that’s because everything around you is changing at an increasing pace.

It’s really true.  Never before have things moved so fast nor has the pace of change accelerated at such a speed – and it’s only going to get faster.  You don’t have a chance to build your technology, move it into the market, see how it settles and then decide what’s next, instead you release it, fix it along the way (or fail fast) and keep innovating while you’re doing it.

That’s perpetual beta.

To be able to do that, however, you need to keep a finger on the pulse of the market.  You need to have an ear to the ground, to listen to the chatter and gossip in your industry, to uncover what the pain points are and then plan to address them.  You need to watch what others are doing, not just your competitors but other businesses in other verticals that are being innnovative, then apply those innovations to your industry.

In our space, we constantly see businesses who are trying to take the “same old, same old” approach to recruitment just with prettier logos or by throwing large amounts of money at big brand ad campaigns – but that’s not innovation.

Every industry is currently being disrupted, not just by doing the same thing a bit differently but by doing it in a totally new way – and ours is no different (and, we are leading that charge).  For some industries that’s really hard (recruitment is one – they’re not early adopters) but it’s going to happen – that’s a given.

You only have to look at what businesses like AirBnB and Uber have done in their markets – by doing something totally different they’ve really put a cat amongst the pigeons, so much so that governments in some areas are actually trying to close them down.

But people love them both because they’ve simply offered a better way of doing things – and they’ve done it by thinking outside the square.

But are they done?  Absolutely not.  Uber’s last capital raise was $1B and Airbnb’s was $1.5B (yes, billion!!) showing that these companies are still expanding – and innovating along the way.

Innovation is not an idea – it’s an attitude.  It’s applying a “how can we do it better” mantra every day.  It’s about being constantly frustrated and dissatisfied with what you have, and knowing that you still have a long way to go.

We often get asked when Workible will be finished.  The answer is never.  The fact that the whiteboards in our office are covered with hundreds of coloured post-it notes for new ideas, features and improvements are testament to that.

It’s as frustrating as hell.  If we could wave a magic wand and have 500 developers working to make all of those post-it note ideas a reality, I’m guessing that the board would quickly fill up with even more ideas to replace them.

That’s what true innovation is.  Constant change.  Never ending improvement.  Out there ideas.  What ifs.  If onlys.  Continual frustration.  Limitless opportunities.  Perpetual Beta.

And we love it.

Why do startups wear their capital raises like a badge of honour?

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 11.37.47 AMYesterday I was reading an invitation to an event for startups.  It looked like a great event.  The company running the event apparently runs these regularly as, on the bottom of the invitation, they mentioned previous presenters they have featured.

It went something like this – “Joe Bloggs, raised $XM,  Fred Nurk, raised $XM, Jane Smith raised $XM”.  That got me thinking.

It seems to me that the measure of “success”, in the startup community anyway, is not the number of customers you have, not the turnover you have, but the funds you’ve raised.  Call me cynical, but since when is this true validation of a successful business?

I question whether some of these businesses are just drinking their own Kool Aid, caught up in the hype of startup world where the more you raise the bigger the hero you are.  You’re paraded around on startup stages about your superhero status, without anyone looking behind to see if you have a viable – or sustainable business – and possibly giving other starry-eyed startups the idea that you don’t have to have a solid business, you just need to be able to raise money – over and over again.

I saw this Kool-aid drinking in person several years ago on my first trip to Silicon Valley.  My Co-Founder, Alli and I, had just won our first ever pitching competition (before it, we didn’t even know what a pitch was) and the prize was a trip to TiECon in Santa Clara.

At one of the sessions, a gentleman named Rick Morini was being hailed as a god after steering his early stage startup through raising around $50M US (in three rounds) and using that to acquire 300M users.  His company, Branchout, was a job-finding platform that mined Facebook for jobs and job referrals by going through your friend network.  He proudly told a captive audience that he’d done 3 rounds after pivoting from a “sports fan” business, for which he’d also raised money.  (Um, for the record, that’s not a pivot, that’s a whole new business.)

Mr. Morini was being celebrated as a wunderkind after these massive raises and was talking about his unbelievable growth.  Duly impressed, Alli and I came back and started doing some research into Branchout and found a stack of forums with disgruntled users who were fed up with their Facebook contacts being “invaded” and wanting to know how to get out of Branchout.  Within a month, this business had lost half its users and the pundits were predicted that, at that rate, it could be defunct before the end of the year.

Branchout “pivoted” again and again but it just didn’t last and, just recently, it’s dev team and database was sold off leaving investors with a substantial deficit and proving that raising funds is not a measure of your success.

But that’s just one of hundreds of examples.  In thinking about this article, I did a whole lot of research into failed startups and the figures are staggering.  They parallel the well-known ABS statistic that states that around 90% of all businesses fail.  The difference is that a lot of startups fail with a lot of other people’s money.   And there’s plenty of local examples of big raises that have gone sour – we just don’t parade them on stage (although, interestingly, we did when they raised).

An article on TechCrunch gives this good example and quotes, “It’s also possible to raise too much money. Inexperienced executive teams sign up some customers, raise a big round and get a little out of control with high-priced office space and Google-esque perks. Then, for whatever reason, growth slows and all that capital quickly disappears.”  They cite the example of Ben Yoskovitz, the founder of Standout Jobs (interestingly another company in our space) and a postmortem written in 2010 by CB Insights. “I raised too much money, too early for StandoutJobs (~$1.8M). We didn’t have the validation needed to justify raising the money we did.”  He went on to say that “raising money felt like winning.”

That kind of media is, however, all too rare.  Rather than looking to set examples of businesses who’ve found a great product/market fit (the backbone of every successful business) or those who’ve gained great sales traction, or customers of a great calibre, we make heroes of those who’ve raised money.  Why is that?

Why are startup events full of “how to raise money” and “how to pitch” sessions instead of “how to grow a business” sessions or sessions on building killer – and in-demand – technology?   It appears we’d all rather hear sessions about Uber’s or Airbnb’s latest $500M round or how Pinterest or LinkedIn had raised millions – well before they had any revenue model.  The message is apparently – “don’t worry about revenue, they didn’t”.  Newsflash – “they” are the the exceptions rather than the rules!

Maybe it’s my business background but, to me, there just might be a lot of startup Kool Aid drinkers who are going to fall on their own swords.

We all hear questions about whether or not we’re in another “tech bubble”, whether all this money-throwing at startups is going to end in a bad way.  In my humble opinion, it might.  It could just take one or two big, bad stories to end sadly and this fantasyland we all currently live in, may also end.

My problem is not with raising money.  My problem is that we seem to define success with how much you’ve raised – and yet that, on its own, is no definition of success.

Yes, we have raised money – and we’re very aware of our obligations to the investors who have staked so much faith in supporting us in that way – but we certainly don’t pin our success to the value of our investment.  We try to reward our investors with revenue and customers and building great (and valuable) technology.

Would a $50M investment help?  Absolutely!  Would it make us superstars?   No, not just by raising the capital.  However, if we could take that capital and turn it into significant (and I mean 8, 9 or 10 figure) annual revenue, user traction, an enviable client base and long-term sustainability, then yes it would.

But then, I guess I’m old school.

No one ever made it big by being mediocre

fiona-ansan-blog-make-it-bigI made that statement last week, off the cuff, in a blog post – and, of all the things I’ve ever written, that one phrase seemed to evoke the most emotion.

It seems that we all want to achieve at something – perhaps it’s in the work that we do, perhaps it’s by being the best parent we can be, perhaps it’s the singing or acting career we aspire to, or being a superstar on the sports field or perhaps it’s just being the best human we can be. Regardless of what it is, the concept that we can’t achieve that by being ordinary, apparently really struck a chord.

If you look at people who have achieved great things – from Mother Theresa to Bill Gates, none of them did it by being mediocre.

Making brave decisions, going all-out and being game enough to step out of life’s boxes were the things that let them achieve what they did. They didn’t let norms or others’ expectations stop them. They didn’t mind their ps and qs to get things done – they just did them.

It doesn’t matter who you look at – those who have achieved great things all have one driver in common – passion, and one trait they share – guts.

For most entrepreneurs, mediocre scares the you-know-what out of us. Even more than failure. At least if we fail, we gave it a try, we learnt a lot and we, more than likely, went down fighting – but being an also-ran is just an insult. It tells us that we were just plain ordinary.

I look at the people who have inspired me and none of them are mediocre. From my son’s music teacher who makes a huge impact on the students she so passionately mentors into a hard-to-succeed-in industry, to people feeding the homeless who go out morning, noon and night in the heat and the cold to make sure others can eat, to those who inspire me in business by putting themselves out there and exposing themselves daily to the no-so-nice tall poppy haters, each of them is doing something they’re passionate about and doing it in a big way. And not all of them want any acknowledgement for it.

But playing big requires bravery, especially in Australia, where a healthy number of my fellow citizens, unfortunately, seem to take great pleasure belittling those who try to make a mark and/or make a difference.

In the face of that, people playing it big are not more thick skinned than others but they are prepared to run the criticism gauntlet because they simply believe in something bigger.

So here’s the kicker…

If you want to achieve something more, you are going to have to step out of the mediocrity comfort zone. You have to let your passion be your number one driver and ignore the naysayers, critics and those who think you’re just too big for your boots.

Regardless of whether it’s a cause you believe in, an industry you want to change or an empire you want to build, do it with gusto.

With a no-holds barred attitude and a “no fear’ philosophy.

In my humble opinion, if you fear anything at all, fear mediocrity. Do stuff – and do it big. Try big, succeed big or fail big – just don’t be ordinary.

Make risky choices – and owning the consequences

I’ve just read the most inspiring, daring piece of writing courtesy of the incredible Lisa Messenger.  Lisa is the Founder and Editor of The Collective magazine and, I’m sure she won’t mind me saying, one kick-ass – and gorgeously feminine – lady.

The piece was Lisa’s editorial in this month’s Collective magazine.  This month’s issue features a women, facing away, walking out on a ledge over New York City with only a man’s hand holding her back.  While it’s a fantastic picture, it’s an interesting choice for a magazine cover.

This image symbolises every that The Collective stands for – taking risks, getting out there and being gutsy – but that’s not why it’s such a brave choice.  Lisa admits that the reason it’s a brave choice is that, simply, famous faces sell magazines – and this is not only not a famous face, it’s not even a face.

In her editorial, Lisa mentions that she’s wanted to do this for months but, with her magazine empire growing into new markets, she’s needed to conform with famous faces to sell the magazine to new readers.   But this month, not only did she take the risky leap, she also accepted full responsibility for what might be a really bad decision.  In her own words “I’m prepared to take the risk, and prepared to take the hit”.

I admire this gutsy woman in so many ways, her transparency and complete honesty is so refreshing in what can sometimes be an entrepreneurial world of self-serving “spin”.

For entrepreneurs, each day is all about pushing boundaries and going against the grain – and, by doing that, you expose yourself to potential criticism about those possible bad decisions.  But, at the end of the day, if you’re prepared to wear the consequences – and wear them proudly – those risky decisions could be the best ones you’ll ever make.

No one ever made it big by being mediocre and so, if that’s your goal, you need to take those risks.

We do it every day at Workible.  We take risks – and we’re absolutely prepared to “fall on our swords” if they’re the wrong ones.  Sometimes we do, but most of the time, those decisions, while they might not be the big ground-breaking event we hoped for, give us valuable learning experiences.  And every now and again, one proves to be a killer idea.

We realize that if we don’t make risky choices sometimes, if we’re not prepared to go out on that ledge, we may stay mediocre forever – and, for an entrepreneur, that’s an awful thought.

CollectiveLisa, I so admire your need to go against the grain and take risks and I don’t think this cover is a mistake.  If fact, it just might be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made.

Lisa’s reminder in this editorial piece was this – “everyone is equal – the only difference is attitude and mindset.”  After a month of meetings with some of the biggest movers and shakers in the magazine publishing world in NYC, such as Vogue’s matriarch Anna Wintour and Conde Nast’s  CEO Chuck Townsend, Lisa’s statement that “they are just normal people like me, doing the best they can in their chosen field and in life to make a difference in the world” shows that these are just ordinary people making – and owning – big, risky decisions.  It also brings to mind a saying my Co-Founder, Alli Baker (another superstar woman) used to always say.  In conversations we’d have about people doing extraordinary things, Alli would say “My Dad always says, they still put their pants on like us, one leg at a time”.  Yep, they’re ordinary people.

So here’s the kicker…

We all have the capability to do great things, but, if we really want to achieve something extraordinary, we have to be brave enough to risk really pushing the boundaries and making those big, brave decisions and to take the hits – and the learning experiences that comes with them – if they don’t work out.  And we have to proudly own them.

(BTW if you haven’t yet, pick up The Collective Magazine.  It’s an amazing, inspiring read – each and every issue.)

Why it’s imperative that entrepreneurs take thinking time

There’s only one word for my To Do list – aaarrrgghh!!  Each day, more seems to go on it than go off it.  So when I checked my diary last week and realised that I was “out” for 3 days at a conference, my immediate thought was “can I really afford the time?”

After spending three days at an industry-based thought leadership event, my thought now is “can I afford not to?”

As an entrepreneur, there’s a never-ending list of things to do and without a limitless budget for people to do it for you, all too often we find ourselves at the coalface doing all the little stuff – as well as the big stuff, so taking time out seems an absolute luxury.

But it’s not.  It’s an absolute must.

Over the last 3 days, I’ve had time to THINK.  And that’s part – a big part – of my job.

I’ve been able to get another look at the ecosystem that we operate in, hear industry thought-leaders talk about where things are heading and look at what else, and more importantly, who else is doing what in it.

This gives me the time to think about what we’re developing, features we need and how we’re going to stay ahead of the pack by continuing to innovate and come up with best practice solutions for our clients.

It’s also given me time to brainstorm with Alli (my Co-Founder), who is having a similar experience to me, so that we can share ideas, thoughts and “where to from here” strategies on how to continue on the path to achieving what we want to.

So here’s the kicker….

It’s so important that we do this – as it is for any entrepreneur.  It’s not a luxury to take time to think, to go to events, to mix with industry colleagues, it’s a necessity.

The raw truth about startups

A-rollercoaster-ride-001Last week I was privileged to speak to a group of aspiring entrepreneurs at Sydney University.  The Uni’s startup up program, Incubate, brings together students with bright ideas who are looking to start their own businesses, particularly in the technology space.

A panel of four women-led tech startup founders spoke to a room full of bright eyed and bushy tailed women who were all, I’m sure, looking to hear about our stellar successes and our blueprints for growth – but what they heard was something completely different.

Overwhelmingly, each one of us spoke about how hard it was to have your own business, how much tenacity was required and how much we’d each put on the line for our businesses.  They also heard how passionate we each were about riding the rollercoaster – in fact, more than one of us referred to the “addiction” we had for our own businesses.

I found the stories fascinating – from one Founder who had no intention of starting her own business only to be found smack-bang in the middle of it, to another who had one that had been overtaken by a major US business with exactly the same model but tens of millions more in funding.  She had pivoted now into a business that supports women in startups who lack the technical background they need.  The third was a non-tech Founder who now baffled us all with tech-speak, the result of being immersed in her business and a couple of years of “in the deep end” learning.  Now she’s up with the best of them and partnering with some major tech companies in the US who need her back-end storage solution.

And then there was me – a Co-Founder who, with my trusty business partner-in-crime launched a recruitment tech business with no idea about recruitment or tech – but with a problem that no one else was solving.

We spoke about ideas, passion, attitude, determination, challenges and fears with what I thought was raw honesty.  No sugar-coating here.  But we weren’t complaining.  Rather we wanted to encourage these ladies into thinking that anything is possible – but it doesn’t come without pain and suffering.

We obviously said something right because none of them seemed deterred.  Over drinks afterward one woman asked me what I idea I thought she should pursue.  My answer – something you’re passionate about it.

For me, it’s not that I’m necessarily passionate about recruitment, but I am passionate about helping people get work – because without it, none of us can survive (unless you were born with the proverbial silver spoon).  I’m especially passionate about getting kids into work, possibly because I’m a mum but more probably because I think we owe it to them to give them opportunities to excel.  (There’ll be a whole other blog post coming on that topic!)

There was also discussion about whether or not the women in the group would have gotten the same raw stories from men in startups and the only man in our group thought not.  Why is that?  Is it because men have more fear about admitting failure?  Is it pride or ego that stops them from being honest enough to tell the warts-and-all stories?

As a startup you look to others who have been there, done that for guidance as to the way forward.  You read books, you watch videos, you listen to podcasts about the road to success, yet there are very few stories about the real journeys.

Ariana Huffington wrote about her story of collapsing from exhaustion in her quest for success in her recent book, Thrive.  It was a raw and honest story.  Would something like get written by a man?

Similarly I once heard the Founder of Healthy Habits – a sandwich fast-food franchise that sold to a major franchise group – tell her story of success, and how it broke her in many ways and how she was still recovering.  Again, it’s not a story you’d typically hear from a man.

In the very early days of Workible, we were told by someone that successful businesses had a way of reinventing their path to success – and they seemed to carefully omit the trials, tribulations and failures along the way.

I love our business, I love what we’ve achieved and continue to – but it hasn’t come without a stack of personal cost to both Alli and I.  When we’ve “made it” (and we will) into the league of major Australian success stories, I’m sure we will be mindful that would-be entrepreneurs need to hear the whole story – not just the good parts.  Yes, it’s a roller coaster – but then I’ve always loved them.

Where do you draw the line?

do not crossYesterday we had an interesting conversation at Workible about where you draw the line in marketing – and what’s fair game.

As a growing business, we’re always looking at unique ways to get to the market and a recently published tech success story was at the centre of our “how did they do it” discussion.

Some googling soon uncovered some interesting forum and blog posts about some tactics startups had been using (but not admitting to) and that instigated a discussion about where a company draws the line.

Let me be frank, the tactics used by some of this companies were certainly not straight up – but nor were they illegal or fraudulent.  They were, however, very clever and resulted in a huge traffic windfalls to their site (and possibly away from a competitor’s) and, ultimately, was a major part of the huge success they are now enjoying.

Others we came across were arguably even more dodgy, giving the company a windfall in users but giving the users a terrible user experience – and therefore possibly not active users – and making us wonder whether they had really thought it all through or whether or not it was simply a “grab for analytics” to make the company look better to a financier or acquirer.

So where’s the line in business?  What is healthy competition and what is just not right?

The more time we spend in the start up world, the more we realize that all is not what it seems.   What appears to be random luck is seldom that.  It’s much more often smoke and mirrors  or edgy marketing than it is “right place, right time” and it’s all covered up by the term “growth hacking”.  And then there are outright lies about traffic, users and growth – something that puzzles us because, let’s be frank, it’s not too hard to check.

Talk to real growth hackers and they’ll tell you that growth hacking is really about looking at metrics then working out ways to do small incremental improvements everywhere that, put together, give you increased growth in users and/or traffic and not that one big idea that changes everything.

Very few growth hackers will admit to sneaky tactics that mine other sites to get users, or re-direct traffic or piggy back – these seem to be more the domain of the early startup teams – who use “desperate measures in desperate times” – the early days that can make or break a startup.

I’m not sure that we came to an actual conclusion about what was fair game and what wasn’t but our discussion did lead to marketing in general. In the offline world, if salespeople go out every day to try to poach business from their competitors, doesn’t that make these online tactics also fair game?

As an entrepreneur, the whatever it takes attitude is what you need to succeed.  Start ups are hard so you sometimes need to step off the moral high ground and just do what it takes to survive.  It all depends on where you, as an individual, draw the line on what is simply smart marketing versus what is down and dirty behavior.  At the end of the day, that’s up to the individual.

At Workible, we prefer to err on the side of caution.  We don’t lie about our users or our traction.  We don’t need to.  Our technology speaks for itself.  We not trying to be the biggest kid in the playground – we don’t need hundreds of thousands of users because we are a Saas platform.  We’ve specifically chosen not to play where everyone else does, there’s no point.  The biggest players have the general market sewn up, so why go head to head with them.

We’ve taken the disruptive path – picking a niche market and solving their problem with innovative technology and a new way of doing things.  Have a look at the big disruptors in the market – they’re not taking on the big guys, they’re doing things very differently and reinventing the way things are being done.  For us, we’re reinventing recruitment in our niche.

Does that mean we don’t take clients from others?  Absolutely not.  That’s just healthy competition.  Do we use growth hacking to grow?  Totally.  But that’s just smart marketing.

As for where you draw the line, well, that’s up to the Founders.

Ideas from a hotel room floor

Last night I felt really inadequate!  In May 2013 I was privileged to be invited on a Study Tour to Silicon Valley with 9 other Australian businesswomen (and one very brave host) hosted by the fantastic team at the Commonwealth Bank’s Women In Focus.

Floor time in room 339 - this is how we do it

Floor time in room 339 – this is how we do it

While I’d been there before, this trip was one of those life-changing and unique experiences.  Not only did 11 high achieving women get along like a house on fire (unique in itself) but we become a bonded band of “silicon sistas” who shared the very real ups and downs of life as an entrepreneur – and, of course, got the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing the inside running of some of the Valley’s biggest businesses.

Three of us stayed for a few days afterwards to get the lay of the land in respect to launching our businesses in the US.  After each day of meetings we’d congregate on the floor of my hotel room, Room 339, and work together on pitch decks, presentations and business plans.  And we talked about how great it was to be able to collaborate and share resources with other like-minded people.  Those sessions were gold.

We joked that, once we’d all “made it” we’d launch a co-working space (working title: Room 339) to help other women in startups to benefit, like we had, from collaboration.

Last night, one of the three of us, the fantastic Catriona Wallace, made that idea a reality with the launch of her women’s co-working space, “The Ventura”, in Sydney.  With a vision of collaboration and with plans for more centres around the world and with a focus on including areas where women lack these resources, such as in regional areas and areas where there are disadvantaged communities.

Catriona’s energy, passion and ability to run 3 businesses and 3 charities – as well as raising 2 young children and 3 older ones as a single mother – continues to amaze me.  And makes me feel totally inadequate as I struggle to balance time with one fast-moving start-up and time with my loved ones.

Each week, on more than one occasion, we get asked about how our business started.  It started from one idea – and one conversation in a car between Alli and me that went “wouldn’t you think that if a dating site can match hair and eye colour, a job site could match the days and hours you want to work”.   The Ventura came from a similar conversation on the floor of Room 339, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could create this type of collaboration for all women in startups”.

We now have Workible (now much more than a matching site due to more of those “what if” conversations) and the women’s start up community have the first (and I’m sure not the last) “The Ventura”.

Never doubt that those “what ifs” can turn into great things.  They can, and they do – every day.  In fact, it’s the only place they come from, so never be afraid to dream, question and create.  It can be the start of some amazing innovation – and the ride of your life.