Melbourne’s best startup founders share their lessons

23rd June 2017

Melbourne’s most exciting entrepreneurs came together for an amazing event to help us learn from the ups-and-downs of their entrepreneurial journeys for Melbourne  Movers & Shakers – thanks to our fabulous co-hosts General Assembly.

Here, we’ve gathered their key insights to help you kick-start your own entrepreneurial journey.

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Don’t let other people’s expectations limit your ambition –James Tutton, serial entrepreneur – Moonlight Cinemas, Smiling Mind, Plato Project

During a time when being an entrepreneur wasn’t as trendy as it is today, and was barely considered a profession, James Tutton became one due to his relentless optimism and enthusiastic nature which branded him as an out of control teenager. Many considered him unemployable, so he sought out entrepreneurship as a means of survival.

‘Today, the infrastructure that supports current entrepreneurs is quite remarkable and very strong. Parents and teachers want their children to be entrepreneurs. Back then it was something you did because you couldn’t do anything else.”

His first venture was Moonlight Cinemas, which he started while at university in the mid-90s. He saw it as a simple idea – bring cinemas, food, socialising to the park. It grew immensely, expanding interstate, over the 10 years he ran it before a lucrative sale. Since then he’s developed a successful career of ups-and-downs as a serial entrepreneur and investor that spans Property, Wellbeing, Arts, Education, Financial Services, and travel tech.

It’s James’ ability to focus on his strengths and transfer it from one industry and apply it to a completely different one that has helped his success. “You can take the exact same skills that it takes to build a residential property company and use it in the not-for-profit sector”.

James learned these lessons through his scrappy, DIY approach to entrepreneurship, but today encourages people to leverage the growing number of resources available to aspiring entrepreneurs. “Now, you can be more scientific because you have more resources.”

As a self-confessed difficult young person, he encourages everyone to have faith in themselves “People are capable of massive change. It’s something we all need to keep in mind, particularly as you enter in entrepreneurship.”

Melbourne startup founder share lessons

Epic meaning meets urgent ambition –Jan Owen, CEO – Foundation for Young Australians

Today Jan is CEO of Foundation for Young Australians, but her entrepreneurial drive and sense of deep purpose started early. She was a lemonade stand kid, setting up a table on her street; not afraid to put herself out there. And, as a daughter of Lifeline Australia volunteer councillors, she saw the bravery and dedication her parents showed actively helping the victims of domestic violence. She remembers sitting in the car as her parents would enter homes with an active incident, after talking a call from the victim, and they’d come out with the mother and kids.

This drove her to follow a career that combines epic purpose with urgent ambition. Not disregarding wealth, but not chasing wealth at the cost of ethics and a sense of purpose. Her work at FYA is driven to create opportunities for Australia’s youth and show the rest of the world that giving real opportunities to our young people will be game-changing for our economies.

Growing up and working with people of all ages and walks of life, Jan’s advice for maximising your success was that “the best work you’ll do is with the most unlikely people. If you don’t go out and find those people your ideas won’t be as strong. Discipline across sectors is key”.

It might feel uncomfortable at first, but it’s the collision of cultures, ideas, disciplines that creates magic. Stick to the same environments and you get the same results.

Melbourne startup founder share lessons

Don’t stop experimenting! – Dr Amanda Imber, Founder & CEO – Inventium

Amantha has worked with some of Australia’s, and the world’s, most recognisable brands to help them think more innovatively – Google, Coca-Cola, Disney, LEGO, Red Bull, American Express, Virgin Australia.

She has seen a reoccurring and fundamental obstacle that people face “Innovation is risky. You’re trying to predict the future with an idea,” says Amantha. But her research and experience has helped her fine-tune a methodology that minimises risk by using the thinking you learnt in science class. It requires minimal use of resources to determine if there is a demand for the product or service in the market:

  1. Write a Hypothesis on why it will add value to consumers
  2. Design and build the minimal viable product and test consumer behaviour, not intentions
  3. Analyse what you learned from the findings
  4. Iterate

With this simple yet affective approach to testing an idea, there’s no excuse but to “get out there and run experiments and don’t waste time writing business plans ever again!”

Melbourne startup founder share lessons

Roll up your sleeves and work hard – Maureen Wyse, Founder – Smith & Daughters

From America to Australia. From fashion to food. Maureen likes changing her mind and takes a gritty and DIY approach to life, but she’s grounded in a strong set of principles that guide her.

One of those principles had her re-evaluate why she was working so hard to create other people’s dreams “I was so sick of putting all my effort into people and jobs that I didn’t care about and where they didn’t care back”.

This coincided with meeting her future co-founder who shared two other core principles with Maureen – taking care of business (aka work your butt off!) and a positive mental attitude.

After spending every week for a year meeting in their kitchen, they planned their business and took the leap together to start a vegan restaurant that celebrated food – Smith & Daughters “There’s no way around it, you just work really hard. And when the idea becomes reality and you sacrifice nothing in your vision to make it happen, then you know you’re on to something good!”

A huge thanks to our co-hosts General Assembly for pulling together this amazing lineup of entrepreneurs! Check out our events calendar for more upcoming public events – including 3 Day Startup for those who want to test out their startup ideas.

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