What does innovation mean to you? In the year that has been 2016 it seems like the word innovation has been on the tip of everyone’s tongues. From politicians, to startups and incumbent corporations it seems as though everyone wants to “innovate”. The fact that this has been pushed to the forefront of the national agenda is a massive step in the right direction. While not all companies (or Government departments) will succeed in their attempt to be seen as innovative, at least the challenge has been put out there, and people are trying new things.
Coming from a resource rich country however it still seems as though too many of these ideas are product focused in my opinion. We are a national of tinkerers and while we have had many great successes in this area, think Wi-Fi and the cochlear implant, the next great step forward has to be in how we approach business models, communication channels and the way in which we grow our economy beyond what it has traditionally been about.
As we look to afar we can see companies such as Uber and AirBnB, who have changed the world of transport and travel by literally taking an age old industry and changing how people pay for a service or access to it. If we can combine this level of disruption, to our success in creating great technology like I have outlined above, then I believe Australia truly can become a dominant technology and startup centric country.
That however is only part of the challenge. Turning a business model on its head is great, but if no one is out there talking about it, promoting their success, or even sharing their failures then there is nothing for the next generation to learn from and build upon. As the founder and curator of Startup Soda I am constantly on the lookout for interesting and insightful content from the Australian startup ecosystem to include in the newsletter. I can browse Twitter or Medium any day of the week and see US founders talking about raising a round, or failing to close a big deal or pivoting to great success (or failure) but when I look to the Australian ecosystem I hear crickets.
Perhaps it is our culture, perhaps it is the maturity of our ecosystem? But I very rarely come across founders and startups who are open to sharing their story. I understand that it can be scary and easy to suspect that someone may steal your idea or marketing concept. But some transparency, is better than no transparency, so even if you only share what you are happy to is a massive step in the rich direction.
I have seen first hand how powerful this innovative model of business communication can be. A few years ago I had no idea what Buffer was. In fact I first heard about them through their blog posts when they were sharing their revenue numbers, successes and failures. It was interesting and insightful content that grabbed my attention. Eventually when the time came to look for a social media tool for my startup, I did no research. I already knew that I would use Buffer, regardless of their price. I had bought into their vision and was happy to support their business. In fact, I do more than, that and would consider myself an advocate. Since then I have gone on to follow the journey of a number of other transparent startups such as Groove HQ and Baremetrics. This has only re-emphasised my belief in the idea of building a transparent startup.
What this really shows is that innovation does not have to take place at the product or service level. It can apply to any part of your business. I have embraced this concept wholeheartedly with my own startup, Task Pigeon. I have committed to blogging about the journey of building my startup from day 1. I will share the good, the bad and the ugly. Not because I want to be known as the “open aussie startup” but because I truly believe in this innovative method of business operation and communication.
While I accept that it may end up in failure (and be public for the world to see), I believe that the benefits far outweigh the risks. Having the opportunity to build deep and lasting relationships with customers, to have them buy into what I am building with Task Pigeon and most importantly to help other founders learn from my successes or failures in some small way is hugely valuable to me. I can only hope that I reflect on this post in a year’s time and see that a number of other Aussie startups have chosen to join me on this journey and share their own stories, lessons and opinions.
By Paul Towers
Paul Towers is a 3 x Entrepreneur and Founder of Task Pigeon, a task management web app which allows you to simply create, assign and manage the tasks your team works on each day. He also founded and curates the Startup Soda newsletter which aims to uncover the best news, blog posts and tactical resources from Australian startups, founders and VC’s each day.