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How to start a startup

It doesn't matter if you're a tech genius or a technophobe, with the right help it's entirely possible for anyone with a solid idea to be a positive disruptor in the startup era.

By TAFE Queensland

Are you ready to get into your own startup?

We live in an age where opportunity is what you make of it. As corny as it sounds an Instagram account and a dream can genuinely be the basis for an actionable grand plan. From Black Milk Clothing to some of the world’s most renowned bloggers, it all started with a simple idea and a social media following.

This is what many are calling the startup age – an era in which one good idea and some internet savvy can turn into a billion dollar business. More Australians than ever are thinking creatively about their futures, unleashing entirely new products and redefining the norm. Key reports are already heralding a seismic shift in the small business space thanks largely to the boom in these innovative new ventures.

Confused? Let’s break it down.

What exactly is a startup?

Experts have attempted to define the ‘startup’ for a few years now - an effort that resulted in a small army of business experts bandying about one too many buzzwords. Thankfully, one local expert in the field of business has zeroed in on a reliable definition.

David Jackson of investor group Sydney Angels says, “the startup itself is typically the brainchild of two co-founders, one who is a tech expert, and the other with skills in sales and marketing, and its success usually relies on their ability to attain large-scale funding early on." In other words, it’s todays term for a ‘unique’ new business with a particular focus on the ‘new’ and the ‘innovative’, attracting or relying upon external funding rather than self-funding.

What does it take to be a startup?

First and foremost you need that all-important starting point – the big idea.

One starting point is to go back to Marketing 101: look for a need in the market and then fill it. The catch is whether you're filling a new need or an old one, you need to it in a way that is new, innovative or distinctly different.

This is where the approach of having a creative brain paired with a business-minded person pays off. Between a dreamer and someone with their feet planted firmly on the ground, you might very well be able to piece together an actionable concept. And while there are many steps in between, a solid idea from a confident team is often the key to accessing the private and public sector grants now being targeted at innovative startups.

If you’re keen for a thorough run through, StartupAus offers a range of resources and guidance on planning for and launching a start up in the Australian market.

Wait, what do you mean by disrupt?

According to our old friend the dictionary, to disrupt is “to destroy, usually temporarily, the normal continuance or unity of.” This is where Uber comes together with Airbnb, Tesla and others under a single umbrella. They changed the very meaning of what it was to be in the transport, accommodation, or technology industries.

Uber carved out their fair share of the $1.1 Billion AUD personal transport market because they zeroed in what did and didn’t work in that space, and then sought to deliver a new service mapped to the needs of the consumer. In other words, disruptors are those startups who - due to their business model, service offering, or ethos - actively challenge the long held dynamics of an industry.

Rewinding, this is what Apple (once a rebellious startup itself) said:

Here's to the crazy ones.
The misfits.
The rebels.
The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently.

They're not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.

You can quote them, disagree with them,
glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can't do is ignore them.

Because they change things.

They push the human race forward.

While some may see them as the crazy ones,
we see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough to think
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Do I need to be a tech genius then?

Mitel tells us that those who deliver a consistent and engaging customer experience are still in high demand. This can mean that good, old-fashioned service devoid of digital touches can win you business and long-term loyalty. Or you can think of it this way – the most disruptive business ideas can go against the ‘innovation grain’.

Do I need to be a creative type?

Once again, no. You could be a business type, a coder, or a teacher. What matters is your idea and who you choose to work with. Tracking back to David Jackson, startups involve more than just one person. Build the team you need and you can make anything happen.

Which industries can I do this in?

There's no limit to what industries a startup can thrive in. If you have the idea to match an industry, no matter how niche, take a crack. It doesn’t matter if you're working in hospitality, studying business, or halfway through a bakery apprenticeship, your current skills and background are no limitation.

If you feel you need the business skills to match any partner in action, you can learn them. And if you think you need a better understanding of the industry you're looking to change, there are plenty of relevant courses waiting for you.

How do I get the money?

Between the private sector tapping into new ideas, the government looking to actively fund innovation, and the number of crowdfunding platforms out there, you can gain added capital without killing all your savings or relying on bank loans.

Since its inception, Kickstarter has amassed $USD 2,699,095,344 for over 114, 385 successful projects. Platforms such as this have been used by new business ventures and existing businesses to gain the necessary capital to launch into new sectors or entirely change how they service the masses.

The trick here is pitching your idea. Thankfully the experts over at Forbes have pieced together a great guide to pitching start ups.