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How to launch a successful startup

30 September 2016
A good idea won’t go far unless you can pitch it well
As a judge of our Innovation Week Student Challenge, Dr. Jay Spence is helping other young entrepreneurs to get their start. We asked him for his tips on pitching and launching a successful startup.

University of Sydney alumni Dr. Spence’s startup Uprise, was launched with the help of INCUBATE. Uprise found an innovative way for businesses to care for their employee wellbeing, by offering mental health treatment through an app.

What are the most important qualities for an entrepreneur?

You don’t need to have a whole lot of expertise, you just need to be well-versed in the process, so that you can define a problem and then gather enough information to solve that problem. You also need to be fairly resilient – when you think it’s going to work and then it doesn’t, you can’t take it personally and criticise yourself, just take accountability for it.

How does INCUBATE prepare you for the outside world?

It teaches you the language of business and essentially gives you an understanding of how businesses operate and what the lay of the land is. There are a million decisions that you’ll make throughout the process, and you need the expertise of someone who’s going to be by your side to kind of swim you through shark infested waters.

What makes a good pitch?

Vision- what are you going to do and how can you sell something incredible to people? You also have to have enough authenticity to say ‘I can do this’, that will get people excited and then they’ll move with you.

Pitching is hard, but repetition is a simple yet effective way to perfect the art. I know a guy who couldn’t pitch to save his life. He went down to Pitt St, and he stood up on one of the gutters and pitched to a non-existent audience like a crazy person, and he did it over and over again until he was no longer anxious about what he was doing. You need to convince people that the future you’re going to create for them is going to be so amazing that if they don’t do it, they’re going to miss out on something that they’ll seriously regret.

Can innovation occur in any industry?    

Most industries are open to small changes, aided by technology, which can undermine the way that businesses operate. I mean it’s in every industry that I’ve seen, from agriculture through to biotechnology and mental health – everyone’s talking about disruption.

I think the students who are coming through now are the reason why disruption is occurring. Gen Y and millennials don’t want the status quo, they think that they can do it better and then they do.

How did your experience at the University of Sydney prepare you for your career?

University was amazing as soon as I realised it was actually a course which taught me how to master complex problem-solving. The reason that I kept studying and learning over time was that it changed my thinking from ‘being shoot from the hip’ to ‘consider this carefully’.  I think it’s hard to get that rigour unless you’re coming from an institution that believes in that really strongly. 

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