Launching a start-up, let alone a successful one, is not a simple feat. It requires planning, time, hard-work, good advice and resilience. We recently sat down with Andrew Ellett, CEO and co-founder of HelpPay, a social impact fintech client of William Buck who shared his advice for budding entrepreneurs. Here is what Andrew has to say about overcoming major challenges on the journey to success.
When budding founders approach you for advice on kickstarting a business, what is your top tip?
As a founder you’ll be asked again and again, “What problem are you solving?” You must be able to answer this question along with the ‘why’ or purpose behind your idea. Ideally you should be able to say both succinctly, which could take time to master.
Our ‘why’ is to Make Helping Easier, because it should be easier to help the people you care about not fall behind financially. Our ‘what’ is to provide the easiest way to ask for and give help to pay bills. Our technology allows anyone to turn a bill into an instantly shareable payment page that others can contribute to. All with a guarantee that money will only go to the provider – never an individual person or bank account.
Andrew, what are some common challenges for startups and emerging businesses?
As a founder it’s all on you and your co-founders to get the rock rolling. Along with all the usual tasks of planning, decision-making and financial management, businesses today need to meet market expectations of how their business contributes to making a better world. Reflecting on our journey, and listening to that of others we’ve met along the way, the key things I’d say are important are:
- Knowing the higher purpose of your company and being able to demonstrate it. There are few consumers today that aren’t interested in the purpose beyond what your business itself does. Knowing how your business will authentically help improve macro issues such as the environment, social equality, gender, first nations, and diversity means more people want to get involved. For HelpPay, what has struck a chord with everyone from our users of the app to CEOs of businesses we are partnering with, is our ability to improve lives by preventing debt.
- Having a north star or overall goal to aim towards, then testing your product and service continuously and learning from the results. As you develop your business and find your first customers, you must be able to adjust your product or service based on their feedback. You must be agile enough to lean in and ramp up activity off the back of positive feedback and able to understand and respond to neutral or negative feedback.
- Hiring the right people early on is critical. Your first hires will be your most important as they’ll be your most trusted people and you’ll likely find they need to be a bit of a Jack/Jill of all trades.
- Securing publicity can be challenging but it can also be key to your early success. Having a social purpose can really help. At HelpPay, delivering on our social purpose of Making Helping has been great for achieving the kind of media attention from national and specialist publications that some brands only dream of at such an early stage in their journey. Depending on your business, securing cornerstone partnerships can also help to achieve this goal. HelpPay partnered early on with BPAY, Stripe, Microsoft and Tango Energy (amongst others), which has delivered outcomes greater than we could have achieved alone.
What are your thoughts for founders on overcoming common challenges?
Startup founders are told to be tenacious, focused on their vision and also to be ready to pivot. It can sound like conflicting advice but setting priorities and future milestones is crucial. Milestones will enable you to pull yourself out of the weeds and see how you’re tracking towards the bigger goals you want to achieve. As one of our greatest advisors told us “Now you’re live in market, it may take you a few years to work out where your best revenue stream will come from”.
Having people with diverse skills is very important. At HelpPay, we are fortunate to be surrounded by an amazing mix of people inside and outside of our business. Help really is a universal language and comes in many forms. People around you want to see you succeed. Talk to them, share your triumphs and challenges, be vulnerable, ask for help and listen to their advice. Ultimately you need to make your own decisions, but your chances of success are greater by taking advice rather than trying to go it alone.
It’s also important to engage trusted advisors that can assist you to grow your business and act as an extension of your team. William Buck assisted us with all stages of our business modelling, capital raising, tax returns and compliance, GST advice and obtaining an Early-Stage Innovation Company ruling from the ATO.
While we have a fantastic relationship with our William Buck advisor, there are many people across our broader networks that have given us formal and informal advice, guidance and investor introductions. Having a good network of advisors around you will vastly improve your journey. I recently wrote on LinkedIn more about the wider startup ecosystem here.
Speaking of investors, do you have any tips for selecting the right ones?
It’s important to find people who believe in your purpose and vision. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to find out if your vision or values truly align. When we first raised capital through a pre-series A capital raise assisted by William Buck, we were still building our technology and we weren’t yet present in the market.
We had completed market research, were part way through building a minimum viable product and had strong business intent to sign up to our platform. It was critical that our investors understood the nuances of that early stage and that returns would take time. Investing in a startup comes with a different risk and reward profile compared with investing in an established business.
Finally, it’s worthwhile finding investors (particularly if they’re cornerstone or lead investors) who can provide helpful, timely and relevant strategic guidance or who have meaningful networks and are willing to facilitate introductions which can positively impact your business.
Of course, not all investors want to have a seat at the table, nor can a startup afford to spend time with every investor. Therefore, it’s important to have a spread of investors including those who are engaged in the business and those who trust the founders and management to run it.
And the job is never done. Like many companies, HelpPay is seeking a strategic investor currently. We are having great success onboarding large businesses and our user growth is all heading in the right direction. We can accelerate this even further in Australia and in key markets overseas who are already interested in onboarding HelpPay with additional investment.
To find out how William Buck can help you achieve success from startup to early maturity, right through to going public, contact your local William Buck Advisor.
HelpPay is currently working on accessing capital markets to fund the next stage of its development. If you’d like more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org