Brisbane's Visiting Entrepreneur Programme
I was Brisbane's Visiting Entrepreneur in December 2014. Below is an interview and further video conversations done as part of the programme.
Meet our latest Visiting Entrepreneur
A former Queensland resident-turned international business success story, entrepreneur and founder of Welsh-based investment accelerator Indycube Ventures, David Hulston is returning to home territory next week (Monday 8 December to Friday 12 December) as part of Digital Brisbane’s Visiting Entrepreneur Program.
The program links Brisbane’s start-ups with successful international role models for coaching sessions, workshops and other events.
David kindly took a few minutes to talk to Digital Brisbane about his upcoming trip and the experience and advice he will offer to Brisbane’s start-up and entrepreneur community.
Welcome David. So what are your thoughts about our Visiting Entrepreneur Program?
This is a great initiative by Brisbane Marketing. Starting a business has never been cheaper or easier. It's widely recognised that start-ups are the major job creators, so sharing experiences of the entrepreneur's journey are vital to the wider economy.
Care to share how you became involved and why?
I left Australia in 1985, when trying to build an international business from Queensland seemed impossible. I've been coming back every year and watched the start-up scene develop. I'd like to encourage local start-ups to prove this is a great place to build your business, without having to leave.
What are you looking forward to the most and why?
Start-ups have the power to disrupt the status quo and change our future. I'm looking forward to seeing what problems Brisbane's entrepreneurs are solving.
What do you bring to the Visiting Entrepreneur Program? What are you going to impart on the different audiences, in particular during your start-up coaching sessions, as well as government and the local business community?
I've been developing businesses for 30 years, having worked here, in the UK, USA and across Asia. I'd like to share my experience of global business, adapting to technological change and building a start-up ecosystem.
What are the main differences in Australia's start-up culture between now and 30 years ago when you left?
The web is 25 years old this year. We now live in a connected world. You no longer need to leave home to build a global business. You can now build a business with a phone and a laptop. Anywhere.
Fair enough. Since then, you've been a part of many exciting projects – Thorn EMI and Scipher to name just a couple. What has been your highlight to date and why?
The highlight of my career is building Indycube Ventures. We've been able to demonstrate that you can build global businesses from where you live, serving customers around the world. I enjoy how connected the world is and how flexible your work/life balance can now be. I can work from home in the UK, from the Gold Coast or when I'm sailing my boat.
So you’re saying it could easily work here?
The business model can work anywhere in the world and is particularly suitable to somewhere like Queensland with its wide distribution of population centres.
Can you tell us more about Indycube Ventures and what inspired you to start it?
Indycube Ventures is the investment accelerator of Wales's co-working community. We will soon have 20 locations across Wales, with about 600 desks. These are in large metro areas and small rural communities, wherever people live. Ideas and customers are everywhere and people should be able to work where they live.
We work with businesses from within the Indycube community to help them develop and grow. We help them build their minimum viable product and then make them investment-ready. We do this for a share of the business, taking no cash out at any time. This aligns us to the interests of the entrepreneur. We've built the whole community and infrastructure without any government support of any kind. It is community-based, mentor-driven and angel-backed.
You wear many hats (angel investor, experienced non-executive director, mentor and technology strategy consultant ) in this venture as well as in the past – what hat are you most passionate about and why?
I enjoy building businesses. Now that can be done with fewer resources – faster, cheaper – and achieve global impact without a huge workforce.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been told and/or like to share?
Oscar Wilde said: "Be yourself, everyone else is taken." It's really important to not try to be someone you're not, to mimic others and not be true to yourself. Curiosity, determination and pragmatism are the most important attributes of the entrepreneur.
If curiosity, determination and pragmatism are the most important attributes of the entrepreneur – what are the most important attributes of their ideas? Feel free to use examples of anything you have been involved with here.
Ideas are easy. Identifying ideas worth doing is hard. You need to be solving real problems for real customers. The important question to ask is: "Wouldn't it be great if ..."
Three examples from within my portfolio are:
1. Pwinty (www.pwinty.com), a photo-printing platform that asks "wouldn't it be great if you could get the photos you take on your iPhone printed and delivered to your door anywhere in the world".
Started in January this year, they now print hundreds of thousands of photos every month in the UK, Europe, USA and Australia using the biggest local photo labs.
2. The CakeBox Company, asked "wouldn't it be great if I could order cakes to be delivered like we order flowers". Think Interflora for cakes. They have built www.helloand.co.uk, which just launched with more than 500 bakers delivering cakes across the UK. They are looking to roll this out around the world in the next year.
3. Inngot (www.inngot.com), asked "wouldn't it be great if companies could value their intellectual property, online, and use the valuation for financial transactions (e.g. for asset-backed finance)”. This is rolling out around the world and changing how banks value and lend to technology-rich companies.
What are the most important elements to consider when turning an idea into a successful start-up?
It's just an idea until someone is willing to pay for it. It becomes a business when you can work out how to scale from one to many customers.
Of course, and to get the funding helps, right? What is angel funding and why is it so important?
Angels typically fund when a business is too small and risky for other forms of financing. They normally add more than simply money. Angels invest in business areas in which they have some experience, knowledge and networks. Without angel funding many start-ups just won't get going.
How would you impress a potential angel or investor?
Impressing an investor is about clear articulation of your vision. It's about saying "my business solves this problem for these people by doing this" and showing that customers are already paying.
You've been quoted as saying there's a difference between “technology-enabled” and “technology” companies – how so and why is this important?
All companies are now technology-enabled. This doesn't make them a technology company. A tradesman with a mobile phone is tech-enabled. He can run his business from his ute because he has a phone. Some start-ups think they deserve a high valuation because they use technology to deliver their service. Valuation still comes down to fundamentals. How much money can you make from what you are doing? True technology companies have protectable intellectual property positions, technology-enabled companies succeed through efficient execution and delivery of a product or service.
Meet the team
Indycube Ventures offers funding and expert advice to entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs and small-business owners based at coworking space network Indycube are being offered access to a half-million-pound annual funding stream and expert advice.
"We have benefited greatly from David's experience, counsel and contacts on a wide range of issues. His past experience in the IP space is particularly useful to Inngot, but even without that, he is just the sort of investor and non-executive director a high growth business needs. He sees potential, makes connections, and keeps us focused on the things that matter."Martin Brassell, CEO, Inngot Ltd