Entrepreneurs behind 5 successful Australian companies explain how they turned an idea into a business

Disrupt HQ is a comprehensive series designed to give Australia’s new generation of innovators the advice and guidance they need to successfully grow their business. Proudly sponsored by Braintree, which has been powering payments and helping thousands of next gen businesses like Uber, Airbnb, and Github grow from their first dollar.
Jess and Stef Dadon

We live in a time where one person armed with a laptop can build a global business. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Building something from an idea still takes planning, effort and a bit of luck. There’s no end of ways to tackle this, from focusing on a product to empowering employees.

We spoke to the entrepreneurs behind five companies about the practical process that helped them convert their vision a reality.

Our first entrepreneurs, Jess and Stef Dadon, decided to build an audience first – one that would be receptive to product ideas they might have.

“Most businesses create a product and then find an audience, but we approached it the other way around” say Jess and Stef. The two sisters started a blog in 2012 called How Two Live.

“As our readership grew and we started to receive coverage in international magazines, we were approached by major global brands like ASOS, The Zoe Report, and Maybelline to work as ambassadors and promote their products. Our simple concept of an online diary turned out to be a hugely lucrative venture.”

“We’re now leveraging off our audience of hundreds of thousands to launch our own products. We wrote our first book last year #HowTwoLive which went into stores nationally including Sportsgirl, Seed Teen, and Big W, and is about to be released in the US.”

“In February this year we launched our shoe line TWOOBS with a guerrilla stunt at New York Fashion Week, and the brand has a focus on encouraging other women to get into business, as money from each sale funds other startups run by female entrepreneurs.”

Jason Wyatt, co founder of Marketplacer

For Marketplacer co founder Jason Wyatt the key is to create a team that truly understands the vision and opportunity being addressed. Wyatt can’t be everywhere, so he needs a capable team that can be.

“The key to creating a marketplace is having the right community managers and team on board who share the vision, and see the opportunity to harness the power of the ‘tribal’ marketplace,” says co Founder Jason Wyatt

“As Managing Director, it’s not possible for me to spend hours per day or week guiding the business through the early stages of online establishment, but we have a very clear template, a great team, and the technology to deliver results, so my time is typically spent ensuring the team remain focused and weighing in, in the right way when they need a push.”

Marta Higuera and Zoe Pointon, co founders and CEOs of Open Agent

Building an effective team was also critical for Open Agent co-founders and co-CEOs Marta Higuera and Zoe Pointon. When they came up with the idea for Open Agent, a platform to find and compare real estate agents across Australia, neither had any experience in the field. This was good in that it allowed them to see an opportunity, but they needed inside expertise fast in order to build a service that truly solved the problem.

“It was incredible to us that you could get all this information about a hotel on the other side of the world that you were going to stay in for a week, but when it came to selling your biggest asset, you knew next to nothing about the person that you were going to trust with that process,” says Zoe.

“We had no experience at all in real estate before starting OpenAgent, which was one of the benefits early on, being able to look at an industry and see a lot of ways that we thought the experience for consumers could be improved.”

“At the same time, we had to get some people who had a lot of experience into the business early on to help us navigate it and figure out the right answer that worked for both consumers and also for agents.”

Mark Coulter, acting CEO, Temple and Webster

When Mark Coulter and his co founders an online furniture business, they knew they needed partners.

“We quit our jobs, raised some money from friends & family and launched the site,” says Coulter. “We all came from digital media and eCommerce so we knew how to build and market great websites.

But along with a beautiful website, the company needed partnerships inside the industry, people who could both supply product and expertise. And this is where Milan Direct came in.

“Along the way we joined forces with Milan Direct, Australia’s largest furniture online retailer founded by Dean Ramler over 10 years ago. Dean’s family has been in furniture for multiple generations and he started selling classic design pieces on ebay.”

Martin Hosking, Co-founder and CEO, Redbubble

Meanwhile Redbubble’s Martin Hosking concentrated on the bottom line. Having lived through the irrational exuberance of the dot com bubble, Hosking wanted to make sure he built a business with something real behind it. A real business model, providing a clear benefit to consumers and investors.

“It was always important that Redbubble had strong fundamentals: margins, scaleability, a clear value proposition, says Hosking.

“Having survived the dot com bubble when companies did not have these things, I did not want to replicate that experience.”

“This meant we committed to raising enough money to get it off the ground and also committed to both the vision and businesses fundamentals. Without the vision the company has no reason to exist. Without the business fundamentals the company has no ability to exist.”

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