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Dean McEvoy on egos and startups

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Dean McEvoy is a seasoned startup founder and angel investor, having founded three startups including Spreets.com, Australia’s first group buying site, which launched in February 2010 and sold only 11 months later for around $40 million. A founding mentor and investor at Startmate, Dean has advised and invested in over 96 startups. In his conversation with Adam, Dean discusses the origin story of Spreets.com, co-founding Tech Sydney, and how important it is for founders to not get too much of their ego involved in their startup.

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Dean McEvoy’s website: https://www.deanmcevoy.com/

Tech Sydney: https://www.techsydney.com.au/

Startmate: https://www.startmate.com/


Dean McEvoy: G’Day. My name is Dean McEvoy. I’m a serial founder, I guess you can say now, investor and startup advisor. I guess what I do every day now these days is I try and find the greatest companies in the world that are trying to change it and have a big impact. And I try and be part of it in any way I can. So whether that be as an investor, as an advisor, working on, ah, product-led growth and marketing, or you know, just coaching new founders because I’ve been through a lot of the ups and downs of being a startup founder, and it’s a rocky journey and I love helping people be successful.


Adam Spencer: When would you say you first got involved in the Australian startup ecosystem?

Dean McEvoy: Back when there wasn’t really an ecosystem. 

Adam Spencer: Yep. 

Dean McEvoy: It was 10 guys catch up occasionally for a beer. So, my first foray into the startup world was actually from owning a bar and restaurant where I came up with an idea for online reservations and that was called Booking Angel.

Dean McEvoy: And then, you know, I started this, tech startup. I’d had some experience with technology in the background. I’ve worked for a technology company prior to owning a bar. And so, just jumped in with no idea and I made all the stupid mistakes that every single founder could possibly imagine.

Dean McEvoy: Like, if there’s a list of all the dumb things founders should do, I did all of them. So I got started in the beginning back then, and it was probably like 10 to 15 people at these meetups.

Adam Spencer: What year are we talking? 

Dean McEvoy: 2003 was when I first started the business, but I probably didn’t start looking around, trying to find people until 2004, I think.

Adam Spencer: So you said it was a bar. Was that the same thing as the Booking Angel. 

Dean McEvoy: Yeah, correct. I owned a bar in Glebe called the Roxbury. I came up with an idea while I was there for a better way to receive online reservations. So this is a time when, you know, no fast internet, we used to have to use the EFTPOS terminal phone line to get onto the internet. So people couldn’t ring up credit cards when the internet was connected.

Dean McEvoy: I used to miss reservations that came in via email and it kind of annoyed me. People would turn up for the restaurant and the place would be double booked. And I was like, wouldn’t it be easier if they booked online, but had phoned me and just told me that there was a reservation coming. And so, back then I built, this speech recognition system.

Dean McEvoy: So you would book online, it would automatically convert it to a voice message. It would call the restaurant and it would read out the reservation like, “Hi, Adam wants to make a reservation on Saturday for four people at 8:00 PM. Push one to accept it, push two to reject it or push three to talk to him”. And it would connect you on the phone straight away. So it was pretty rudimentary, but it worked really well. And we got a lot of traction. 

Adam Spencer: That’s an important part. Because I’ve heard people talk in the past about the early days and how it was just a few people catching up, having a beer, and that was the community. Were they meeting up at your bar?

Dean McEvoy: No, this was a, this is pre, I – I wish I’d owned the bar then, but I think the earliest memory I remember of catching up was with, you know, Mick Liubinskas and Marty Wells. They used to put on this night called Stir. And, you would catch up with a bunch of other geeky people like us who were doing weird stuff.

Dean McEvoy: Mike Cannon-Brookes turned up at one time, I think Scott Farquhar turned up another time. And you just caught up beers, but sometimes they played these like weird games. I remember one game, particularly where you threw random words and put them up on two whiteboards. And it was like, banana or truck. And then randomly, you picked two names out of the hat.

Dean McEvoy: You’ve split into teams. You had to come up with a business based upon those two names. So we were like, we were banana truck and we were like we’re a fruit delivery service and you have to get up and do the pitch at the end. And whoever gave the ptich, I mean, you know, one free beers at the bar or something.

Dean McEvoy: So you know, there was some educational component and sharing component, but probably sitting around a table with a bunch of entrepreneurs now that are worth billions. 

Adam Spencer: What were the events that happened between ending Booking Angel and getting started with Spreets? Was that one thing straight into the other? 

Dean McEvoy: No, it’s a good story. So I was in Australia from 2004. I tried to raise money from investors. I’ve got every government grant you could get to try and start businesses. I was told that you had to, you know, have IP in order to get these grants was back when the government didn’t understand what we were doing. And so I thought I’m going to go and be successful there. So I’m going to move to Silicon Valley. 

Dean McEvoy: So I jumped on a plane in 2007 and flew over there and met a bunch of people. So, there was a few Aussies that have been moved over there. Again, Mick Liubinskas and Marty Wells are the two that come to mind. There’s another, great community they kind of built over there.

Dean McEvoy: So obviously land in Silicon Valley, catch up with all these Aussies and straight away you get leveled up. You learn, really at that time, back in 2007, you know, it was like the difference between going into kindergarten and university in terms of the knowledge and the learning and the way of doing things, the acceleration.

Dean McEvoy: And so just being there, you immerse yourself in that I’ve got, more proficient at pitching and understanding what it took to be successful. I took feedback. I went and pitched like some of the most successful investors in the world. At the time, like Mike Moritz from Sequoia answered my email and spoke to me and Aydin Senkut, who’s one of the best angel investors in the world now.

Dean McEvoy: I think he was an early investor in Canva too, Felicis Ventures. Heaps of people like that that took the time, gave you the feedback. If anything, Americans were probably too nice. And Australians are too underselling of what they’re doing. We tend to just be like, yeah, I’m this Aussie, doing this kind of thing, which is cool and we don’t sell what we do. And in America, you really gotta sell who you are and why you’re important, why people should listen to you. Otherwise people don’t. And the Americans were lovely, but they never really gave you that direct feedback about what was wrong with your business. I think they were either too polite or they were hoping one day, that if you were successful, you might come back to them.

Dean McEvoy: And so, it was many years I wasted there. Not wasted there. I really up-skilled 2007 to 2009, and then I got a phone call one day from my mum saying that my grandfather had passed away and I was very close to him. He was a fantastic man. And I wanted to fly home for the funeral, but only had $900 left in my bank account.

Dean McEvoy: And I was like, this is the end of my business because I don’t even have enough for a flight back. So I jumped on the plane. Ironically, on the flight on the way home, I stopped via LA and I’ve been trying to close this deal with a big U.S. company for Booking Angel, where they would pay me to use the reservation software.

Dean McEvoy: And they finally closed it and I stopped via LA on the way home to sign the contract. Grabbed the contract, got on the plane home, came back to Australia broke. And at 32 years old, came home to my grandfather’s funeral, which was pretty terrible and it’s sad but also sad because I knew it was the death of my business. But, I had this contract.

Dean McEvoy: And so, I was like, I’ve got a piece of paper here that says I’ll get paid for every reservation that’s made on their website. I just need to get it live on their website. And so I went and spoke to Phil and Mick at Pollenizer 

Dean McEvoy: And said, “Hey, I’ve got this deal. You know, What do you reckon? You guys do the tech on it and we’ll split some money.” I think we did an equity deal or something in Booking Angel. And so they agreed and I was working out of their office. So I used to get up from mum and dad’s place in the morning at 32 and catch the train in to Surry Hills where they were.

Dean McEvoy: And it was pretty depressing to be honest, like feeling like a failure like that. And then eventually, got in there and it was at the Christmas party for Pollenizer, where I started to plant the seed with Phil. And I was like, look, Phil, while I was is over in Silicon Valley, I pitched this investor, a guy called Kevin Hartz, who’s the founder of Eventbrite. Very smart guy. And, he took a liking to me and mentored me a little bit, I’d say. But he said to me, you know, like Dean, you know, why isn’t Booking Angel successful? You’ve been at this for five years now. You’re a smart guy. You can be off getting a job somewhere else. Why are you still doing this? 

Dean McEvoy: And then I was like, why isn’t Booking Angel successful? And I articulated to him, I said, I’ll tell you what it is successful and it’s starting to work better because I was always pitching. And I said to him, it’s because we finally worked out a formula where if a restaurant signs up today, I can deliver reservations tomorrow. And we used to do that by running special offers on our partner websites that drove reservations quickly. And we knew that’s what created momentum. 

Dean McEvoy: And I told him this story and he was like, oh wow, that’s pretty similar to this new website I just saw go live called Groupon. So he tipped me onto the Groupon model before they’d even had any traction, they weren’t popular at all. And I was like, wow, that’s a much better way of doing what I’m doing. Like, collect the money rather than. So I saw the model and I was talking to Phil about it at this Christmas party in December of 2009.

Dean McEvoy: And I was like, Phil, I saw this amazing thing. It’s really good traction, early days it’s growing, but it looks pretty good. And he was interested and he was like I’ll tell you what, we’ve got a little bit of resources available over Christmas. Because they had some development that was done in India. And I think a lot of them didn’t take the time off over Christmas that we did. And they were like, look, we’ve got a bit of capacity. He said, if we launch it in February and if it’s not working by Easter, we’ll shut it down. 

Dean McEvoy: I was like, good deal. So, they agreed to build the product, which was the first version of Spreets. And so that was at the beginning of it. It took them 32 working days to build the product. I just got on the phone and started calling businesses and trying to convince them to do deals and annoyed everyone in the office because I was just on the phone all day, trying to close deals. I convinced a good mate of mine who, now runs a website called Waysact, which is a payments platform. He was also just in between things at the moment. So I got him in and he used to have to go on withdraw cash every day from the ATM, because he knew how skint I was.

Dean McEvoy: And he’s like, I don’t believe you’re going to pay me So, I’d go and get cash out of the ATM every day after him helping me get in some sales. He’s a great guy. Still is good friends with him. James Goodrich, his name is. And so, from there it grew. The first version of Spreets launched on my birthday, which was the 4th of February, 2009.

Dean McEvoy: We all celebrated and had drinks that night. It was a great affair. Actually a funny story from that night, the whole idea of Spreets about selling vouchers right? It’s about selling discount vouchers to people. So we’re sitting down there celebrating, oh, we launched a website.

Dean McEvoy: There’s people who bought $4,000 worth of stuff who were super happy. And we were celebrating in the restaurant that was doing the deal cause it was downstairs. And everyone was like cheering and high-fiving and then all of a sudden I went, I don’t remember seeing a design for a voucher. Who did that?

Dean McEvoy: Did anyone do that? Like, No. So basically we designed a voucher business, taken the money, but we hadn’t worked out a way to send vouchers to people. So, four or five years in, we all ran upstairs quickly exported a CSV file and merged it into mail merge and just made fake vouchers that put random numbers on down the bottom. That didn’t really mean anything. So version one of Spreets was very rushed. And I guess, the lesson for people is if you’re not ashamed of the first version, you’re waiting too long to launch things. So, we certainly lived by that rule on day one.

Adam Spencer: Are you able to talk a little bit about, when you went over to the U.S., that Aussie community that was over there. Because I’ve heard this term, the Aussie mafia, I think that’s a great anecdote there. 

Dean McEvoy: Yeah. So the Aussie mafia came from a drinks that myself, Martin Wells, Alisdair Faulkner, who’s one of the founders of ThreatMatrix – sold for a billion dollars. And think a Kiwi guy called Steven Weir. There may be Bardia Housman, who sold his company, Business Catalyst. We’re all sitting around talking about how it sucks when you go and pitch to investors and there’s the PayPal mafia.

Dean McEvoy: And everyone was like, they’re members of the PayPal mafia. And that immediately gives them like street credit and they write millions of dollars of checks for them. And I was like, we’re going to create our own Aussie mafia. So, I registered Aussiemafia.com. Still got the domain name. 

Dean McEvoy: It was just an idea of that we could band together and build a reputation for Aussies in the Valley that sort of sets us apart. And I think there is a thing actually now. There’s a guy called Pauly Ting who wrote a really good blog post that there’s a real proble, Aussies, when they land in the U.S., is that they undersell themselves.

Dean McEvoy: The thing that happens when people have worked with Aussies for a while, is it that, what that means is actually they over-deliver. And so, he said it would be beautiful if we could sell that as our brand. That yeah sure we undersell. We’re not like Americans. We don’t go in and say, I’m going to change the world. I’m going to be, number one, I’m going to be the best. We do undersell ourselves and maybe we need to learn how to sell ourselves a bit better, but that just means we over-deliver. So when we say we do something, we do. And I think, that tenacity and the Australian spirit is very true of the startups we’ve started.

Dean McEvoy: If you look at the Atlassians and the like that started on very little capital, but still grew very big. That is that ability to over-deliver. We punch harder than anyone in sport, and we punch harder than anyone at startups. And I think, there’s a balance of learning to pitch ourselves better versus just being who we are and knowing that we are a sort of group of people that over-deliver. But yeah, there’s a great community in the Valley. And it’s just got bigger and bigger. There’s a lot of really successful people that have gone over there and either learnt the ropes by working for one of the big companies over there and come back and started them here. Or have gone over there with their startups to try and be successful and just learn a lot and become better founders and better business people.

Adam Spencer: Did you know that wanted to sell Spreets when you started it? 

Dean McEvoy: I don’t think that was ever the intention. I’m pretty goal orientated. I did go back and look at the first email I sent Phil. And I said, Hey mate, I reckon we should build this Groupon thing. Here’s the plan. We’ll launch it in February. We’ll sell it to Sensis or some Yellow Pages company for $30 million. So I underestimated it. Next year and then we’ll enjoy the spoils. So it was a joke, it was a tongue in cheek kind of thing. But you know, the power of writing goals down, I think I do believe in that. And so maybe in some subconscious way, it was manifested or focused on that.

Dean McEvoy: The reality of everyone goes, oh did you just go and see something in Groupon and copy it and come here and sell it. And on the outside, I can understand why people might think that. The reality is, I’ve spent my whole life solving the same problem. And this is what’s an important thread to look for in successful founders of the future because my family owned bars and restaurants, and the biggest problem we had was getting bums on seats.

Dean McEvoy: So what did I do? I started a company that helped get bums on seats. And the reason why I was driven to do that is because it fundamentally caused huge problems in my family when we couldn’t. It was my dad’s entire life savings on the line in this venue, that at any moment, could fall over if we didn’t get enough bums on seats.

Dean McEvoy: So I was inherently motivated in an intrinsic level to solve this problem. And if you look at Spreets, it was initially a much more efficient way to get bums on seats. What’s the business I started after that – IconPark. It’s a way to get bums on seats for restaurants and help the landlords. So I’m intrinsically driven to solve this problem.

Dean McEvoy: Spreets was really just an extension of that. I’ve been A/B testing my way to the group buying model over five years by accident, just by following what the market told me. I’d actually got to the same model. And so it was more a funciton of, I’d been doing the same thing for five years.

Dean McEvoy: I even tried to raise money as Booking Angel, but for a group buying thing. And everyone was like, Dean, you’ve been doing this for so long. Give up dude. Like, you know, just stop trying to flog a dead horse. And so I kind of did and was like, all right, we’ll start again and wipe the slate clean and start a new company.

Dean McEvoy: And that was the beginning of that. 

Adam Spencer: After you exited Spreets, the idea was always to start another company and that was IconPark. Was that the case?

Dean McEvoy: I think, this is something I’m going through at the moment. Because I’m starting to get that itch to start another company. And I think, I am so driven to solve this problem that it’s still a problem that interests me and I keep getting drawn back to it. I don’t know why it’s annoying. I should get into therapy about it or something. But the intention was just to solve the problem as well as I could for Spreets.

Dean McEvoy: And we did that. We executed. We grew like crazy. It launched in February 4th, 2010. And by September it was doing a million bucks a week. And we sold it for $40 million in January, 2010. That just happened because we started getting offers from people. And I was like, should we hire somebody to deal with these offers because it’s distracting.

Dean McEvoy: So then, we hired someone who did the M&A process and they were like, we’re going to pay you cash and do the deal now. And I was like, I saw the sale to Yahoo as an opportunity to win. So, we knew Groupon was coming in hard. We knew it was a race for eyeballs. We thought partnering with the biggest media company in Australia was a good option and the deal was good.

Dean McEvoy: It was not so much as a function of let’s get in and get out and make some money – the hit and run. Everyone thinks I’m some sort of financial genius for being able to do that. The reality is, I was following what I thought was best for the company and, turns out it was a good decision to sell, but maybe not so good for the company.

Dean McEvoy: There’s a lot of reasons like that culture. I think big companies, when they acquire small companies, the big culture eats the small culture and you’ve really got to be careful how you look after it. But so the intention wasn’t to sell. And then when I took a year off, roughly. Maybe a year and a half just to recharge because it’s very intense growing a company. And, you know,

Dean McEvoy: it went from zero to 80 people by the time we sold and, hiring all those people, doing all that stuff was, it was hectic. So it took some time off. And then bought a bar. Bought a building that had a bar and restaurant in it. And started to look at the problems in the real estate industry.

Dean McEvoy: And it was like, whoa, if I’m a landlord and I want to pick a good tenant, how do I do that? And the current status quo was you put an ad online. Any random person emails you and says, I want to lease it. Here’s my bond and I’m going to start a Swedish meatballs place. And you’re like, how do you even know Swedish meatballs is going to be a good idea here?

Dean McEvoy: And I was looking at crowdfunding and ways to market test data. I was like, what if there’s a way to like, test the idea quickly and wouldn’t that produce a better result? And then I saw that if you get an extra $500 a week in rent, it increases the value of your building by roughly about half a million dollars.

Dean McEvoy: So, the incentives are aligned. If I can get a better tenant who pays me a little bit more because they’re more successful, I can increase the value of my property. That’s a pretty interesting idea. And so we played with that at work, super, super well. I think the first week of Spreets, we did $4,000.

Dean McEvoy: The first week of IconPark, $40,000. We raised $281,000 in 21 days for a restaurant concept that didn’t exist. So it was cool. And it’s fun to watch and, engineering that kind of lightning strike of a marketing situation is always very interesting.

Adam Spencer: When did the idea for TechSydney come into your mind? 

Dean McEvoy: We’d been collectively catching up with a lot of people saying, you know, we’d have these little meetups and people who talk about, we need to get more organised. Mick Liubinskas and I, I think it was in the year between when I finished Spreets and started, we tried to get this thing called the Endeavor Institute started, we’re trying to get a bunch of people who were chucking $10,000 to pay Mick to run this thing for awhile.

Dean McEvoy: And we just couldn’t find people that were interested enough in organising the ecosystem better. I think the problem with entrepreneurs, they are all off, you know, running and doing their own thing. And it’s just a few worlds that collided at the one time. Number one was, we were a bit more organised.

Dean McEvoy: We had a few tech meetup groups that were sort of had some good people involved with them that were interested in seeing some change. You know, Malcolm Turnbull would come into power. And I think there was a little bit of hope that there was someone who knew something about tech in government and then maybe, you know, spending the effort to talk to them would provide an ROI. Unfortunately he didn’t hang around that long, but at the time that was part of the motivation. And then UTS were very supportive financially. 

Dean McEvoy: So they wanted to build something in the startup ecosystem. And so they had role that someone approached me about and I said to them, hey, rather than spend the money on me as a role when you put the money into this organisation. And so, I sort of convinced them to fund the first two years, which got TechSydney up and running. And effectively what I did then, is I went around and just said, hey what are the biggest problems we can focus on? And I just talked to founders did customer development on the startup industry.

Dean McEvoy: You know, what’s the biggest problems we can solve or around talent? At the time, it was around, I’d experienced being in Silicon Valley and the value of density. Like when you’ve got a lot of people close to each other and you bump into people and there’s parties and you talk to someone and that serendipitous kind of connection was so valuable.

Dean McEvoy: And it’s really hard to sell how valuable that is to people. But I knew that having density of people in one location was important. Connection to experts. So people who knew what they’re doing, who could just kick you out of a rutt. So you didn’t hit the wall and you didn’t get bad advice. There’s a lot of bad advisors floating around back then.

Dean McEvoy: Like people who thought they knew what they were talking about and didn’t. And then, the other problem we had was like, whenever government wanted to do something, there’s a hundred different voices and they’re like, we just need someone to collate all this together for us. So we saw that as the initial focus of TechSydney and we built a product that did some things.

Dean McEvoy: So, I guess the most meaningful things we did was around density. So, we were pretty central in talking in state government about the Startup Hub. We collated a lot of the different coworking spaces together to pitch it to them that it was a good idea to get everyone on the one page rather than have 10 different people with their own agendas.

Dean McEvoy: We tried to speak as one voice. Liaise with some really good people in government and found a few people who are really, you know, beneficial in supporting it. And then, with the success of that, a guy called Brent Harman, who worked for Atlassian – he was the Head of Real Estate. Him and I got together one day for a coffee and he was like, Atlassian is running out of space. We’re looking to lease space. He goes, what if we built space? Like, that could be cool. 

Dean McEvoy: And so, it was really him that drove internally, at Atlassian, the idea of the bigger precinct, the Tech Central precinct. And so him, myself and Scott Farquhar, and a couple other. Annie Parker, who is it, Microsoft now, but she was at Fishburners at the time, went and pitched Gladys and said, hey, startup hubs worked.

Dean McEvoy: What if we could make, the equivalent of like an Opera House for Sydney. Let’s make a central precinct where it could be bigger and better. And she was all in. And I thought at the time I thought, man, the property developer people are just going to come and eat our lunch.

Dean McEvoy: And, it’s going to get shot down. But to the credit of the people involved since then. So I was involved in the beginning for the first year, pulling people in and getting people excited about it. And then it’s happened. So the people that have followed through on it have done a really good job.

Dean McEvoy: And it’s pretty encouraging to see that, you know, Gladys should be very proud of that as her legacy. She’s a great lady. So, I forgot the question now. It was around what is TechSydney about? 

Dean McEvoy: So I think, a lot of the problems that we had back then are a little bit solved now. So, we’re trying to work out what to do with TechSydney. We’ve got the Tech Council now, which was really good at liaising with government. We did a lot of other initiatives, like a founder forum where other founders got together with other founders. The challenge I’ve had is that running a not-for-profit sucks and don’t advise anyone to ever do it ever again.

Dean McEvoy: It’s because, especially when COVID hit, everyone’s got 20 other priorities now. At a minimum, TechSydney will keep the website up. We’ll keep it going. But, what it does in the future, I guess we’ll wait and see where there’s a problem to solving and go focus on it. Otherwise it’ll just be a website where we have a list of all the startups in Sydney and you can connect with them and do that and, hey, that’s enough.

Dean McEvoy: You know, Startmate’s probably the best example of the best advice you can get to start a business in Australia. I still don’t think it’s at the level of the people that I met when I was in the Valley. So, I still think there are certain people in Australia who operate at that level, but they’re not tending to be the ones that are out there giving advice back to founders.

Dean McEvoy:  I think the one criticism I might have of Startmate at the moment is we’re too soft on people. I think we need to crack the whip a little harder at a higher level. And I can be a bit of a hard-ass as well. So I think Michael and everyone does an amazing job, like an amazing job at the engine that is Startmate now.

Dean McEvoy: But I advise startups one-on-one. And like, if people want to be the world’s best, they’ve got to just set a certain level of expectation of what they’re going to do. And they’ve got to hold themselves to it. You know, that’s what I tried to do for the companies that I advise.

Dean McEvoy:  I try and bringing the sort of Silicon Valley level of execution and quality and try and bring the best expertise that people can have in their startup to execute on what they’ve got. And it’s pretty impressive to see the effect of that when you do that. I think the problem is there’s so many accelerators now, and even there’s a lot of companies going through Startmate.

Dean McEvoy: The thing I’m trying to do now is just focus on three or four companies and try and help them and put all my effort and resources into them. And I think you know, we’ve got some great investors here. I think Niki and the AirTree and, you know, they’re good.

Dean McEvoy: They’re really good. And think, if some of the world’s best came here, that would be interesting I think as well. Just to level us up a little bit better with some of the world’s best investors. And they already are investing later on, but could they get here earlier on and just level us up sooner? I think it’s the biggest opportunity.

Dean McEvoy: The most important thing you can do as a founder is separate you from your business. The biggest problem I see with founders in the early stage is when you hear them say words like, this is my baby, or, you know, and they treat it like that. Because when you tie your ego to your business and someone gives you negative feedback, you feel like shit.

Dean McEvoy: Likewise, when something good happens in the business, you become egotistical and amazing. And that is the wrong attitude to have. You need to be confident in who you are as a person. Go do therapy on yourself, work it out, work out whatever issues you’ve got. Because you need to be curious when someone gives you negative feedback about your business.

Dean McEvoy: When someone says, hey, I really don’t like this. You’re like, oh, really cool. Why, what is it about that? Tell me more because that’s how you become successful. I can tell it in a founder when I start to give them some feedback and they get all tense and like, you can see that they’re just like they’re about to punch it. And that’s one of the biggest problems. Because that has a flow on effect. You’ll never get the right feedback. 

Dean McEvoy: The other thing is execute quickly. It’s been proven with a lot of research as well, that the startup founders that execute fast, where there’s this fast cycle time between when you build, measure, learn, are way more successful than the ones that do it slowly.

Dean McEvoy: And so whatever it takes, do it quickly and get it out there. I’ve always lived by the philosophy of ready, fire, aim. Don’t ready, aim, fire. Because people who take too long to, should I pull the trigger? Ah, I’ve only got one bullet. You shoot, you see where you land and you shoot again. See where you land and that needs to be your attitude move quickly.

Dean McEvoy: And then, I think the most important thing is that you’re building a movement, not a business. Nobody wants to come and make you more money. Nobody wants to come and make your life easier. You’ve got to make their life easier. Your job as the CEO and the founder is to create an environment, and a mission, and a reason to get out of bed every day that’s worthwhile. And too many founders think it’s the other way around.

Dean McEvoy: They have an entitlement that staff should come and work for them and you pay them money. They give you their time. They give up money and in return for equity on the hope that it will be worth something one day. You got to think about how you’re building a mission greater than you. And you can hear that in the language that founders use, when they talk about their business.

Dean McEvoy: When they say my business, I, mine, they’re not the founders that become successful. It’s the ones who naturally say we, our, you know. Here’s Mount Everest, let’s go climb it together. So they’d be my three most important tips. 

Dean McEvoy: I think there’s a bit of a risk at the moment because startups are becoming hot. And, it tends to probably attract the sort of people that are looking at the $50 billion evaluations of Canva. And saying, I want that. And they’re the wrong people that we want in this industry. Because the people that are successful are not the people that set out to create a $50 billion company.

Dean McEvoy: They’re the people that are so driven and curious about the world and the problems in it, and so driven to find solutions to them. So Melanie and Cliff from Canva, you know, Mel used to teach graphic design. And she saw how much it sucked using that software. And they tried to build a photo book business, and they understood most people don’t need to know all the stuff that’s in Photoshop.

Dean McEvoy: So they had this deep connection with the problem, and insights around the problem that no one else did, and they were motivated to go and solve that in a meaningful way. And so I’d encourage potential founders, go and get curious about something. It’s very hard to go and find your passion. But your curiosity will lead you there.

Dean McEvoy: So whatever you’re curious about in the world, just keep digging into it. Dig further. Don’t sit back and wait for the world to spoon-feed you. Go and get curious and find out and get interested about whatever it is you’re interested in. And then when you build that expertise you’ve worked out what you love, you work out what the world needs.

Dean McEvoy: So go out and talk to people and find out where there’s something missing. And then if you overlay what you love, what the world needs, think about where you can get paid. And that’s the intersection of a great opportunity. It’s actually, a Japanese proverb called ikigai, which really means your reason for being. So I encourage people to not really go out and start businesses just for the sake of starting businesses. Go out and find a reason for being, which is a much more better way to live. Much happier way to live. And it’ll create more successful companies.


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