You don’t go to Web Summit to quietly browse stalls and catch a few lowkey lectures. It’s a carnival of tech and a funfair of innovation. It’s a festival for Founders and tech heads. You go to learn and grow. You mingle with people who have firsthand experience starting and growing a tech business. People like us.
We spoke to some exciting Founders about what it takes to go from Startup University to Center Stage. It’s a journey we’re all too familiar with but one with many routes. Most founders share certain traits, you’ve seen them mentioned in clickbait articles that pigeon-hole start-ups for ease of writing and broader readership. We chatted to the individuals in the trenches to see what unique challenges they face and innovative techniques they share.
In an effort to find out how best to take a company from start-up to scale we interviewed founders with companies at different phases of their growth. We wanted to find out how they maintain their company culture during a period of rapid growth after the initial start-up phase and how they sustain their growth without burning out.
We asked them to describe their mission, share some of their challenges, tell us which traits are important to their growth, and give us the secret to self care. This what they had to say.
1. Maintain purpose while sustaining growth.
Michael Ros, Founder of hotel booking platform Bidroom, highlighted the importance of purpose. “We wanted to be the good guys of the (travel) industry.” He spent years working with hotels and noticed how disappointed the hotels were with existing platforms. He told us he knew he had to change something. Having a sense of purpose and a solid reason for building your business will ensure that you are able to maintain your culture during a rapid growth phase.
Andrey Perfilyev, Co-Founder of Atlas BioMed the medical tech start-up, is driven by a desire to improve well-being and healthcare by using data and science to boost the positive effects of preventative medicine. “I am a medical doctor… I am personally very motivated to change the system of healthcare.” Personal expertise and real passion allow start-ups to maintain their culture during the scale-up phase.
2. Find growth in global market expansion.
Five years into their business, Paul Coggins, Co-Founder of Adludio, is no stranger to the challenges faced during scale-up. He had this to say when asked about key character traits for success, “…for me it’s perseverance.” “It’s sticking at something.” “Launching a start-up and growing it into a scale-up is not an even journey. It’s one that keeps on going.” Staying focused on your mission and sticking to your goals despite the challenges is key to moving successfully to scale-up.
We asked him about his biggest challenge and how he overcame it. “Growth is obviously the biggest challenge. When you’re taking on VC funding they want to see growth. How do you keep on growing. Keep on having 80 – 100% growth year on year. We made the decision very early to expand overseas.” “That growth has come through opening up new offices and going into new markets.”
3. Persevere through growth challenges.
14 years might seem like an eternity to a start-up but BringFido, the pet friendly travel website, is an example of how passion and purpose drive sustainable growth. The company grew from 2 to 45 while staying true to its vision. Melissa, the founder, discovered through personal experience how difficult it was to travel with her adopted dog. She wanted a solution. Growth has meant a need to rebrand for BringFido. “We still talk about ourselves as pet travel company but I think our customers see as more of a lifestyle company.”
Fabio Fischer founder of cyber security company Sikur faced a problem that’s as old as time. His company was ahead of its time. When the company launched in 2013 they were told the product will only be relevant in 2023. How do you scale up before your time? “Keep the company growing. Invest in the product and surf the wave right now.” “The priority for the company right now is execute the go to market strategy. We have a very strong product right now.”
4. Optimise processes for faster, better decisions.
When you’re growing fast and more people join your team processes can sometimes become a hindrance. How do you maintain the fast, energetic start-up culture while scaling-up? It’s important that decision making doesn’t hold you back. Paulo Bastos, founder of Houzguide and City Concierge understands this. “All decisions should be very simple and clear. You can’t spend two weeks making a decision. It’s better to decide and move on.”
Fast growth requires flexibility and adaptability. Things change and you need to be ready to change with them. Eyal Grumberg, founder of Travely the first direct online hotel booking platform, is modest about his company’s success. But realistic about what it takes to grow. “We have a vision. We have a program. But we are flexible. We are flexible, intuitive and we follow our vision.”
5. Build innovation into culture and systems.
A common theme when chatting to founders about growth was the need for innovation. Be it in product development or processes and operations, they knew they needed to adapt. Perhaps Laurent of Glowbl said it best. Innovation. “We compete and we fight with Microsoft, Cisco, Adobe, Zoom… the only way to compete with these people is not to do what they do, but to make innovation.”
A desire to scale globally is driving Ignilife, founded by Fabrice Pakin, to innovate and develop new products. Ignilife promotes a culture of health among the population, an exciting sector wide open to innovation and growth. This innovative approach is clearly lead by his personal curiosity and creativity. When asked about the personality traits that have been most influential in the success of his company, his answer was insightful. “I am a very curious guy, and creative. So when I want to do something I have to study it completely.”
6. Unlock growth with external specialists.
Luggagent, the same day luggage delivery service between the airport and hotels was founded by Lance Lin. It’s been going since 2016 and is growing fast. Their biggest challenge comes from working with suppliers all over the world and how they can work with people across different cultures. To guide their decision making process during this growth phase they aren’t afraid to look for help from professionals. “We have a very strong and robust consulting team. Our team members come from around 7 countries.” They can make the decision by themselves and when they face a problem they ask for other people’s advice.”
Methieu Gerard is the co-founder of Mapwize a company that specialises in indoor maps to help people navigate large spaces such as office blocks, malls or museums. His answer to our question about positive character traits for his company’s growth, perfectly summarises our learnings from Web Summit. “Knowing when to take a piece out of you and put it into the hands of someone else.” Acquiring the skills of expert consultants at the right point in a company’s scaling-up is critical to its success.
We exist to help businesses optimise growth and ensure sustainability. Web Summit was a great opportunity for us to gain even more knowledge and insight into the needs of start-ups becoming scale-ups. If you are currently facing your own growth challenges, or wish you were, get in touch. We are always excited to chat with businesses looking for growth solutions. Give us a call, drop us a mail or ping us on LinkedIn, we’ll put the coffee on and put our heads together to help you tackle your own growth challenges.