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Takeaway lessons from Shane Bradley’s Startup Grind talk

By Mikela Dennison, Senior Account Executive

I attended the first ever Startup Grind event in New Zealand last week, and thought it might be useful to share some of the pearls of wisdom I gleaned from the speaker Shane Bradley (founder of online deal, directory and trading sites - GrabOne, Finda, and Sella).

If you aren't familiar with Startup Grind, it's a worldwide collective of events for entrepreneurs and startups, and is powered by Google for Entrepreneurs (everyone benefits from having a cool partner, right?).The official definition of the network is: "A global startup community designed to educate, inspire, and connect entrepreneurs."

The inaugural NZ event was held at Generator, and was hosted by the lovely Helena McAlpine, who provided humour, charm and an investigative line of questioning to unearth what it took for Bradley to overcome challenges, failures and competition to create and then sell three successful online startup ventures.

Don't be afraid to fail

Bradley told the audience of captive aspiring young businesspeople that he went completely broke twice before he was 30. While that would have given many people enough reason to give up on their business dreams, move home with the folks and try to pawn off their record collection, failure inspired Bradley to get back on his feet and start up not one, not two but three online channels that are now household names. There's also another online venture in the works that is sure to be another success story.

In the words of Bill Gates: "It's fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure". Never a truer word spoken, Bill.

Never forget, never forgive, and never give up

Bradley also advised the audience to never forget, never forgive and never give up.

It might sound clich├ęd, but when he spoke about trying to garner early interest in GrabOne, and getting knocked back several times, you got the sense that he wasn't just paying lip service to an old adage.

He spoke passionately about the people who dissed him, taunted him and text him pretty harsh comments when his early businesses went under. You got the sense that those early knocks gave him the hard skin that went on to be of crucial value later down the line.

Bradley went on to broker a deal with NZ Herald publisher APN which saw him initially sell half of GrabOne through his Idea HQ company (read this NBR story for the details of the deal), so his advice is worth keeping in mind next time you bang your head against the wall after yet another painful business plan rejection.

Seeing as quotes are very fitting for life lessons, let's look to Winston Churchill for another goodie: "Never, never, never give up".

Know your market, listen to your customers

Of course the rise in popularity of deal sites like Grab One, Groupon, Daily Do, and more recent deal sites like the beauty-focused site Flossie, is a sign of the times. We were introduced to seeking out deals during the GFC, and now things are recovering, the market has been conditioned to looking online for a bargain before we go out for dinner, to the movies, on holiday (insert pretty much any goods and services here).

Bradley was adamant that knowing the market and listening to customers is the cornerstone for success. He even told the audience that he'll often take customer calls and complaints so he can stay connected with the end-user experience and ensure changes are made accordingly.

This is such a great approach - and one that can be applied to businesses both large and small across New Zealand. You can get case studies of happy customers, over and above service solutions and take lessons from complaints and issues, which all come directly from your own customers and clients. Here's a reallyuseful article about how customer service can drive your marketing and PR efforts as well.

In the words of Ernest Hemingway, "When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen."

Future events

So there you have it - a few lessons I took away from Shane Bradley's talk at the inaugural Startup Grind NZ event. The next event will hear from Online Republic President and Founder Mike Ballantyne, so pop along and be part of the action. Here's more info if you are interested.

You can follow the Startup Grind NZ chapter on Twitter here: @startupgrindnz and if you're using Twitter, I hope you are already following The Clarity Business: @ShapeTheMessage.

What are your tips for starting out in the big bad world of business and startups? You've got to be prepared to do the grind, but hopefully you will have some fun, meet some inspiring people and learn some valuable lessons along the way.

If you are starting up a new business - or need to put some more spark into your existing business - we can help you communicate what you do and how you add value. Check out what we do and then get in touch to arrange a coffee and a chat.