3 Fiery Facts from StartCon 2017

Written by Catie McHugh | Fingerprint for Success

The curtains have closed on another incredible StartCon conference, so we’re taking the opportunity to reflect on a few of the events that really got us talking.

The depth of knowledge and experience offered by the keynote speakers was staggering, unveiling insights that can really boost the brain juice of founders and their teams.

One thing is for sure - the startup scene is not only alive and well in Australia, it’s a beast waiting to unleash incredible innovation on the world. Are you ready?

3. ‘Why are you investing in weaknesses instead of strengths?’ - John Egan, Growth Engineering Manager at Pinterest.

The growth-hacking genius working with Pinterest’s 100 million-plus users, John Egan, took to the stage to offer insight into the mistakes he has made on his way to immense success with a scaling company.

He described something we’ve likely all done, in some form - throw time, money and whole lot of energy at something that isn’t working within the business, a weakness. In his case, it was Pinterest’s invite system; they’d seen it working for other platforms and threw a team of ten engineers at it for eighteen months to maximize growth, only for them to not move the needle much at all. However, those same engineers were later diverted into channels that were already showing promise, and were able to realize immediate results:

“What we learned from this is that growth channels can often follow a power law, in terms of impact… and it can be really difficult to take an underperforming channel and turn it into a major growth channel. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to see if you can do that, but you don’t want to place a big bet. You want to put in a few resources, see if you can get traction with improving it before deciding to go all-in.”

Why we loved it:  This is incredible advice, especially for resource and finance-stretched startups. What’s more - we’re all about utilizing inherent strengths and addressing blind spots, or weaknesses, in founders and their teams. It just makes sense.

2. ‘How are you organising your business for growth?’ - Joanna Lord, CMO at ClassPass.

Joanna Lord of ClassPass is nothing short of a dynamo. Her keynote showcased her mind-boggling depth in performance and growth marketing, where she lives and breathes measurable, accurate data and never shies away from difficult conversations.  

Her mile-a-minute style puts into focus her broad skillset; at her core, she simply knows a lot about a lot of things, and is willing to take the difficult steps and transition pains in stride when really shaking up company initiatives and data-driven marketing for growth. She makes a simple (yet often overlooked) point that multiple departments in a business are all vying for the same goal of ‘growth’, but their paths to success are very different. She advocates a collaborative approach with as few approval blockages as possible, while looking to the right data in driving decision-making. Sometimes, this leads to pivotal moments in a business’ timeline that are not always pleasant.

“Often the hardest, most complicated business decision is the exact one you need to make.These are the days that kind of make or break a company, and it’s so important that we lean into them.”

Why we loved it: Wow, Joanna Lord has so many pearls of wisdom to share that it’s a feat in itself that she squeezed so much into twenty-five minutes. Data is clearly at the heart of her (very successful) role as CMO, but she also appears to embody what we have identified as key attitudes of successful entrepreneurs - she is a high initiator, moving very quickly in the decision-making process, and her big-picture thinking is an asset to her highly mobilized team approach.

1. ‘We believe that teams are the cornerstone of human achievement’ - Scott Farquhar, co-founder at Atlassian.

Scott Farquhar commanded the stage with one overarching goal: to share Atlassian’s mission for empowerment and fostering high-performance teams in business. So, what empowers a team to work their best and be at their most productive? He listed a few home truths:

  • Clear processes
  • Strictly defined and measured outputs
  • Reduced variability
  • Highly structured roles
  • A strong manager
  • Personalized tools
  • Stability within the team

It would make sense to think that the above was curated by Atlassian themselves, or perhaps another big-name company like Google or Facebook. However, those principles were worked out one hundred and twenty years ago, with a coal-mining team in Pennsylvania. And they worked.

While things have obviously changed, those points still stand. Farquhar elaborated, citing that the days of the lone genius are well-and-truly over, and that it will be highly successful teams that band together and change the world. He emphasized the importance of quick learning through rapid decision-making, and ensuring that everyone on the team, not just leadership, are honing their decision-making skills and embracing the unknown.

“It’s going to be teams that cure cancer, it’s going to be teams of people that colonize Mars, it’s going to be teams that alleviate global poverty. The days of the lone genius are dead.”


Why we loved it: Building cohesive, high-performance teams is at the heart of what we do at Fingerprint for Success. And Scott Farquhar is an inspiration in this new territory we’re exploring called the Future of Work.


The StartCon team would like to thank Catie for the incredible insight she has shared with us! Make sure you head over to their blog for more content. 

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