StartCon, Australia’s largest startup and growth conference is back for another year, and already an impressive line up of speakers has been announced.

It’s hard to believe that twelve months has almost past since StartCon 2016 where I was fortunate enough to listen to an array of industry experts from across the globe including Andrew Chen (Uber), Elena Verna (SurveyMonkey) and Sean Ellis (GrowthHackers).

In fact, StartCon 2016 was my first time at the conference and I walked away with a number of actionable insights and lessons that I want to reflect on today. Many of these lessons had a direct impact on the actions I took when I founded my own startup, Task Pigeon, less than a month later.

As I break down some of these key lessons below I ask you to consider what you achieved over the past 12 months because the value you take away from the conference must also be matched by the action you take as a founder.

Sujan Patel – Growth Marketer and Partner at, Narrow, Quuu, and Mailshake

Sujan Patel is a growth marketing expert with over thirteen years experience in the industry. He has applied the lessons he has learned at both Fortune 500 companies and startups he has co-founded and backed. The two biggest takeaways from Sujan’s presentation for me were:

  • Focus your attention on your top three marketing channels. As a startup, you can’t and shouldn’t do everything for everyone. You don’t have the resources to support a strategy like this and will only end up spreading yourself too thin. As a startup, you need to focus your effort on the top three channels that are going to be most effective for you.
  • Make sure you understand your funnel and its weakness. There is no point focusing on conversion when you aren’t even driving enough traffic to the top of the funnel, to begin with. You need to understand what part of your funnel is letting you down and plug that hole first.

Elena Verna – SVP of Growth at Survey Monkey

Elena spoke extensively about what drives growth at Survey Monkey and provided key insights into startups operating on a SaaS based model with a freemium tier. In particular, Elena highlighted:

  • Understand the levers relevant to growth in your business. Most SaaS companies have three levers that they can pull on. These are:
  1. Number of Paid Users / Subscribers
  2. Average Revenue Per User
  3. Retention

Pulling on any of these levers can have a positive effect on revenue, but one may be better for your business than another. For example, if you are able to acquire users relatively easy but find retention is low then you should first focus your attention on improving loyalty to your product.

  • Survey Monkey have a stated goal to fail more than 50% of their growth tests. They believe in this because if you have a hypothesis and it fails then your team will learn something new. According to Elena, these learnings are crucial for your team to be able to continually form new hypotheses that drive the business forward.

Bill Reichert – Garage Technology Ventures

Bill Reichert a Venture Capitalist from Garage Technology Ventures spoke primarily about that first 20 seconds you have to convince someone you are worth listening to.

He provided a number of highly actionable tips and strategies to give you the best possible chance of success when pitching your startup. In particular, he said:

  • To be effective when pitching your startup “you have 20 seconds to be compelling or you might as well go home”. To be an effective communicator you need to engage three body parts:
  1. The Head – You have to say something that is clear and logical
  2. The Heart – Human’s don’t make decisions with their head. We do what we want to do, not what we should do. (Yes, even VC’s)
  3. The Gut – Human beings in every interaction have an immediate gut level response. It is either going to be positive or negative. But to pitch successfully you need to pass the “gut check”.
  • To create the perfect elevator pitch you should follow a format like the following:
  1. The first sentence should be a clear statement on what you do better than anyone else.
  2. The second sentence should identify the compelling benefit you offer and to whom? I.e. What is the big idea behind your company?
  3. The final sentence should combat any potential rebuttals and call out how you are different to your competition.

Chandini Ammineni’s – Hacker-in-Residence and Distribution Manager at 500 Startups in Silicon Valley

Chandini spends the majority of her time speaking with and assisting startups at the 500 Startups accelerator program. Being this close to the ground has provided Chandini with a number of insights into what makes a team succeed.

Here are the key takeaways from her presentation:

  • Most startups die because they are not disciplined. Chandini related discipline amongst startups with going to the gym. “We all know it is good for us. We all want to do it. But every few of us have the commitment to actually get out of bed week in, week out”. As a startup you need to focus and not try to do too much, with too few resources.
  • Once you have Product Market Fit is when you should focus on getting the flywheel going. During this phase you need to work to identify the levers that are going to drive top line revenue. As a result you need to experiment with lots of ideas and to rank the growth ideas you have you should rank them according to the ICE Framework:
  1. IMPACT – How much impact will this idea have for your startup
  2. CONFIDENCE – How confident are you that you can execute this idea
  3. EASE – How easy can you implement this idea

Ready for StartCon 2017? Grab your tickets now to hear from industry leaders and growth experts. Secure your tickets now!

About Paul:

Paul Towers is a 3 x Entrepreneur and the Founder & CEO of Task Pigeon, a web application that makes it easy to create, assign and manage the tasks you and your team work on each day. Paul is also a passionate supporter of the startup ecosystem and regularly mentors other startups and student entrepreneurs.