We caught up with Angus, one of the members of the 2017 Auckland cohort. While at Venture Up, Angus worked on Lucid Us, a digital marketing company geared towards helping small tourism companies gain traction in the overseas market. Currently, Angus is the Marketing Manager for Startup Dunedin.
You’re currently working at Startup Dunedin – can you tell us a bit about them?
Sure. Startup Dunedin‘s a not-for-profit trust. We’re jointly funded by the Dunedin City Council, University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic.
We’re here to facilitate the growth of the Dunedin startup ecosystem. Obviously, that can mean a thousand different things. To prioritise what we work we talk to our founders and startups about their needs, and rely on the expertise of our board of advisors.
We also look at Silicon Valley Iran, Munich and other successful startup communities, to see what they have and what we might be a need to recreate.
The real key is that if somebody else creates the same thing, then we would stop doing that and spend our energy somewhere else. We don’t want to own the whole ecosystem, we want to use our time on resources on things that aren’t being done.
What were you working on at Venture Up?
At Venture Up, I pitched an idea for using different types of lighting to reduce the effects of Sundowners (syndrome) on rest homes. When the sun goes down, people in rest homes’ symptoms from Alzheimer’s to dementia etc. generally become worse and it creates issues for people in the rest home. However, I ended up being attracted to a different idea. I joined another team and we invalidated three ideas before we decided what we’d work on for the rest of the programme.
Our company Lucid Us, spoke to a lot of small tourism operators. They all had issues with getting into travel centers, like Flight Center or STA Travel. As a result, they struggle to advertise to overseas tourists and break into that market.
We researched how we could solve that problem and the conclusion we came to is that these guys don’t have a lot of money, so just saying ‘hey go get a digital marketing agency to help you with social media’ wasn’t really an option. But, young adults or students looking for internships who can do the same marketing (with the right type of training) could actually make a huge difference in that person’s business.
The result people were looking for was not to be the top tourism provider in New Zealand, it was ‘I need an extra ten clients every summer to make sure I can afford my mortgage and I’m happy’. Most people assume that more work is a good thing but a lot of these guys wanted maybe ten more clients and that was it.
So there you had an idea and a market fit. Where did you go from there?
For us, Venture Up validated the idea that there are young people looking for practical experience before they join the workforce. VU was filling that hole, but it wasn’t catered to a specific skill set. There was nothing in NZ for people who specifically wanted to practice digital marketing.
Our long term vision was to train people to work for small tourism providers in their respective regions. We would teach people digital marketing specifically for small tourism providers in New Zealand and then have placements where they go and work for those small tourism operators, gain experience and add value.
Unfortunately, our team went our separate ways shortly after finishing Venture Up. Distance from each other made it difficult to keep our momentum and being apart from each other, as much as your told otherwise, is tough.
Since Venture Up, what has been your biggest achievement personal or otherwise?
Startup Dunedin was asked to apply for the non-profit category at the 2019 Otago Regional Business Awards. We applied and were selected as a finalist for the non-profit category.
That was a huge achievement and really boosted team morale. More importantly, it validated trust that we were doing the right things and spending our time in the right places.
Do you have any other projects you’re working on outside of your work with Startup Dunedin?
In 2017 I realized that I had way too many things on the go. I was treasurer of my football club, playing football for the University, had a part-time gig at Startup Dunedin, plus a 20-30 hour gig with a startup called Geia; all while I was trying to finish my degree. Other parts of my life started falling to the wayside. I couldn’t put as much effort into particular projects as what I wanted.
I made the conscious decision to make a mostly clean slate. I left my treasury role, concluded my time with Geia and decided to focus on Startup Dunedin. Working for Startup Dunedin made me feel like I was helping people which was important to me and I’m proud to dedicate most of my time to it.
What are your top tips for those on the journey of starting a new business?
Validate really well. There’s no point in putting a whole lot of work in building a product and trying to sell something that you haven’t validated really well.
On that of validating really well, get comfortable with letting go of your idea. It’s really hard and I see it all the time with new founders – because it’s your idea and you spend a lot of time thinking about it you get attached to it. If you want to succeed you need to detach from the idea, you need to focus on the problem, and you need to become really unbiased and open-ended in the way you ask people questions. You might not always get the answers you want, and that’s okay – it’s better than spending a whole lot of time and money building something no one but you really ever wanted.
What are the tools or skills you use often to make the best of your time?
I do Pomodoro’s – I follow Tim Ferriss’ method of 25-minute work sprints, 5 minutes off. On the days I do that and meditate using Headspace, I am way more productive. You still get distracted, but you get much faster at noticing and it’s much easier when I meditate to refocus my attention.
Interested? Apply now! Applications for Queenstown 2019 close this weekend.