Front Row View

I’m originally from the UK where I worked in the Cambridge office of Ernst and Young. There’s a big tech sector in Cambridge with many startup businesses spinning out of the University, especially in biotech and health technologies. Eventually I moved to Sydney and continued to work with innovative businesses like the coworking community Tank Stream Labs (TSL), where I was fortunate to become the Chief Executive Officer.

As CEO of this great company, I get a front row view of dynamic, future-shaping entrepreneurs. These are people who have taken risks to set up their own businesses, people who have left corporate roles with good salaries and prestigious positions to jump ship and start something new.

The startup environment tends to create businesses that are extremely dynamic; they change and adapt constantly, reacting quickly to emerging problems.

Taking a risk can be a great thing. I love to see a company start as a one or two-man team, to see them grow on their journey, and to provide support through TSL along the way. I cheer them on as they scale their team to 10 people or more, pick up a couple of big clients, and then perhaps set up an office in Asia, the UK, or the US to launch their global expansion.

I learn from our entrepreneurs every single day – but I also get a chance to share with them my experiences, skills, and knowledge to help solve their issues. They’ll often face setbacks that I’ve seen many times with other TSL companies and which require a rapid response.

The startup environment tends to create businesses that are extremely dynamic; they change and adapt constantly, reacting quickly to emerging problems. I remember seeing corporate clients trying to run ‘change programs’ but taking months or even years to get things done. There was always a hierarchy of people that needed to approve every last thing and any number of blockers, whereas in this environment, if something needs to happen a good entrepreneur will make it happen instantly.

Some businesses I’ve seen in TSL start off with a particular business model but then pivot two or three times and end up with a completely different proposition. They show determination and resilience in not giving up and pursuing an outcome even though they’ve shifted away from the original concept. Many founders manage this path while wearing multiple hats; they run operations, HR, and technology all while dealing with investors and pushing forward into a new space. It requires many years of hard work behind the scenes to achieve public success.

Even though the skillset of many founders is impressive, the businesses that I’ve seen become really successful have a team; they have co-founders. Good entrepreneurs often have some type of unique ability, but also recognise that there are skills they don’t possess that are needed to build a global business. One founder might be highly commercial and the other might be a deep technologist. Having different skill sets means a broader range of opinions at the table as decisions get made that affect the strategic direction of the company.

Good entrepreneurs often have some type of unique ability, but also recognise that there are skills they don’t possess that are needed to build a global business.

One of the main challenges that I’ve seen our companies grapple with is whether to target the Australian market first and then go global or to shape themselves as a global company from Day 1. Some of the companies that we’ve seen be really successful have conquered the Australian market first, building a robust business here and then replicating that overseas. They’ve looked to expand globally once they’ve got a proven record, a good customer base, feedback on their product, and software that works well.

Given we’re Sydney-based, a large proportion of our startups are Fintech business as Sydney is a strong Fintech hub. Whatever type of business it is, technology is playing an increasingly important role. It impacts the work we do, the products and services we consume, and the day-to-day lifestyle we lead. The combination of data and Artificial Intelligence (AI), along with blockchain and its application across multiple industries, will continue to be a key focus of emerging small businesses.

TSL is a collaboration space, and we’re starting to see a lot more collaboration and openness from corporates like the big banks wanting to work with startups. There’s been a definite change in attitude; previously they saw themselves being disrupted but now they’re starting to see it is an opportunity to collaborate.

To support them, Tank Stream Labs focuses on building a community – it’s the number one thing we try to achieve because building a connected community enhances the way that people network and collaborate.

We’ve had many success stories where businesses within the Lab collaborate and work together, whether that be two startups using each other’s services to grow their businesses, sharing knowledge or resources, or a small company and an established company joining forces.

The most rewarding thing for us is seeing entrepreneurs working together to support each other, establishing viable businesses, and having a great time along the way.

Bradley Delamare is the CEO of Tank Stream Labs.