Startup jitters? “Just go for it,” says Appscore founder

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It takes a certain level of fearlessness to become the captain of your own ship, quit a six-figure corporate job and set sail for relatively uncharted waters: Australia’s tech sector.

Alex Louey did just that, co-founding one of the first mobile-first app developers on the scene: Appscore. Six years on, it’s clear Alex’s voyage has been a fruitful one.

To date, Appscore has developed more than 300 apps for its clients and more than a million people access apps built by the business every day.

It has a global presence with more than 100 employees across four countries and an annual turnover of $15 million. Alex, now 39, has already set revenue projections of $25 million for 2017.

And then there are the accolades: Appscore was named in the BRW Fast Starters 2012 and 2013. Last month, it was named winner of the GOLD Stevie® Award for the Innovation in Business Utility App category.

“We don’t just try to meet expectations”

In 2010, Alex gave up work as an international project manager despite his success as a contractor. The simple truth? Alex ‘got over it’  but he was also driven by ambition.

He and a friend had resolved to embrace technology in a way that would change how businesses engage their customers and ply their trade. Apps, then a fairly new concept, met the friends’ criteria, so they decided to run with it. Thus, Appscore was born.

“Since then we have always worked to stay at the forefront of innovation in this space,” Alex told Dynamic Business.

“Our greatest strength is that irrespective of whether we are partnering with a small or big business our priority and service objective remain the same: to provide cutting edge business solutions that don’t just meet expectations but exceeds them.”

Partnering with big businesses and innovation leaders such as Telstra, Samsung, Microsoft and Apple has been incredibly important to the growth of Appscore. It has allowed the business to the leverage the IP of these partners and work with some of the best people in the world to deliver cutting edge solutions for their clients.

Operating in a number of different countries has also been important, providing Appscore with insight into the broader international markets and better placing the business to identify growth opportunities early to stay ahead of the game.

Growth that reinforces Appscore’s ethos

The road to success was not an easy one for Alex, who faced a steep learning curve. He said he essentially lived off nothing for three years, including two without a salary, and had to take on duties outside his core expertise such as admin, hiring and business development.

Further, when Appscore was conceived, Australia’s tech sector was (and still is, according to Alex) underdeveloped in comparison to many other international markets. Despite the incredible potential and talent in the industry, this has made it challenging for Alex to attract capital investment and retain the best people.

By far the biggest challenge for Alex has been growing Appscore in a way that supports its ethos. Hiring people who share that ethos has been critical to managing growth. While many companies embrace structure when growing, Alex’s view is that this stifles innovation

“As we have grown, the challenge has been to reinforce our culture of innovation, to support a professional environment where new ideas are encouraged, and to ensure every member of the Appscore team works to exceed the expectations of our partners and create new and innovative solutions,” he said.

Some things don’t work but you learn from it

As a first-generation Australian, born to Chinese and Hong Kong immigrants, Alex credits his upbringing with instilling him with a sense of discipline. According to Alex, this has been key to his success, as has resilience, collaboration, allowing for mistakes and a willingness to give anything a go.

“What often stops a lot of people is a fear of failure and the last six years I’ve had to deal with a lot of things not going right,” he said.

“But I’ve realised along the way that as long as I learn from it and am not too hard on myself – nothing’s ever as bad as you first think it is.”

Appscore this week relocated its head office into larger premises in Melbourne, where the business works alongside new tech startups Alex either mentors or has invested in.

“I am passionate about developing Australia’s tech industry and part of that, for me, involves mentoring new talent and investing in innovation,” Alex said.

“Recently I became involved with SMEtv to share some of my expertise though video blogs. SMEtv provide free advice across a range of topics to help new entrepreneurs and SME’s. Now that Appscore is more developed I enjoy taking the time to give back to people who are where I was 6 years ago, in both a hands on way and though learning portals like SMEtv.”

Six tips for small businesses

Alex’s advice to other startup founders is to “Just go for it” because “failure’s not as bad as what you think it is”.

“If you’re not good at something, don’t spend too much time on it,” he said.

“Stay away from unnecessary small talk and buzz words. Be real with people and they’ll be real with you.”

He also has six tips to help small businesses staying ahead of the curve:

  • Adapt to the market quickly and know your competition, otherwise you’ll be left behind as your competitors leap frog ahead.
  • Surround yourself with high achievers and people you can learn from and who will push you to be better. If you don’t have marketing experience, for example, find someone who does and don’t be afraid to pick their brain.
  • Always be on your game and never take success for granted: not only does business pose physical, mental and emotional challenges but there will always be someone with the potential to beat you.
  • Hold yourself accountable: if you’re not the smartest person in the room, then make sure you’re the hardest working.
  • If you want to become better at dealing with unfamiliar situations, you need to get used to leaving your comfort zone.
  • There’s always an angle, you just need to find it: if your competitors dominate the market, you don’t necessarily have to head-to-head; instead, get innovative and change the market.