3 powerful lessons from Australia’s most successful online startups


Having interviewed over 100 of Australia’s top digital disruptors, you learn a thing or two about how to build an online business. Here’s three tricks of the trade I picked up talking to those who have been there done that.  

  1. Create a Minimum Viable Product(MVP) to test your idea:

Even the most disruptive of the disruptive get started with the most basic of MVPs.

David Rohrsheim, General Manager of Uber Australia and New Zealand, revealed the inside story behind Uber’s start in Australia.

“At the start, Uber was just me and my colleague. We drove over to the taxi rank at Sydney Airport, to the big ‘holding area’ where all the taxis wait in between jobs. We put a flier under the windscreen wipers of each taxi. The flier was an ‘expression of interest’ asking them to get in touch if they’d like to become an Uber driver. We’d hoped that some drivers would see it as an opportunity to get more work and we’d get a pool of drivers to test our MVP out.”

It worked. They got enough drivers to create an MVP and they rolled it out in a small test launch that led to the Uber juggernaut we’ve come to know and love.

  1. Give away things for free:

Few people are willing to buy anything, especially software, services and information products, without knowing how it works. That’s why we should be open to giving away free content (things that in the past you would have charged big bucks for) such as a report, an eBook, a webinar or a video series. Free content helps build trust but remember it has to be of high value and high quality.

A good example of this is DropBox. They built their database rapidly by offering their users an extra 2GB of storage if they shared the site with their Gmail contacts. What can you offer your network that’s so valuable they’ll share it willingly? 

  1. Focus on one customer at a time

Most start-up’s grapple with finding customers, especially if there’s no marketing budget to speak of.  But often, they try to find hundreds of customers when they should be focussed on finding just one.

One of the key issues at the heart of this is the belief  that ‘if I just write one fantastic blog, my database will explode … if I just get on one TV talk show, I’ll be inundated with sales … if I just create one amazing video, it will go viral and I’ll get 100,000 Facebook fans overnight’. Unfortunately, for most, it just doesn’t work that way.

When Kate Morris, founder of online beauty retailer AdoreBeauty.com.au started out, she had no customers at all but when she got one she was committed to serving them to the best of her ability.

“Sometimes, people are so busy trying to dominate the market with media releases, events and multiple products they forget that the essence of business is finding and then serving, one customer, and then another, and then another. And, of course, one customer leads to two customers, and two customers lead to four and so on.”

In our haste to find 100, or 1000 customers we often overlook the one customer right in front of us, pleading with us to take our money.

Success leaves clues so why reinvent the wheel you can learn from those who have gone before you. Take a leaf out of the book of these big disruptors and see if it makes a difference to your business.


About the author

Bernadette Schwerdt is the founder ofwww.copyschool.com and is the author of ‘How to Build an Online Business – Australia’s Top Disruptors Reveal Their Secrets for Launching and Growing an Online Business’. To download a free chapter, visit www.bernadetteschwerdt.com.au