How Three Aussie Expats Made It In Silicon Valley


This story was originally published on Collective Hub

Step into the valley… 3 Aussie expat entrepreneurs share their tips for making it in Silicon Valley.

Audrey Melnik

Company: ZootRock, a social media marketing company that automates the discovery of external content which still drives back to a company’s own site. “ZootRock is a content curation platform for social media,” says Audrey. “We help businesses that want to have a presence on social media but don’t have a lot of time. We source relevant articles, images, videos and quotes for the businesses to share on their social media channels. Then we go one step further by giving them the opportunity to insert their call-toaction on top of that link.”

Funding: $110,000 in seed

Investors: 1

“Start scrappily”
I was working on my previous start-up, which was in the dating space. I needed a social presence, but as a founder I didn’t have time to do it myself. I decided to build something that would automatically share relevant content in that space. I put it together with a bunch of utilities, and I was sequencing them together to refresh with new content and then push it through into our social media channels. That was the first iteration; it was essentially [built with] sticky-tape and Band-Aids. That’s the way you do things in Silicon Valley; you don’t invest a lot of time and money before you get your validation. I found that when I did that, I got more engagement and more followers than when I had social media consultants. So I had my validation by putting that together and very quickly I was able to get people to sign up for a subscription.

“Pay it forward”
Silicon Valley can be very supportive. There are a lot of people here that are willing to meet with you and help you, and it’s a very pay-it-forward culture. That attitude permeates the whole culture here. I introduce people I think could work together in some way if it’s going to help them. I don’t expect anything in return.

“Get appy”
These apps make life easier: Lucky Orange for recording a user’s mouse movements to understand how they use your app, Immediately for easily setting up meetings, and ReTargeter for getting your ads in front of users who have been on your site.

Holly Cardew

Company: Pixc, a photo-editing service. Pixc provides on-demand image editing and optimisation for e-commerce stores.

Funding: Undisclosed amount

Investors: 3

Did You Know? Holly was kicked out of the Founder Institute entrepreneur training program just a couple of weeks in when a mentor wasn’t a fan of her business idea.

“Find your customers first”
I was building an online marketplace [and] the biggest problem was the product images. In order for me to build my brand, I needed to have good content. I thought, “Why can’t [the sellers] just take a photo of their product and have it automatically edited?” This was the first time I had built a business knowing what a start-up is. Previously, I did it the wrong way around. This time I looked for customers before building the site. I put up a landing page, found what the problem was for the customers and then launched.

“Failure is okay”
I travel back and forth between Silicon Valley and Sydney. Long-term, I see myself staying in San Francisco. Fifty per cent of our customers are in the US; people are very open-minded in Silicon Valley about building partnerships, and we’re around brands such as eBay and PayPal that we’d like to partner with. Silicon Valley is amazing. Everyone is very encouraging, but they also are open to failure. They don’t see failure as a terrible thing; they see it as a learning thing. Because most people are involved in a start-up, they understand you’ll either make it or fail. If you make it, people give back because one day they were in that situation where they were struggling. When you meet someone, they ask, “How can I help you?”

Karen Orford

Company: Pay With Drop, a B2B mobile payments app that uses near-field beacons to allow customers to order – and pay – no matter where they are in the line.

Funding: Undisclosed amount in seed round

Investors: Private Australian investor Richard White, founder and CEO of WiseTech Global

“Be your own customer”
I made this for myself because I’m the world’s most impatient person. When I walk into a coffee shop and there’s 10 people in front of me, I want to be able to order from the back of the line. When beacon technology came out, I started looking at that. I was playing with AirDrop, and I thought, ‘Imagine if you could do that with payments.’ What it means is that if you walk into a coffee shop, you can order from the back of the line, your order is the next one to go into the point-of-sale, and you pick it up and walk out. That’s an in-line situation. Another situation is restaurants, where you can go in, order from the table, get up and leave. As soon as you get out of beacon range, it shuts down, so you don’t have to wait for a waitress to come out with your bill. It’s the ‘Uber experience’ of payments.

“Don’t let the clones in”
We’re going global, hard and fast. I think one of the mistakes that some other companies in the payments space have made is they didn’t go global hard and fast. Now they’ve saturated the US market, and they’re having a difficult time moving into other markets because those markets have already cloned what they’re doing and claimed that market. I think that’s one of the inward-looking issues of Silicon Valley.

“Balance really is key”
The Pay With Drop team doesn’t work past lunch on Fridays. It’s about balance. I have built enough companies to know it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

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