FORMER Renew Newcastle graduate and Conversant Media founder Zac Zavos will give key startup advice as part of the Spark festival in Newcastle.
Mr Zavos, who with his brother Zoltan founded and sold startup Conversant Media for $11.6m in 2016, will speak at the October 19 event at Watt Street Arc about his journey as an entrepreneur in Newcastle to his current role at Shearwater, a private venture firm that will invest in early-stage, high growth businesses.
With the Spark event focusing on demystifying startup funding, Mr Zavos says he was lucky that a mentor friend had invested in Conversant early in the piece.
“I can happily reflect he made a good return on the investment. But ultimately, for me, what our investor supplied was belief and experience – that meant more than the actual funds,” he said.
Mr Zavos said trying to get Conversant cracking was often “brutally hard”.
“You’re basically trying to get momentum into something that doesn’t yet exist. In the early days, I found that every-time I took my shoulder off the cart, it stopped. So I worked all the time,” he says.
“My experience is that start-ups require constant thinking, convincing of others, and basically...application of force to gain momentum. It’s hard, but also so rewarding building a business the way you think a business should be built.”
He believes it is a “golden period” for startups because many of the age-old challenges have been removed.
“Companies can easily start with a credit card the way Atlassian did. Hosting, office space, legals, accounting etc have all gone to the cloud and most are near-free,” he said.
But other challenges still remain: “It’s critical when starting a business to enter a market which is growing. There are plenty of great leaders in small markets. You can change your product but it's much harder to change your market.”
He believes the biggest challenge for startups is attracting great people.
Camplify founder Justin Hales and First Australians Capital CEO Jocelyn King will also speak at the event.
More on the Spark festival go to http://sparkfestival.co