Now that I’ve been a founder…Sydney FinTech Startup Weekend Review

Now that I’ve been a founder…Sydney FinTech Startup Weekend Review

This weekend I attended Sydney’s first startup weekend hosted by Stone & Chalk and sponsored by H2 and Westpac. This was also the first FinTech specialist startup weekend in Australia.

On Friday night, everyone was given 60 seconds to pitch an idea. Following this, teams are quickly formed and we had until 4pm Sunday to validate our idea, create an MVP/proof of concept, and pitch to a panel of judges.

Much to my surprise, we won (!) with an idea called Tap4Change, a social welfare payments platform. Over the weekend we tested and validated as best as we could then pitched it to the panel which I was fortunate (or unfortunate) to deliver on behalf of my team. You can find the entire thing below if you’re interested (skip forward to 2:48:30).

When we started the weekend, we wanted to make a contactless payment platform for those disadvantaged by homelessness. Where we ended up didn’t feel too far away from that, but the amount of times we pivoted, threw out wireframes and completely reshaped the proposition, I can no longer count. Every time we opened up concepts for discussion, it felt like a horse designed by committee (a camel) as we seemed to move further and further away from our vision.

It was a great experience, one of the biggest takeaways was that as a recruiter in the fintech space, I now have a greater understanding of a founder’s pain! Yes my 48-hours-of-founder experience was on a micro scale, but this weekend our team sunk a lot of emotion, effort and stress into this product and I can see how attachment to the product can grow uncontrollably.

Ultimately, we managed to stay on track by pushing ourselves to continually solve a customer problem, which was the entire point of the weekend. Solving customer problems is what product people do, and solving a customer problem is exactly why a founder would start a business in the first place. So it makes absolute sense that they would be so closely tied to the product as it evolves.

We often have very difficult discussions with founders, especially when hiring product leaders as it requires giving up control around product decisions as the business grows. Founders typically hold the vision for the product and nurse it throughout the infancy of its development. But for 90% of founders, there comes a time when it is no longer appropriate to be both the CPO and CEO, and they have to bring in an expert to drive the delivery, vision and strategy of the product. This is typically where we come into the picture, and for every founder we have this conversation with, we are constantly testing and probing to see whether they are ready to emotionally detach from the product which will set up the incoming product leader for success – something (with my small window into this world) I know would be a lot easier said than done.

So I want to finish with some words of new-found wisdom to all founders who I’ve talked to and all future founders I work with: I think I get it, and sorry for not fully appreciating what you must have been going through. I built a concept over a weekend and I already became precious about what we had created. I couldn’t even imagine how you would feel about building a product for three, four or more years to then have to pass your baby to someone else. So, moving forward, I’m going to handle with care, be more understanding, and help you as much as possible to trust that I’m the right person to find your product’s lead, and that they will be absolutely amazing.

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