For those who don’t know, what is Envato?
We are the largest creative digital marketplace in the world. With Envato, you can buy and sell anything you might need for your creative project, from website themes and graphics, to 3D and music.
How did the idea come about?
I was a graphic designer and wanted to buy and sell things that you just couldn’t get at the time. The industry was also really imbalanced with sellers earning as low as 10% of the sale of each item. As the daughter of creatives, that really bothered me, so I wanted to give sellers an alternative.
What’s the best advice you could give to someone starting out?
I think plenty of people believe you either keep your day job or quit to start something and bet the farm. But Envato was my third business venture, and I really believe entrepreneurship is a muscle like any other – you build it up with practice. So if you’re still working in a job, and waiting for “one day”, just set aside some time to make something and launch it into the world. You won’t know how to make something and sell it until you actually do it, so do a few test runs while you have the security of a job. Start with something small that you wish was in the world that isn’t, work on it when you can, then put it out into the world. It will also get you used to the idea that some things will fail and that’s okay. It doesn’t actually matter, you’re just playing and learning.
Some things will fail and that’s okay. It doesn’t actually matter, you’re just playing and learning.
What needs to improve/change for Australia to become a global leader in innovation and tech?
We’re already at a disadvantage as our population is small and we’re geographically isolated. I can’t comment politically, but I think culturally our tall poppy syndrome doesn’t do us any favours. People are less likely to take risks and stand out if they feel they’re going to be cut down.
Have you had any challenges with sourcing and growing your team?
We’ve had to bring in people from overseas for some roles as we’ve gotten bigger, and finding great Ruby developers is an ongoing challenge, but overall we feel there’s amazing talent in Melbourne.
What’s the biggest win you’ve had so far?
We’ve helped our sellers earn over US$600 million on our marketplaces so far, which is pretty exciting.
What’s your biggest mistake?
It’s hard to answer as everything turned out okay in the end, but I wish we’d done management training sooner as I think we could have avoided some pain points if we’d known more about how to lead a team.
Do you have any tips for acquiring new users and/or scaling your business?
We’ve found that focusing on our referral program has been key, and investing iteratively in proven acquisition strategies. Being bootstrapped has meant we’ve always needed to know we’ll get a return on investment, which is good practice with customer acquisition investments, even if that means things take longer.
Focusing on our referral program has been key, and investing iteratively in proven acquisition strategies.
If you could go back to the start, tell us two things you would do differently.
I would have more confidence that I knew what I was doing. I always believed that other people would know how to grow Envato better than us. It took a long time to realise that the people we were bringing in (who were not founders) had very useful skill sets, but didn’t know how to grow a startup like we did.
I’d also have invested time in understanding finances earlier, and hired a more experienced accountant earlier on. We had to fix a whole bunch of stuff down the track because we didn’t set up properly in the beginning. It’s worth investing in good financial and legal advice right off the bat.
It’s worth investing in good financial and legal advice right off the bat.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?
I’m starting a chocolate company that’s called Hey Tiger. It’s a social enterprise that supports cocoa farming communities in Ghana, but at its core, makes amazing chocolate in a way we’re not really seeing in Australia right now. So I would be doing that!
Tell us something we definitely don’t know.
I’ve met a lot of incredible and successful startup founders over the years and I’ve realised that absolutely none of them felt like they knew what they were doing when they started (and not even once their business was successful). It’s always unchartered territory. The big difference is they decided they liked the feeling of being stretched and got comfortable being uncomfortable. Startup founders take on big, scary, audacious goals, but no matter how experienced or confident they get, it’s still scary.
If you could go into business with anyone who would it be?
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson as he’s built himself up from nothing, is very smart and very ambitious. Plus he’s The Rock!!!
Tell us one thing most people don’t know
I almost died a few years ago when my second child was born. The amazing thing about it was that it taught me that life can be really short and if you want to do big things you need to do them now. Chase the big experiences and the big impact today because you don’t know how long you’ve got. And when it comes down to it, this work stuff is the fun stuff. Failing at work isn’t life or death, so go big. As The Rock would say, “grind hard, shine hard.”