Startup learnings

15 tasty startup learnings from our first year in the biz

The startup game is an exciting one. From the rapid pace of growth to the whole concept of ‘breaking new ground’, it’s a delicious field to be a part of and one we’re thrilled to have joined in 2021 when payo first went live in the palm of your hand.

As our Co-Founder Sean Donnelly says, the inspiration behind payo was driven by passion:

“We set out to build something that would have a positive effect on the industry we’ve been so close to for years. We saw what Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) has done for retail, and we felt that it could be a great lever for increasing the bottom line for hospitality merchants. From there, it’s been about how we can solve other hospo-specific problems that have been around for years and haven’t been solved yet.”

It’s a noble mission, but it’s also one that’s seen us continuously learning. There’s been a lot on our plate since we first began (literally and figuratively) but here are 15 of the most important nuggets of chicken wisdom we’ve picked up as a startup.

1.   Don’t lose focus on your mission.

When you first ‘start up’, chances are you’ll be operating with a skeleton team, so everyone will be wearing multiple hats to cover a variety of roles and functions. While this might be the case, it’s important to ensure your focus is on high impact activities not minor check-boxing. That’s how you’ll make progress sooner.

2.   Hire slow!

After reading the first point, you’re probably wondering why you wouldn’t just hire more staff. This is where getting trigger-happy with hiring new staff can draw funds away from the product or service itself, diminishing its value.

3.   Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
The startup game is volatile, so the more insight and advice you get the better. Don’t be afraid to turn to your contacts for help, especially if they have experience with startups.

4.   Get a good team of advisors. 

It’s great to cash in on the startup experiences of those around you, but it’s even more valuable to assemble a trusted team of advisors you can turn to for advice when it comes down to big (and small) decisions.

5.   Keep communication channels open.

From the moment the starting gun fires, you’ll be flying at 100km/h. Don’t let the speed of growth keep you from communicating clearly and openly with your whole team. At this point, you can’t afford to leave anyone behind.

6.   Don’t get distracted.

You’re going to hear a lot of ‘opinions’ in your startup journey, not all of them valuable or even welcome. Don’t be put out by these messages. Learn to ignore the external noise and focus on your goals.

7.   Keep a product-first mentality.

Launch day is a sweet, sweet reward at the end of the development journey, but it’s a milestone that can’t be rushed. Make sure you put in the time to build a product people will love.

8.   Not everything is an emergency.

It can be tempting to label every action as a ‘PRIORITY’ but it’s just not feasible from a capacity perspective. Learn to prioritise the essential stuff and the rest will follow.

9.   Slow down.

Yes, startup life will have you flying by the seat of your pants at times, but it doesn’t always HAVE to be that way. When you can, slow down, recharge and reset.

10.   Don’t take data for granted.

In fact, lean on it as your main consideration when making decisions – data doesn’t lie.

11.   Remain future-focused.

Being in the present is important, but keeping one eye on the future allows you to retain perspective. Always remember what you want your business to be and where you want it to go.

12.   Being backed into a corner isn’t always bad.

Quite the opposite. We created the payo checkout solution to help secure more POS integrations. Sometimes it pays to just go with the flow and see where it takes you.

13.   Invest in great talent.

Luckily for you, the employment market is ripe with clever people looking for a career change. If you can foster a great culture and vision for your startup from day one, the people will come.

14.   Develop a strong brand identity.

The face of your startup is a critical touchpoint for investors, customers and staff. Don’t scrimp on branding – it’s a solid investment (our payo branding wasn’t built on Canva).

15.   Keep learning and adapting.

Processes and flows can always be improved. Keep reviewing how things are done within your startup so you can identify ways to make them more efficient. Small tweaks made now can make a huge difference in the long run.

Aside from these 15 learnings, always try and stay passionate about your field. That’s what has made the success of payo so sweet for our team – we live and breathe the hospitality scene, so it’s been such a treat to help it unlock a more profitable and efficient future.

To learn more about how our humble startup is transforming the hospitality scene in Australia, click here.

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