Why we chose Fortitude Valley over Silicon Valley

Alex Ghiculescu

14 June 2015    |   

We loved Alan Downie’s recent piece on why Macropod kept their startup in Australia, it resonated well with similar conversations we’ve had at Tanda. We started Tanda because we wanted to make it easier for a bar we liked to pay their staff. 3 years on it’s great that we’ve been able to solve that for them, and over 10,000 other Aussies. But like any other business, we’re always asking ourselves if what we’re doing is best for the future, and a common question that pops up is that of where we should be based. Late last year I was invited on the inaugural Startup Catalyst mission, where Shark (and all round nice guy) Steve Baxter took 20 under-25’s to San Francisco and Silicon Valley to check out the biggest startup scene in the world. It was fascinating, eye-opening, and a really worthwhile trip, but at times I found it equally amazing and uncomfortable how different Valley culture is to what we have back home. We’ve always felt that if you make a really good product, then you’ll be able to successfully sell it, support it, and market it from wherever you like, and eventually you’ll have a really good business. We also think that the best way to make sensible product decisions is to fund the business from our customers, because it forces us to only build things that people actually want. VC’s and accelerators in Silicon Valley seemed more concerned with getting all of the users, than getting any of the customers. A particularly striking moment for me was when one VC asked me why we had charged our customers money, and why we had even bothered with revenue, when we could have just given the product away to drive adoption. That approach might work for some of the unicorns out there, but there’s many more successful businesses doing things the old fashioned way – still creating lots of jobs, and adding a lot of value to their customers at the same time. We felt more inclined to do that. A lot of people, upon seeing a group of young Aussies abroad, would ask “so when are you all going to move your startups over here?”. For us it’s an interesting question – and the answer is “not for a while yet”. A lot of startups in our field have taken on overseas money and put it all towards capturing US market share, and time after time we found their product because less useful for Australian businesses. Paying staff in Australia is a highly regulated chore and to do it right you need software that’s built specifically for the task. For exactly that reason, we’re more excited by the very tangible prospect of being able to fix payroll headaches for every Australian business, than by the possibility of striking it rich in a Californian gold mine. It’s a hard decision to make and one that each startup will have to consider on its own merits. We get most excited by the prospect of working with our customers to build a great product that solves problems that they have, and that we understand, in a market we know and love. And that, in a nutshell, is why we stayed in Australia.

We loved Alan Downie’s recent piece on why Macropod kept their startup in Australia, it resonated well with similar conversations we’ve had at Tanda. We started Tanda because we wanted to make it easier for a bar we liked to pay their staff. 3 years on it’s great that we’ve been able to solve that for them, and over 10,000 other Aussies. But like any other business, we’re always asking ourselves if what we’re doing is best for the future, and a common question that pops up is that of where we should be based.

Late last year I was invited on the inaugural Startup Catalyst mission, where Shark (and all round nice guy) Steve Baxter took 20 under-25’s to San Francisco and Silicon Valley to check out the biggest startup scene in the world. It was fascinating, eye-opening, and a really worthwhile trip, but at times I found it equally amazing and uncomfortable how different Valley culture is to what we have back home.

We’ve always felt that if you make a really good product, then you’ll be able to successfully sell it, support it, and market it from wherever you like, and eventually you’ll have a really good business. We also think that the best way to make sensible product decisions is to fund the business from our customers, because it forces us to only build things that people actually want.

VC’s and accelerators in Silicon Valley seemed more concerned with getting all of the users, than getting any of the customers. A particularly striking moment for me was when one VC asked me why we had charged our customers money, and why we had even bothered with revenue, when we could have just given the product away to drive adoption. That approach might work for some of the unicorns out there, but there’s many more successful businesses doing things the old fashioned way – still creating lots of jobs, and adding a lot of value to their customers at the same time. We felt more inclined to do that.

A lot of people, upon seeing a group of young Aussies abroad, would ask “so when are you all going to move your startups over here?”. For us it’s an interesting question – and the answer is “not for a while yet”. A lot of startups in our field have taken on overseas money and put it all towards capturing US market share, and time after time we found their product because less useful for Australian businesses. Paying staff in Australia is a highly regulated chore and to do it right you need software that’s built specifically for the task. For exactly that reason, we’re more excited by the very tangible prospect of being able to fix payroll headaches for every Australian business, than by the possibility of striking it rich in a Californian gold mine.

It’s a hard decision to make and one that each startup will have to consider on its own merits. We get most excited by the prospect of working with our customers to build a great product that solves problems that they have, and that we understand, in a market we know and love.

And that, in a nutshell, is why we stayed in Australia.

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Why Brisbane is Australia’s best city for start-ups

Since we’ve started flogging time and attendance software at Tanda, our team has bought over 40 airline tickets across Australia. We’ve been to every capital city and done business at hundreds of locations all around Australia. One thing really hit home: Brisbane is the best place to be a startup. Here are five reasons why: 1. Cost of living This is by far the biggest benefit of being in Brisbane; housing and office space are so much more within the price range of a business that’s just starting. This has allowed us to bootstrap to a considerable size without using external funding. 2. Transport This may sound like a small thing. The best advice we got when we were starting our business was “it takes a lot of shoe leather”, meaning we’d spend a lot of time on our feet talking to anyone who’ll meet with us. Driving around Brisbane is so much better than other capital cities. It’s affordable enough, and nothing is too far away. Despite what philosopher Alain de Botton might say about the Riverside Expressway, it’s one of my favourite features of the city. Because Brisbane’s not that big, we can justify having an office outside of the inner city where rent is a bit cheaper, without feeling like we are out of the loop. 3. BCC Brisbane City Council is making a very concerted effort for the future of the city to be digital. I was lucky enough to receive the Lord Mayor’s budding entrepreneur grant and have heard Cr Quirk talk about the city’s plan for the future and I’m excited about growing a business here. 4. Business community There are a number of great communities around start-ups really getting some traction in Brisbane such as River City Labs and iLab. But the other great thing about the city is how many innovative business people are willing to talk to you and lend a hand – which is particularly good for a B2B business! 5. Talent Brisbane has two great technology courses at QUT and UQ, which makes it much easier to attract and retain young talent to help build and grow our business. It’s a much tougher market for employers in other capital cities, especially those with only one technology-focused university. I’d recommend Brisbane as a great place to start a business for anyone considering starting out. The team at Brisbane Marketing & Digital Brisbane have a lot of support available to you on top of the many other benefits.

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About the author

Alex Ghiculescu

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Why Brisbane is Australia’s best city for start-ups

Since we’ve started flogging time and attendance software at Tanda, our team has bought over 40 airline tickets across Australia. We’ve been to every capital city and done business at hundreds of locations all around Australia. One thing really hit home: Brisbane is the best place to be a startup. Here are five reasons why: […]

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Tanda Open Data Hackathon this weekend – 17th & 18th April

This article is about the 2015 event. Go to hack.tanda.co for 2016’s event details! The Tanda Open Data Hackathon is upon us! Programmers, designers and developers are flocking to Brisbane for Tanda’s first Open Data Hackathon. In a digital era where everything is reachable from the click of a button, it’s no surprise there are now […]

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Payroll Geniuses

Mossman State High School graduates Tasmin Trezise and Jake Phillpot are hoping to set up a head office in Far North Queensland for their rapidly growing tech business, Tanda (Previously PayAus). The software and payroll processing company is currently based in Brisbane and is helping organisation of five and upward staff significantly reduce their labour costs. […]

More Resources

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