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Why we chose Fortitude Valley over Silicon Valley

14 June, 2015 Alex Ghiculescu

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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