A couple of years ago at Christmas my mum - who is over 60 - and I were enjoying a glass of wine and having a conversation about Facebook. Newly joined, she had 25 friends. As I explained the various features on Facebook - one of which was starting a group - she struggled with the idea that we could start a group that would allow people her age to share photos, stories and opinions - and that it would garner a following. In a bid to convince her, I bet her that within two weeks I could build an "over-60" group with 10,000 like-minded people. Fast-forward two years and Over60 now has over 250,000 Facebook followers, is one of the top 10 Facebook lifestyle communities in Australia and has grown to include a website, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest accounts. Needless to say I won the bet.
One of the keys to making a success of something is being able to use real-life experiences - problems you, or the people you know, have faced. If it has happened to you, it's likely that it has happened to millions more.
With Over60, before it all began at the end of 2013, the senior demographic in Australia largely felt despondent by companies that either a) didn't cater to them at all online, or b) assumed that all over-60s are the same whether they are 60 or 85. This state of affairs was surprising considering Australia is an ageing population and over-60 is the fastest growing demographic online and on Facebook.
Like all sustainable ventures, however, there needs to be commerciality to an idea and, I won't lie, that was a major driver to this project. As the business kicked off, so too did the power of the site as a vehicle to influence what it means to be a senior, create change around what retirement looks like today and advocate for that part of the community, in an ageing population.
Readers come to the website to find out how they are affected by news/trends/government changes and so on. We deliver useful information each day to help readers make informed decisions, get the most out of life and experience things that have been tailored specifically to this age group. But most importantly, the site is a place where the community can navigate this stage in life with like-minded people while having fun along the way and remembering the good old days.
My journey as an "entrepreneur/businessman" didn't begin here, though. In my early 20s I was working in sales when one day it dawned on me that I was making other people successful. I quickly knew I wanted to see the upside. In 2000 I was part of the early team at Soulmates Technology - a white label internet dating company that went on to partner with Microsoft, was eventually acquired by Interactive Corp and later became the international platform for Match.com.
Along with the guys I worked with at Soulmates, we formed 3H Group, a global partner of MSN Messenger where we created Meegos - an animated avatar display window with 50 million users. Then there was another dating site, Oasis.com - now Australia's largest online dating site that was recently acquired by Fairfax.
The group-buying phenomenon took hold, which is when I co-founded OurDeal. Today OurDeal is still one of Australia's leading group buying businesses, which I sold to News Corp and Channel 10 and was recently acquired by Groupon.
In order to make a success of something, you can't be afraid to challenge what has come before. Disruption is key to making it to the top. When I look around at the many successful entrepreneurs out there, the common theme is passion, a real want to succeed and the drive to make things better.
Top tips for spotting a million-dollar idea:
- Look to your own real-life experiences - what problems have you faced, what things have annoyed you as you take on your day or what things do you wish existed but don't. If it's happened to you, it's likely that it's happened to millions more.
- Being in Australia we can look to see what things are/have been done in more advanced countries like the US and Eastern Europe. Keep an eye out and there might be something you can pick up and bring back to Australia. This could either be by starting from scratch or licensing something from an overseas company. This is a great chance to analyse something that has been done before - the business model, the execution strategies, and learn from someone else's mistakes... it's a free "what not to do guide".
- It doesn't always matter if your idea isn't something new, as long as you do it better.
- Competition is good thing. It will keep you on your toes and always striving for the best.
- Don't be afraid of a challenge. You'll be surprised at what you can achieve when you set out to do something.
- You can't and don't know everything. Be willing to give up some of the thinking to people who know.
- Don't be discouraged by copycats, if you go into business you're bound to encounter them. And if the copycats do surface, it's a sign that you're doing something well. Be flattered.
- Find the right partners to work with. I've often worked with media organisations. They tend to understand that new ventures have an incubation period in order to build something and then when the time is right you can leverage off a partners' resources and distribution.
For more expert entrepreneurial tips and insights, the latest news on technology and business trends, and all the news about The Venture competition head to theventure.com