Lessons from the Launch Club: to build a startup, build your community

July 11, 2023
Marie Dowling Startmate Launch Club Founder

When I tell people I'm the founder of not one, but two startups democratising PR, all with a child under two. The first question people ask is always: how do you do it? 

Because in our collective minds, being a founder and being a parent both appear hard enough.

Because they are and for surprisingly similar reasons.

If other people's kids are the best form of contraception, listening to founders in the midst of growing their startups is the best way to test how committed you really are to becoming a founder.

There’s no such thing as overnight founder

The idea of an ultra-demanding, high-performance role in a fast-paced environment dealing with increased responsibility and accountability, while embracing a steep learning curve and sleep-deprived anxiety for little to no pay for the foreseeable future doesn't sound that appealing. 

But just like you don't become a parent overnight (assuming you're familiar with how that works) you don't become a founder overnight either. 

It has taken me more than seven years to start my business.  

The idea of fixing the broken PR process gnawed at me as I moved from public affairs to PR, and from the EU to London to Australia.  

I mean why are SMEs and startups priced out of media relations despite totalling 98% of businesses and contributing to a third of Australia’s GDP?!

And why is the process relying on journalists' inboxes being flooded by 50 to 200 pitches a day? 97.5% of which irrelevant or overly promotional.  

I had a few false starts, but something changed as I cut my maternity leave short to go back to work.

If I was going to work to afford daycare (and daycare's complimentary collection of viruses), the job had to be something I was so passionate about, it would be worth working all hours on.  

Launching the company I had been designing in my mind for years became the obvious choice.

For eight months, I did alright on my own.  

But I soon discovered the second thing parenting a child and founding a startup have in common: in the words of Alan Jin: "I knew nothing, and I still know nothing".  

It takes a village

When I heard Startmate had launched the Launch Club fellowship, I didn't immediately apply.

I was afraid I wouldn't have the time. I wasn't sure I would get in. I wasn't sure it would be worth spending the little income I was finally able to pay myself (erm – daycare) from EzyCom's consultancy. 

What made me go for it (and submit a very late application video filmed from the car with my 15-month-old in the background) was the realisation that when I became a mum, it wasn’t the birth preparation class or stack of books on becoming a parent that got me through.  

Although I do recommend cribsheet by Emily Oster, it was in fact, the mother’s group I attended that provided me with the most support.  

It takes a village to raise a child.

Likewise, it takes a village to build a startup. 

Launch Club is a golden ticket into the Starmate village – a buzzing, vibrant, ever-innovative and inspiring village.

Launch Club fast-tracks and amplifies your village by creating connections with people who just like are at the beginning of their startup journey and looking to build their community.  

And You gain access to the knowledge, feedback and first-hand experience from some of the most successful and influential founders, operators and investors in ANZ's startup ecosystem.

BYO (build-your-own) startup course

Over the past 12 weeks and 24 sessions, I've achieved and learned more than I did in the months I spent working on EzyCom on my own. 

Everyone gets access to the same actionable knowledge straight from experience, and some really successful ANZ Founders, Investor and operators.  

Some examples amongst my personal favourite sessions, included:

  • Getting confirmation that it's never too early for PR, and hearing about other rookie mistakes to avoid, from Lane Litz;
  • Learning what it means to be a ‘first-principle thinker’, and why it's the one skill you want from your founding team, from Michael Tan;
  • Embracing my startup ambition thanks to Blackbird's Mason Yates;
  • Learning how to apply for the Startmate Accelerator and getting productivity tips from Michael Batko himself;
  • Getting my Cap Table investment-ready thanks to Cake Equity's Jason Atkins;
  • Hearing how to test my MVP with users from Dispute Buddy's Jenny Rudd;  
  • Hearing from HappyCo's Jindou Lee about scaling a business.

But what you get from the Launch Club will depend greatly on how much you can put in. Halfway through the program, our daycare closed, and I regret having no other options than to miss some live sessions and squad events. 

But despite this turbulence, in these twelve weeks I've set up EzyCom on the path to product-market fit, assembled an A-team for Newsary, and launched our prototype with a growing list of beta testers (including some of the most promising ANZ startups and prestigious media players).

We've refined the company vision while embracing our ambition, and we even pitched to investors we wouldn't have dared to cold contact on LinkedIn.

Community-led support is a game-changer

Because the third thing being a founder and being a mum have in common is that they can be extremely lonely if you don't find your people.

You're only ever as good as your community. And I'm really grateful for finding mine through Launch Club.  

P.S. Want to hear more about how we’re breaking the news? Check out our pitch deck, follow us on LinkedIn, or sign-up to be part of Newsary beta-test cohort in exchange for free PR.  

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