A startup, or starting a business?

We’ve founded 12 businesses at Yarris Technologies over the years. We weren’t planning to found ‘startups’ as such, we just planned to build profitable and sustainable businesses.

Our ‘recipe’ was to build software platforms to manage business services in narrow market verticals. For example, in telco construction our ConSol platform manages the workflow for maybe 10,000 people every day. Of course we were ambitious, and we aimed to be the dominant player in the vertical.

How did these businesses succeed? We achieved a strong position and good brand recognition in 4 markets. As at this date, of the 12 businesses, three are trading and profitable, we hope a fourth one might become a unicorn, we sold two successfully and we closed the other 6 which did not succeed.

Without consciously aspiring to do so we built a portfolio of businesses. We took the opportunities as they came along, we invested from our profits and we enjoyed the diversity.

The prevailing ethos these days is about founding a startup following the Silicon Valley model and planning an exit from the beginning, but that doesn’t have to be the case. There are many ways to start a business, and many end points, from a quick exit to enjoying long term profits and dividends.

We did raise some capital early on, although not from a VC, but since then we have grown organically by investing the profits in the growth opportunities.

Key learnings:

  • It’s ok just to build and operate a business, you don’t have to go to the VC route.
  • If you build a portfolio of businesses, they would be more valuable if they have a common technology platform.
  • The alternative to the portfolio approach is to found just one business and give it a super focus. That approach certainly worked for Acconex and Seek.

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