How COLONYLive Went From Local Startup To Global Platform
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Player: Marco Broccardo
When Marco Broccardo launched COLONYLive, it was completely bootstrapped, an essential element in helping the founding team keep costs in line with growth.
As the business expanded globally however, it became necessary to raise funding, as boostrapping keeps a business lean, but it also has its limitations, particularly if you want to scale.
COLONYLive is a leading international radio analytics platform that has been so successful with its first-to-market product that it recently launched in America.
The company has 28 employees and a turnover of R35 million.
Marco has grown several tech businesses from the ground up, and has recently relocated to Austin, Texas to pursue the growth of COLONYLive in global markets.
He shares the lessons he’s learnt on his startup – and growth – journeys, particularly as he has now gone global.
Q. What was the biggest lesson in your start-up journey, and how did it affect your business trajectory, business model and product offering?
I realised that I needed a why and this was so compelling. The why had to be separate from the business, bigger than just making money, as money is not a big motivator for me, but at the same time it is linked to the success of the business.
The lesson here is that business is tough and in the toughest of times, you need a reason to get out of bed and carry on. This has and continues to be a key aspect of my journey.
Business for me is the enabler for me to be able to spend time on the things that motivate me. It’s not to say I am not motivated by business but rather, when business is tough I have another force motivating me to persevere.
Q. What was your biggest lesson once the company was more mature?
I realised that I was not good at doing everything and that I needed to bring onboard the right skills and team members to get us to the next level.
In addition, I also realised that bringing a like-minded investor would be key, this was found in our partner Tritech Media.
Q. In any business journey, there are always some unexpected hurdles. What were yours, how did the reality differ from the expected?
I feel like my entire business career has been all about overcoming one hurdle after another. But, that’s when the why is key. The reality is, it’s going to cost more, take longer and look different to what you initially expected.
Understanding that as you build your business there are going to be many surprises, some good and some bad means that when those challenges come up, they aren’t seen to be problems but rather processes to be managed.
Q. Have you needed to pivot the business, and if so, why?
We have had two major pivots so far. The first came about in 2013 due to the enactment of legislation that essentially caused 80% drop in turnover overnight.
This caused us to change our business model from a revenue share model to a platform/license fee. But in order to do that we needed to adapt our entire platform to ensure we were delivering enough value to convince clients to add us as an expense item on their budgets.
The second pivot is currently rolling out; we essentially split the COLONY Platform into two and are focusing the bulk of our new development into the COLONYLive Radio platform.
This pivot is not so much a different proposition, but rather a more vertically orientated one, one in which we are servicing a specific set of clients both locally and abroad.
Q. If you could offer rising startups advice, what would it be?
My advice to startups is simple:
- Understand that the product you think you will be selling might change in the way it looks, works or is priced and be good with that.
- Try and avoid raising cash for as long as possible.
Q. Why do so many businesses fail operationally, and how can this be avoided?
Entrepreneurs sometimes think that because they started the business, they have to be able to be the best at everything in the business.
This is simply (at least in my experience) not the case. I know that I can often be more of a hindrance than a help with certain operational executions. So, the key is knowing what you are good at and what you aren’t and then finding the people that can do those things well.
Q. How did you determine who your target market was, and how have you reached them?
Our target market defined itself. Our product helps radio stations convince advertisers that radio is still a relevant medium by providing them with real-time audience analytics and actionable insights.
But what we learnt through this process is that there are ‘other’ traditional mediums struggling with the same issues, so when they see the success we have with radio, they come to us as well.
Considering that we are a B2B business, reaching our customers, and in particular radio stations, which are still pretty old school, is all about making calls and knocking on doors.
Obviously, there is the element of positioning yourself as the thought leaders in the space, but most sales are through direct sales.