Those who have experienced it will often say that startup life can be a rollercoaster. Startups are often battling something, whether it be the incumbents, regulations, lack of time, money, or consumer understanding of their product or solution – the list goes on.

Having faced a couple of these barriers and found an innovative way around them each time is Chris Gilbert, cofounder of equity crowdfunding platform Equitise.

Founded by Gilbert and Jonny Wilkinson, in Australia in 2014 and formally launched in January 2015, the startup worked to develop its business model in New Zealand, the home of far friendlier equity crowdfunding regulations.

As they worked to help convince the government to push through legislation opening up equity crowdfunding to retail – or so-called ‘mum and dad’ – investors, the cofounders in the meantime sold a 20 percent stake in Equitise to bank Investec Australia in 2016 and earlier this year launched a syndicate model to allow more people to co-invest in vetted opportunities led by experienced investors, with the likes of Reinventure Group, Tank Stream Ventures, and Freelancer’s Matt Barrie on board as syndicate leads.

Knowing what it takes to make an early-stage startup take off, Gilbert jumped at the chance to judge in this year’s Talent Unleashed Awards and give back to the startup community.

With Equitise working from Sydney coworking space Tank Stream Labs, where Talent works to help resident startups with their recruitment, Gilbert said he got to know the team behind the Awards program and quickly saw it stands out from the rest.

“[Talent founder] Richard Earl has turned Talent into a million dollar business, which I think is hugely impressive, and through doing that he’s formed networks with some very impressive people, like Steve Wozniak and Richard Branson, so I think even the people involved in the event and wanting to give back and help develop that next wave of entrepreneurs is really impressive,” Gilbert said.

“The scale of the Awards is really impressive; there’s a lot of time put into organising it and making sure it is a stand-out Awards night, so from that point of view it’s very different from what is out in the market today, which has been more around corporates trying to push their way into the startup community. Talent Unleashed is more the other way; it’s a very non-self exposing type of Awards event, it really is a way to try to give back to the community, which is why I thought it was so special.”

This goes back to Gilbert’s decision to launch Equitise in the first place; as well as being keen to innovate and work on a disruptive business model, he and Wilkinson were passionate about creating a platform that could give back to the local ecosystem, which has been famous for the funding ‘valley of death’ founders have faced when looking to raise in the Series A to Series B stage and beyond.

“My priority at the end of the day is always trying to create a platform that does increase accessibility and help in the community, and that’s one of the main things I wanted to get out of being involved in the Talent Unleashed Awards, giving back to the community and really trying to help other people succeed,” he said.

“As a judge, hopefully people can learn more about crowdfunding and reach out to us for some help, or even if they want some advice or mentorship, which is what we’re all about.”

With applications for this year’s Awards now open, Gilbert has some key advice for those entering: have a clear point of difference.

“There’s a lot of people out there trying to grow their businesses and raise growth capital, and it’s not really clear what their point of difference is in the market. That’s really important.”

Is entering the 2017 Talent Unleashed Awards part of your journey? Check out the categories and enter here.

Image: Equitise cofounders Jonny Wilkinson and Chris Gilbert. Source: Supplied.

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