That Startup Show’s latest episode reminds us of the human side of being a founder

- April 29, 2015 4 MIN READ

Disclaimer: Before we get started, there is one quick thing you should know. Even though I have a claudia@bleuchilli.com email address (I run the #StartupAUS event calendar for @CalendarTree) and Alan Jones (major catalyst for That Startup Show) is one of my favourite tall people in the innovation ecosystem, I am not an employee of BlueChilli nor am I in any way affiliated with That Startup Show. 

That Startup Show celebrated its Sydney launch last Friday with a popcorn-fuelled soiree hosted by BlueChilli. This was unlike any other industry event I have been to in the last year – there was no pitching, no sponsors to over-thank, no Powerpoint slides. Everyone was there to have a good time. And a good time we had!

The show was introduced by the founders and showrunners, Anna Reeves, Ahmed Salama and Sally Gatenby. Their enthusiasm and incredulity was palpable and familiar. We have all known founders who are constantly gobsmacked at their achievements. It was a great feat to watch, and the grouphug that followed what truly heartwarming. This community rarely gets to see true vulnerability on stage at startup events – those are usually filled with rehearsed speeches and over-abused sentimental phrases. It was clear to all in attendance that the team behind That Startup Show had been through the ringer together and were grateful to see their (threeway) baby come to life. It was truly humbling and inspiring. Big props to That Startup Show!

On with the show. The audience was screened Episode Four: That Startup Life, which centres around the human side of being a founder. The panel guests were admirably diverse: Bec Derrington, CEO of Sourcebottle; Jane Lu, Founder of Show Po; and Daniel Flynn, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Thankyou Group. That Stratup Show’s biggest triumph is definitely the quality of the panelists. If you take a look at the contents page, you will notice that each episode has an equally strong panel of experts, ranging from investors to founders to startup journalists. It’s a welcome departure from the male-dominated founder fests we have all become accustomed to. More impressively, the panelists don’t always agree with each other. There is a degree of warm banter that is reflective of that in the startup day-to-day. The chemistry was working!

Here are a four standout lessons that we can all glen from That Startup Show, Episode Four.

The host with the most!  

That Startup Show is hosted by Dan Ilic, who was unfortunately not in attendance at the Sydney Launch. Thanks to Dan’s pacing, the show has an acerbic, self-deprecating, extremely meta sense of humour – which is refreshing in an era when startups are treated with grandiosity and change-the-world antics.

Dan is cute in a way that you have to explain to your mother. More importantly, Dan knows what he’s talking about and is evidently quite verses in the startup world. We were told during the post-screening  Q&A session that he was, in fact, currently in San Francisco pursuing the startup lifestyle. That could mean anything from visiting venture capitalists to buying matching hoodies and artisan messenger bags. Let’s keep an eye on his Instagram account to be sure.

Dan Ilic is the perfect host for That Startup Show’s medium. YouTube is a treacherous bedfellow for new shows as it tests the viewers’ attention spans with related videos and advertising while the show is running. Dan expertly keeps the segments moving and serves the guests perfect comedic layups for them to dunk. He reminds me of a Saturday Night Live-era Jon Lovitz. Both Jon and Dan have a warm smugness and have an unrehearsed ease that is very appealing as a viewer. Like a good founder, having the right host to anchor this disruptive content is the key to That Startup Show’s success. Well done, Dan!

Startups are people

That Startup Show is hilarious. But more than that, the show is human. That Startup Show does a fantastic job at humanising the startup life. The show is not worried about making it glamorous or self-aggrandising; it is only interested in uncovering the truth behind the panelists’ grit and guile. As Sebastien Eckersley-Maslen put it in his apt introduction at the screening, “That Startup Show is the show that lets us explain to our parents what the hell we do!” I could not agree more. That Startup Show straddles the line between being a “startup insider” and “mainstream” without watering the content down to the lowest denominator. The show makes startups relatable without making them mundane.

The human aspect is the main driver of this episode. The show reminds us that startups are made up of real people with real feelings who get tired, hurt, demotivated, and rundown. ThankYou Group’s Daniel Flynn candidly shared the importance of celebrating the wins but also acknowledging the tears. His team takes time to do both, equally. He is also married to his cofounder, a condition that has lead him to know that it is important not to allow yourself to be engulfed by your businesses. Allow yourself to be a whole person, not just a founder.

Being young and foolish is good

Jane Lu of Show Po was my favourite panelist. She is bright, poised and has a bubbly demeanor in her courageous responses.  She also gets extra points for being a longtime supporter of Project Futures, a Gen-X social enterprise focused on ending human trafficking. Jane was the youngest panelist and the most adamant on her age being an advantage. “Sometime being young and foolish is a good thing,” she quipped as Dan asked her about what drives her, “You don’t know any better so you just keep going.” We often over-analyse things, and look at our past experiences for wisdom as to how to proceed when the going gets rough. Jane just ploughs through. Her confidence is less naive than she makes it sound. It is what allows true founders to lean in and take risks. Otherwise, we would all rest on our laurels.

Being your own boss 

Many founders go into business with the aims of being their own boss. Bec Derrington of Sourcebottle is quick to point out that you often want to fire yourself. Being your own boss means showing up, always, in spite of your mood, energy levels or skillset. You can’t get a little bit pregnant. The grind is long and hard, and it takes an emotional toll. The panel all agreed that the best way to combat this is to arm yourself with a mentor, preferably one that is not attached to our business. Having an impartial party to give you advice, hold you accountable and help you stay the course is an invaluable asset to your business and your sanity. I wish they had delved deeper into that subject. Hopefully it will be the theme of an upcoming episode!

Part Jimmy Fallon, part Gruen Transfer, part Shark Tank; That Startup Show is a joy to watch! With over 300,000 downloads at the time of the screening, and growing, it also seems to be a bona fide commercial success.