From startup to startup – what does it take to stay at the top?

Liam’s life was rollercoasters and then it started.

“Wowzer!” I thought. “That’s some good iced-coffee.” Not normally my thing, I had ordered this topsy-turvey beverage at the behest of Liam Miller, cold-drink king and founder of a startup company Wowzer!

Liam Miller

Liam is a businessman, a self-proclaimed lover of startups and quite literally a born salesman. Australian by trade, he is in London to oversee his company enter the UK and EU markets. With a rich history and bright future I wanted to know what sort of person thrives in the world of startups, who need not apply and why working for a startup is so much better than working in big business.

What’s the big idea?

Liam started life working in his family’s travelling carnival. “It was a very entrepreneurial environment, I had a microphone in my hand from the age of seven encouraging people to try their luck at the games and stalls.” This was the start of a life of sales, entrepreneurship and startups.

Liam has been since been invovled in several successful startups. Having had great success in trade shows with various products and companies, Wowzer is Liam’s first real trip into the online world, and so far, going digital has been a great move. Wowzer sells innovative travel speakers and incredibly useful phone accessories. He achieved runaway success in Australia – much of this driven mainly through promoted Facebook ads and videos – and he is in the UK to do the same.

Why is a startup better than big business?

Having held a couple of roles in big business as well as many in startups Liam was very well positioned to answer this one. “In a startup you have autonomy, you can be creative and make an impact. I love being able to see the fruits of my labour. The nature of big business is that you become specialised and end up doing the same thing over and over. You’re one cog in a big machine whereas in a startup you operate the machine – it’s exciting and invigorating.”

What sort of person suits a startup?

Liam was convinced that not everyone is suited to life in a startup. “You need to be resourceful because there isn’t any hand-holding. If you don’t know how to do something, your first thought should be to Google it and figure it out.” Lateral thinking was high on Liam’s list. “You have to ask yourself how can we be creative in marketing this product with a limited budget? Solving that puzzle is really fun.”

Who shouldn’t go near a startup?

“Anyone who can’t deal with uncertainty or the possibility of failure need not apply. It’s not for the faint hearted. Some people thrive but some people can’t deal with it.”

Is equity share a good thing?

In Liam’s experience, offering an equity share means “people are far more engaged with what they’re doing, they’re more invested generally and it means greater retention rates.” You can also offer profit participation which means an employee would receive an agreed percentage of company profits.

What is a startup?

“A startup is a business in the early stages of development which is still formulating its business model and vision – it’s exciting, interesting and risky. It stops being a startup when it transitions into a mature business with a firm model and you can predict its turnover and profit based on consistent historical figures.”

Epilogue

As they say in the iced-coffee biz, I was sucking on ice* so it was time to wrap up. Liam had talked a great talk – his personal history is worthy of a book in itself and his experience working in startups is fascinating. What have we learnt from Liam? I think the answer is startups aren’t for everyone but those that do suit the startup game are in for an exciting time.

*I’m pretty sure you’re actually supposed to say that about whisky but who knows, it might catch on.