Love lifts start-up returns

Playing to the market won't make a great start-up, but a passion for your idea will.
Written by Mahesh Sharma, Correspondent

When we recently discussed the genesis of travel start-up Arribaa, co-founder Colette Grgic passionately spoke about "generosity", "gratitude" and "goodwill" as her key goals. Alongside the efforts of two other Australian female founders, she has demonstrated that true innovation occurs when you do what you love.

This flies in the face of the recent raft of uninspired, "me too" products and applications, where entrepreneurs have gambled their futures in the high-stakes game of Silicon Valley roulette. This game demands that a company rapidly acquire users (market share), which can be leveraged for a multimillion-dollar investment, or, ideally, a buy-out.

An example of this is the explosion of local group-buying clones. Investors parted with huge sums of cash to grab a slice of the market in a very short period of time, which delivered several start-up beneficiaries: Scoopon (received an AU$80 million investment from James Packer and others); Spreets (bought by Yahoo for AU$40 million); Jump On It (snapped up by LivingSocial).

Creating start-ups with this get-rich-quick mentality suffocates ideas that strive to change the human experience — a key opportunity of today's technology resources.

In the midst of this, inspired founders have followed their passions to success.

Avis Mulhall of mmMule believes that individual travellers can unite societies, specifically helping community projects, and her powerful message has been picked up by media outlets around the world. Jenna Tregarthen of RecoveryRecord was moved to aid her best friend's eating disorder, which qualified her for a Stanford scholarship, and her app has reached over 15,000 people suffering from the disease. Arribaa's Grgic sees travel as a way for people to contribute to, not detract from, a local community. The company has already secured investment.

They see technology as a tool to improve people's lives, and not, which is so often the case, as a shortcut for the get-rich-quick set. It's telling that these Aussie founders for whom money is a secondary concern will be the ones most likely to succeed, and, in a lot of ways, they've already won.

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