From startup to scaleup: How mentoring can make a success out of your business
Getting a startup off the ground is hard. It’s said that nine out of ten fail within the first year but, once those baby steps have been made, the next challenge arises – scaling.
Going from a startup to a “scaleup” may sound like a simple process. It does mostly require expanding workforces, growing your clients and spreading your marketing message, but it’s actually quite a difficult time for any startup. Transitioning into a scaleup requires planning, and it’s a great time to consider mentorship programmes to help work through the problems that may potentially be holding your business back from greatness.
To find out what moving into the scaleup phase is like, we’ve been following insurance-tech startup SPIXII – winner of the Alphr and IT Pro 01/10/100 pitch-off award – on its journey with Samsung’s business mentorship programme. Three months ago, SPIXII had just started its mentorship scheme with Samsung as it looked to move into the next phase of its growth. Since then, SPIXII followed the advice of Samsung’s hand-picked business experts and has made huge strides towards becoming the scaleup it deserves to be.
Now, halfway through the six-month Samsung mentorship programme, what does SPIXII need to do next, and how’s it found the experience so far? We spoke to SPIXII co-founder and CEO Renaud Million alongside marketing executive Emma Pegg to find out.
“The most significant improvement [to SPIXII due to the mentorship programme] has, most definitely, been on our focus,” Million explains. “We’re now clear about our processes, our marketing, getting our new website live and finding the right tagline.
“On the product side, we’ve also learned how we can grow with large companies. We’ve started to work with BUPA, and that’s also helped lead to an understanding around implementation of client customisation and how it should be part of the roadmap for our standard product too.”
Pegg agrees, driving home the point that mentorship has helped SPIXII’s goals – especially in regards to marketing – become a lot clearer. “We now have a plan that looks at how we can scale within the next six months,” she explains.
With these goals and plans in mind, SPIXII is best place to move into its scaleup phase. “In the coming weeks and months, SPIXII’s plan is to expand with our clients like BUPA and Allianz to reach new global markets,” Million explains. “We’re bringing in support for new languages, and we could be opening offices in France and Italy so we can be closer to our clients there too.”
We also gained a chance to hear what Samsung’s business mentors had to say on SPIXII’s progress, along with their hopes for the company’s future over the next three months of mentorship.
How did mentorship help SPIXII reach new markets?
Samsung’s business mentorship helped SPIXII build itself into a position where its goals aren’t pipe dreams, but are actually achievable. After SPIXII’s first mentorship sessions, mentor and Hive co-founder Leon Gauhman believed SPIXII needed to build a road map and stick to it if it wanted to grow. Three months on, and he thinks SPIXII is on the right track.
“The insurance industry is something that tech has just started to chip away at,” Gauhman explains. “The opportunity is huge and I think SPIXII’s biggest challenge is that its clients are still trying to understand what to do with their innovation [in the sector].
“I think the way SPIXII is looking at a particular part of the insurance market opportunity is the right way. It’s not about growing [SPIXII] outwards, it’s about solving that particular part of a customer’s problem well. It’s about seeing what other opportunities lie within that specific problems and creating solutions that fit its customer’s needs.”
Does mentorship improve focus and discover new ways of working?
As Samsung B2B’s head of customer marketing, Anna Perkins believed that SPIXII needed to clearly understand who its audience was, and then create a consistent marketing message that was both relevant and appropriate. This advice led, over the past three months, to the launch of a brand-new website and the honing down of its message to a snappy tagline of “help more people, get better protected”.
Now, though, Perkins has seen the fruit of SPIXII’s labour and can see how much the company has developed. “I think SPIXII is doing great,” she remarks. “People buy people and yes, you’ve got to have an amazing product and engage with those business drivers, but you have to have that emotional connection. SPIXII [is made up of] amazing people and that’s starting to come through in its content and marketing.
“It’s about getting back to those fundamental basics that every good marketer needs to get right in order to grow and develop. These fundamentals gain traction with audiences and help engagement grow – it’s something I’m seeing happening in SPIXII’s posts and in getting its website live.”
Can mentorship really help you position yourself for success?
As MD of Rooster Punk, James Trezona is all about driving growth and partnership with clients looking for more powerful ways to engage customers and employees based on storytelling and purpose. His desire to help SPIXII lies in making sure their prospective customers connect emotionally with them by defining the purpose of the company, making them far more likely to become loyal buyers and advocates. Critically, clarifying that purpose – which came out of the last mentorship session – also means company culture will be more resilient during times of growth, with the team aligned and energised by this emotionally powerful core mission of helping more people become better protected.
“SPIXII’s ultimate purpose is to make sure more people are covered by insurance and protected,” he explains. “They’re already starting, with incredible speed, to put into practice what we outlined in our first mentorship sessions.
“There’s a real sense that SPIXII isn’t going to let go of its entrepreneurial spark, and that’s exactly what I want to see. It’s been lovely to be on this journey with the team and see that they’re passionate about helping people and they have the intelligence and staying power to become and remain successful.”
Would SPIXII recommend mentorship so far?
As SPIXII crosses the halfway point in its Samsung mentorship programme, I was curious to know how it’s found the whole experience so far.
“Working with Samsung has really changed the way SPIXII operates,” Million explains. “It’s not just educated us in how to anticipate what comes one step ahead, but a few steps further.
“It’s allowed us to have the foresight to see what’s coming and prepare for it by going through the right processes and asking the right questions.”
As a process, it’s also been a rather eye-opening experience. Instead of feeling like the mentors are simply there to do a job and move on, both Million and Pegg have been surprised by how attentive the Samsung mentorship has been.
“The most surprising thing about the mentorship programme is the level of care and commitment we’ve seen from our mentors,” Pegg admits. “We can reach them at any point, and that’s been so helpful.”
“It’s been great to keep in touch both directly and indirectly,” Million adds. “For example, seeing all the mentors commenting and liking our posts is encouraging as it enforces the marketing moves we decide to make.”
We’ll be following up with SPIXII and Samsung’s business mentors again at the end of the mentorship in three months’ time. Until then, you can discover more about how Samsung can help create more good days for small businesses.
Meet the mentors
Anna Perkins – Head of B2B campaigns, Samsung
Anna Perkins has more than 20 years’ B2B marketing and communications experience. She has worked with some of the world’s largest brands, including Vodafone, HP, Equifax and Arup, as well as small startups offering innovative and game-changing solutions to the world of work. Anna has a passion for challenging the traditional view of B2B marketing and finding creative ways to engage with business audiences through every customer channel and touch point. She has a love of branding and an advocate of clear and concise communications: B2B should be brilliant, never boring!
Leon Gauhman – Founder, Hive
Leon loves technology and intuitively understands how it can be deployed to solve problems. He founded Hive where he combined technical expertise, creativity and business knowledge to oversee the development of new products for Hive’s ventures and corporate clients. Additionally, he mentors at Wayra, Seedcamp and is an occasional investor. Leon is also a member of the Super Club.
James Trezona – Managing director, Rooster Punk
As chief punk at Rooster Punk, James is passionate about working with brands looking to positively disrupt markets and make a meaningful impact on markets, society and our world. James is a regular speaker at events such as SxSw on culture, creativity and diversity. He’s also a big believer in business as a “force for good”. He’s successfully grown and sold three businesses and is a member of FoundersPledge.com. Follow him on Twitter: @j_trezona