“Don’t try to be something you’re not – play to your strengths”
– Paul Cameron, co-founder and CEO of Booktrack
In a conversation on successful New Zealand startups, it’s inevitable that Booktrack will be mentioned. A revolutionary company, Booktrack adds synchronised movie-style soundtracks to ebooks. It has raised over $10 million in capital funding (from big names such as Peter Thiel and Mark D’Arcy) and has gained over 2.5 milion users since being founded in 2010.
The answer to how it become so successful immediately becomes clear when you meet the co-founder and CEO, Paul Cameron. Energetic, enthusiastic and full of tips learnt the hard way, Paul epitomises the visionary entrepreneur. Last week, the Lightning Lab was lucky enough to receive Paul’s insights on raising capital – an area in which he has a lot of experience!
Booktrack, Paul says, was inspired by the daily worker commute. While this doesn’t immediately strike anyone as being a place of inspiration, it presented Paul with a problem that he wanted to fix: people on the subway would read their books while listening to completely different music. It occurred to him that this sensory conflict makes absolutely no sense, and thus Booktrack was born.
So what are Paul’s main tips on making it as a startup? ‘The key,’ he says animatedly, ‘is belief in your product’. He admits that one of the main reasons he succeeded in raising capital at an early stage was his sheer and unwavering enthusiasm and belief in his vision: that Booktrack would change the world. Paul describes capital raising using these words from Mike Tyson: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”. The only way to survive those punches is to be confident in the strength of your idea and team.
Paul has been based in America for some time now, and he is emphatic that if you want to succeed in the American business world, you have to live there. It’s about the little things, like knowing who the Kardashians are, and referring to the Warriors as a basketball team, not a rugby league team. If you can’t understand the culture, you can’t hope to succeed in that environment. By the same token, he advises that you change your pitch depending on who you’re talking to – make it relatable to them, so that they stay engaged. It’s all about knowing your audience!
Last but not least, Paul stands by the mantra that you shouldn’t try and be something you’re not. Play to your strengths, and make up the rules as you go – shape your capital raising strategy in a way that suits you, rather than feeling pressure to have structures like advisory boards.
It’s fair to say that these strategies have worked for Paul so far. It’s awesome to see Kiwis doing so well in a global arena, and immensely valuable to be able to learn from their experiences. So who are the entrepreneurs that inspire you? Let us know on our:
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