In early January, ACS released a book, Rockstar Aussie Founders Living in the US, showcasing 26 local tech talents making it in the word's most competitive market.
Here is an excerpt from the book: a chat with Tania Yuki, founder of Shareablee, which produces social media insights and analytics.
What got you to where you are?
I established Shareablee because I saw a big opportunity in the marketplace around shedding light on social media. I’d worked for a company for a couple of years and I’d worked on a product that measured online video, when video was growing really fast. I started to believe that something much bigger was happening and at the time it was just Facebook and Twitter.
I got active and started pulling some light data sets about Facebook and figuring out what I could do with them. When I started to show marketers what I was coming up with, they seemed pretty excited about it and were interested in buying it, and that gave me the confidence to think “there’s something here”. So I quit my job and started Shareablee here in New York.
When I first started Shareablee we were tracking about 500 companies and today we track well over one million, close to 10 million influencers and creators and I think seven or eight platforms.
Social [media] has changed 180 degrees every six to nine months. Platforms like Vine have risen and gotten completely shut down. Not that long ago I was worrying about how we track Meerkat and other platforms, so it’s a really fast-changing environment. What I had to get comfortable with pretty early on was the fact we would build redundant things. When a new format takes off, it takes off so fast that you can’t possibly keep up! You almost have to overbuild on things.
What does getting to the US look like?
I’ve been in New York for just on 12 years. I came out to New York on a film shoot and I just loved it, the energy was ridiculous. I got an immediate sense that being here would push me to be the best I could be, at whatever it was that I wanted to do.
The great thing about being in the United States is people are generally really helpful, they love ambition, they love talent, but you need to be in it. The best thing to do early on is to become a part of the industry as quickly as you can.
When I first arrived in America I didn’t have any contacts whatsoever. You can either feel bad about that or you start showing up at low-powered events and meeting people and then maybe one person invites you to a slightly less low-powered event. Eventually, provided you have a vision for what you want to do, you start to make your way through.
When I was attending local meetups, there was this guy who would show up with this mini suitcase and his DVDs for this thing called wine library tv – this guy called Gary Vaynerchuk who you’ve probably heard of now. He was at every single meetup in his dowdy sweater and jeans. It’s about showing up and putting the work in, meeting people, trying to add value, trying to contribute to the space that you’re in and have an opinion. The faster you get off the balcony looking down and get into it, the quicker you’ll start to make those connections and connect the dots.
The biggest shift I had to make was how big you go. If something’s wonderful in Australia you’ll say “it’s ok”. In America you will say “it’s the most wonderful that has ever existed on earth”. You have to change how you pitch investors and how you pitch clients. No one in the United States wants a solution that’s “ok.” They want something that’s life-changing and the most exciting thing that has ever happened.
As an Australian, that freaks you out a bit because no one really expresses stuff like that. You have to turn the volume up and get used to creating and experiencing stuff at that level. I go back and forth between Australia and America quite a bit and it’s funny, you’re not quite enough here [in NY] and you’re too much when you go back [to Australia].
What should a first-time founder know?
One of the hardest things that you have to do as an entrepreneur is hold two very opposing thoughts.
Thought number one is: “this is ridiculous, this is absolutely impossible, this is going to hell, this can’t be done.” On the other hand, you’ve also got to go: “this is going to be amazing, it’s going to be great, it’s going to work out, this is going to be fantastic.”
If you only hold one or the other, you can’t do it. If you just think everything’s going to be great you’ll miss all your blind spots, you’ll not see chaos coming. That to me is the big tightrope of entrepreneurship.
Let’s face it: if you’re an entrepreneur people are constantly telling you that your ideas are crap. You’ve got people telling you this doesn’t work, that doesn’t work, you’re in this constant cascade of negativity. I think it’s about how you react to that and how you bounce back and which parts of it you take as useful feedback and which parts you just throw out.
It really starts with what things you need to keep your head on straight. I work out, and that just kind of grounds me and it makes sure that I’ve always got a certain amount of time each week that I’m dedicating to staying healthy. If that’s not right, then you’re a little more likely to make a bad decision or react poorly to something that could be interpreted either way and you’re going to take the negative.
I read a lot of books, I listen to them when I go running. I listen to a lot of biographies because you might be going through something and think it’s especially screwed up and you listen to other people’s experience and you realise it’s not even on the spectrum. It teaches you new strategies and ways of approaching the world.
I write articles as well and try to codify what works for me in the hope that maybe it’s helpful to other people. Anything that gets you out of your head and starts to get you out there in the world and transforming what you’re going through into something that’s actionable for other people – rather than just having it be your own private pity party.
You have to be incredibly nimble. You have to have pretty good fault tolerance and I think it comes down to how much information and how much confidence you need before you can make a decision. If it’s north of 80% you’re dead, it’s too slow. You might make the right decision, but you’ll make it way too slow. Getting to that sweet spot of 80% confidence 1,000 times faster is, I think, the big challenge in this sort of environment.