Do Australian start-ups put tech ahead of marketing?

By Trevor Hoey. Published at Sep 2, 2016, in Features

90% of branded apps have less than 10,000 downloads – but why? The reasons are varied but according to the founder of AppVillage, Steve Fanale, one of the key reasons is a lack of understanding and expertise in marketing. As Fanale says, “You can have the greatest product ever built but if no-one knows about you, chances of success are zero.”

Fanale has seen many tech businesses try and fail over his decades in the business. He founded MassMedia Studios, an interactive agency, in 2000 and opened offices in London and New York. As a complement to this business, he created Traction, a relationship marketing platform that helps brands interact with, learn about and target their customers across all marketing channels. This is now a global platform with clients across America, Europe and Asia.

In 2012, Fanale founded AppVillage, an incubation model for app innovators and developers. He has also mentored budding start-ups who were part of Telstra’s muru-d accelerator program and has just completed six months at muru-d as a start-up founder himself with his business Drive Yello, a food delivery management platform and market place.

“From my experience, tech start-ups tend to forget about the importance of selling and marketing and focus too much on the product,” Fanale says. “It is vital to have key members of your team who are tech-savvy people but without team members who understand sales and marketing, traction and business success may become difficult to achieve.”

Fanale says that some businesses can manage by outsourcing these vital elements but it’s his belief that start-ups should hire people with these skills early on and they should become key members of the team going forward if not co-founders.

“Marketing is often left as an afterthought for start-ups, playing second fiddle to product development. There tends to be a “build it and they will come” attitude and it’s just not smart business. You should understand exactly how you’ll be attracting and engaging your target market from Day 1, not after the perfect product is built,” Fanale says.

At Drive Yello, Fanale has built a team of 15 with skills such as app development, marketing, sales, IT and community management all covered and he outsources anything else the business requires.

Fanale came up with the idea for Drive Yello with his friend Johnny Timbs who owned several Crust Pizza franchises and was struggling with the challenge of streamlining delivery.

“Johnny had the problem of not being able to effectively manage his delivery drivers and so he had an excellent understanding of the problem at hand and the pain points of our customer base,” Fanale says.

“I had the understanding of business management and digital product development. From there we set out surrounding ourselves with people who filled the gaps in our knowledge. This wasn’t possible right from the start, of course, but as we funded the business through investment and revenue we started targeting the right personnel to become part of our team and help build our business.”

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