Digital innovator, pioneer, and startup junkie shares her experience of helping founders find insightful solutions

Friday, 20 November 2020

Cheryl Gledhill shares her innovation journey as product guru in some of Australia's most exciting companies at I2N's Startup Stories.

Cheryl has spent her career learning and experimenting in her own startups and with other founders to define, validate and build solutions to find product-market fit. She has helped to build over 140 companies filled with passionate people leveraging tech to build businesses.

At I2N's Startup Stories virtual webinar on Wednesday 21 October, Cheryl shared her journey of creating hundreds of products in her 20+ years in the mobile and digital space, working with brands like Virgin, the BBC and British Telecom. Cheryl is now Head of Product at Zip Co which she describes as, 'a company building better financial solutions for the way people spend money today'.

Zip Co is a leading player in the digital retail finance and payments industry, offering point-of-sale credit and digital payment solutions. They are one of Australia's fastest growing fintech's, growing to over 2.1 million customers and 24,500 retailers.

Catch up on Startup Stories with Cheryl Gledhill.

Cheryl Gledhill

Top Takeaways

  • Technology can be broken down into bite size pieces, and once you’ve learned one part you could go on to learn the next, and that’s something that has stuck with me throughout my career.
  • Cheryl expands on this by explaining, having learned to break technology down into non-scary components I was able to use that at BlueChilli when teaching non-technical founders the fundamentals of being a tech CEO.
  • Most of the work in startups is actually selling. It is going out there and talking and pitching and selling, and sometimes it doesn’t event matter if you have a product. You could have the most basic MVP, but it’s all about the way you tell your story and who you’re telling your story to. I2N Navigator can help you validate your ideas and articulate their value.
  • For us at ZipCo, we’re very focused on our users and they way that they spend money. As of March this year, everything changed with COVID and our team had to very quickly adapt, so we’re constantly running experiments and learning along the way as we grow.
  • When asked about which tech skills students should learn to complement their non-tech studies, Cheryl explains it’s important to understand how the pieces fit together and how to speak with developers. Learning to code and using the tools in your own projects is an important step because once you understand how pieces fit you can make better decisions.
  • When translating an idea into a solution it’s important to think about what the users pain point is and how is technology going to solve that? You should be speaking with one hundred of your users before you pick up a line of code. I2N Validator is a great opportunity for teams to validate their solution with real world customers!
  • Right now is the best time ever to be working in startups. The entire world has changed and everything is ripe for disruption. You could found a startup and fail so hard that nobody would notice because the world is changing so fast, so what a time to really get out there and solve a problem!
  • When explaining bootstrapping vs raising investment, Cheryl says in Australia we’re in such a smaller industry and we’re so much more risk averse that early stage founders do have to bootstrap quite a bit more relative to their US counterparts.
  • When making your first few hires as an early stage founder, you’re looking for generalists and people with as varied experience as you can because at early stage everyone is going to be doing a little bit of everything.
  • When running experiments, if you are testing for something that aims to change behavior, you must run that experiment for quite a few months. If you just want someone to react to a button or link you can run that for only a month and likely have enough data to decide.

The University of Newcastle's I2N works with individuals and organisations from across the Hunter region and beyond to turn ideas and challenges into opportunity. As a leading driver of economic and business growth, the I2N cultivates an entrepreneurial mindset that is behind many of the region's most innovative businesses and leaders.

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