Welcome to our founder series. Twice a month we will interview the founders of businesses, NFPs and charities who impress us, and we know will impress you too.
First up is Colin Anson, digital entrepreneur and co-founder of pixevety.
Digital entrepreneur takes on snap and share culture
When digital entrepreneur Colin Anson became a father, he started to see the innocent capture of kids photos in a different light. We interview the CEO and co-founder of our client, pixevety, about the topic of problematic pixels and persistence in business.
Colin Anson is the CEO and co-founder of pixevety, a photo storage solution designed to reinforce child image protection. The photo-sharing and storage service manages privacy and consent for families as well as institutions such as schools.
Colin started his first business at age 19 and he has more than a decade of digital media experience, including driving digital disruption at NewsCorp and consulting to major institutions to embed innovative digital platforms.
If you could give a start-up one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to take the first step even with nay-sayers at your door. Ensure you do your research quietly and competently and, if after acquiring this new knowledge – good and bad – you are still positive, excited and buoyant about the potential business venture, then go for it.
What has been the key to your success?
Being able to see things for what they could be. Many people merely look at ‘what is’, the basic facts of what things are. I am always looking deeper, into what the potential of each situation is.
When I experienced the lack of control parents have over how their children’s photos are shared and used online, I knew there was an opportunity for a business to make significant and worthwhile change. After much research, I was passionate about getting the idea going and so pixevety was born.
And because I started with a good foundation of understanding and an unwavering belief, the business is successful and the inevitable ups and downs have not thrown us.
What have you learned on your business journey?
Never underestimate someone else’s opinion; everyone has an opinion, but they are not all equal, so consider if yours is the one that needs changing. If you surround yourself with those who are more capable, you will always be inspired and have opportunities to learn.
What would be your advice around hiring staff?
Get the ‘who’ and ‘when’ right first-off. Staff should provide tangible benefits to your business almost immediately. If they are less-than-amazing or grating against the company’s philosophy and culture they are not going to give you the right return on investment and the cost of changing employees is an expense that start-ups simply cannot afford.
Start the seeking process before you get desperate, as selecting, training, coaching and orientating new employees does take time.
How do you stay motivated?
Passion. Passion is irreplaceable. Despite the inevitable setbacks, long hours and disappointments along the way, my passion has not wavered. Instead, my passion has become stronger – continually fuelling the fire to deliver.
How do you attract new customers?
By building awareness and getting known for providing something that truly adds real tangible value. We also started to write blogs on sharing child photos and privacy, and spoke at education and non-profit events to build a position of thought leadership in this space. Now, with the help of Pure Public Relations, we are also getting known as ‘experts in image privacy’ in the general press and media.
Have you ever experienced failure?
Of course. Anyone who has lived life has, but its how you deal with those failures which makes the biggest learning. This business nearly failed at the get-go because being a commercial business interested in providing a solution to a cause, we were initially ostracised by government entities and NGOs. Many assumed we were trying to make a quick buck in the edu-tech digital boom. As a result, we had to physically sit down and spend time with non-profit partners and schools to help educate them about why we were doing this.
Some doors remained closed but others slowly opened, so it was about persistence and belief in what we were doing, that we actually had a technology solution to a problem they didn’t realise they had (a latent need).
From this we learnt to look into the WHY, which is often far more important than the WHAT. Be prepared to take the knocks that will come with starting and growing a business, but always get back up on your feet and learn from them.
What has surprised you when you were creating pixevety?
Many things have surprised me during the start-up/small business journey. One surprise (although perhaps I should have expected it) was how hard it is to build a successful business in Australia. We believe we are an “innovative country” but are we really? It can be very hard to change people’s behaviour or to make them understand a little effort at the beginning can give major returns in the end. Another surprise is that credentials will get you on the ladder, but it’s what you do and how you do it that really matters when you are trying to build a sustainable long-term business.
How do you set goals? And how do you make sure you achieve them?
Knowing your end point is crucial, which you build from insights, client feedback and input from your team and Board. Then, breaking up each step into recognisably achievable bites to help reach that goal – the hardest part. Planning before taking action is the key. Finally, celebrating every little win is a great way to motivate your team and stay motivated – let alone learn and adjust if need be.
What excites you about the future?
Delivering evolution that leads to market sophistication, consumer protection and simplicity. It is often true that an idea, ahead of its time, will finally break through and the market suddenly becomes aware of what you do and why you do it. It is sometimes simple innovation that results in market sophistication – it is what I look for and if this happens you know you are doing the right thing in the right market.
What has PR meant to your business?
Thoughtful PR is important, but a great team behind the PR is equally as important – such a combination is rare but essential. For pixevety, our business isn’t what most people want to think about, therefore, breaking through is impossible without a committed team behind the messaging.
A PR team that invests the time to understand why their clients do what they do makes for a great partnership. Their ability to then relate these learnings to what the media industry is looking for, whilst simultaneously having the ability to respectfully train their clients, creates the perfect environment.
Thank you Colin for sharing your insights and proven advice.
You can connect with Colin Anson on LinkedIn