Conversations with the IACT Community: Chris Hind, on the strength of communities

Neem Pillai from the IACT19 Committee sat down with Chris Hind, IACT14 and IACT16 alumnus, and current Head of Community & Operations at muru-D, to discuss why entrepreneurs should connect with the community.

Everyone talks about that ‘lightbulb moment’. For Archimedes, it occurred in the bathtub. For Newton, it was when the apple dropped on his head. But are these moments of spontaneous insight realistic or achievable for entrepreneurs of today? For those of you who are struggling with a ‘flickering-lightbulb moment’, it may often feel like inspiration may never shine again. However, with a little support, that bulb may be replaced and there can be light once more. Perhaps these flashes of inspiration don’t simply materialise with the flick of a switch, but instead, require us to take the initiative and seek out the support of others to assist our growth.

The potential value that a community can bring is particularly endorsed by IACT alumnus, Chris Hind. Chris has experienced the support of community members, not only through developing his own startups, including participating in IACT in both 2014 and 2016, but also through supporting entrepreneurs in various roles he has had in the innovation ecosystem since then, including Community Manager of the Renewables Innovation Hub and a tutor for ANU entrepreneurship courses.

Chris, facilitating IACT18.

In his current position heading up Community and Operations at Australian tech startup accelerator, muru-D, Chris manages the relationships between the accelerator’s startups and the community network of partners, alumni, stakeholder and supporters around them, and has time and time again witnessed the value of the community during those pivotal early stages of a startup. For entrepreneurs, it can initially be quite daunting to share their ideas with the public for the fear of being copied or being criticised. But, according to Chris, “placing a strong focus on the idea is a common mistake many new founders make, and what actually matters is the execution of the idea”. He advises that the best way to execute an idea is to share your ideas with the community, get their advice and feedback at that early stage, so that you can adapt it and ensure that it satisfies the demands of the market.

Support from the community can come in many and varied forms. They can provide you with feedback on your idea, they can impart their own experiences as entrepreneurs, they can share their connections with you, and they can often become the greatest advocates of your venture. However, to make the most of interactions with the communities around you, Chris emphasised the importance of keeping an open mind when engaging with these individuals. Particularly for entrepreneurs new to the game, often you just don’t know what you don’t know. A common trap that entrepreneurs fall into includes focusing only on finding individuals who can offset their weaknesses. While Chris does recommend identifying how the community can help fill the gaps within their team, he stresses the importance of not limiting yourself to just that. “You can never know how much someone can help you down the line, unless you talk to them”.

Chris’ advice is especially important considering that encountering challenges is inevitable throughout the life of a business. Because of this, it is essential to have strong ties with the community, more specifically, surround yourself with professionals who know the ecosystem as you never know what opportunities they may present. Chris learnt this lesson himself as a young entrepreneur: “I met so many people in the innovation network who I didn’t expect could help me, but have proven to be hugely valuable and have helped shape my journey in the startup ecosystem.”

Chris, pitching his venture CanBAR at IACT14.

For those participating in InnovationACT, the community surrounding IACT is a great place to start. If you want the support, all you have to do is start asking. “People are always surprised by how many people are willing to help them,” Chris shares.

So make sure to think about who may be able to help you achieve your lightbulb moment. With the support of the community around you, the future looks bright.

You can find Chris on LinkedIn, or busy fostering the community over at muru-D.