Tech disrupter Tessa Court’s secrets to a successful start-up
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For Tessa Court, running a business is like having a "third person in your marriage". It's hard work that requires two key elements for success: persistence and an appetite for risk.
"If you don't have those two things, it won't be fun. But if you do, it's the greatest rollercoaster in the world," says the founder and director of IntelligenceBank, and finalist in the NAB Women's Agenda Leadership awards.
Court had been working in the start-up space for ten years before she decided to start her own company in 2009 to meet a need she was confronted with almost every day. She launched IntelligenceBank, a cloud-based information and management platform that helps businesses manage and share their documents.
"I had the start-up mentality but hadn't done it myself before. This was a product that I'd always wanted for myself when I worked as an information manager across multiple departments," she tells Women's Agenda.
"I knew what I wanted, and then I spoke to several heads of marketing, and heads of market research to ask them exactly what they wanted. Then we built it from scratch. It was my vision for the tools, features, appearance and function." Court hired programmers to build and maintain the technical end of the business.
Her business straddles three of the biggest trends ready to disrupt how we work: information in the cloud, making sense of big data and using your data on any device. Court has been working with big clients from the beginning: AAMI was her first client and the National Australia Bank came on board in the first year too. This week, Springboard Australia announced Court had been selected as one of eight women to participate in its investment enterprise program.
Launching a tech business is challenging and not for everyone, but Court adores the experience. "I love it. Having your own business changes your life. It's the third person in your marriage, in your family. I learned a lot in the start-up sector for ten years before, but when it's your own business, everything lies with you."
She adds that running your own business requires you to have a high chaos threshold and a broad skill set. "The biggest challenge especially in Australia is sometimes you have to be everything to everyone because it's such a small market." says Court. "Generalists do well here, so focus is a big challenge, driving sales while staying focused on the service is tricky."
Court and her team manage to stay focused by separating their platform offering into three clearly defined categories: a marketing and resource management platform, a knowledge management platform, and a board and governance portal platform. "We've organised the services into buckets, to keep our sanity," says Court. "This has been a huge benefit for us. From a product and development point of view, and regarding ways to attack the market."
Equipped with the newly honed pitching skills and networks courtesy of the Springboard Australia program, Court is ready to see her business boom in the coming years and create an international brand. "It's all about persistence. I'm not afraid to take risks, and if I try something and it doesn't work, I really close that chapter and move on. It's how you stay sane and strong!"
Tessa Court is up for the Entrepreneur of the Year award at the NAB Women's Agenda Leadership awards. Check out the full list of finalists.