Claire Mula: Scaling up your business

Claire, can you shortly introduce yourself and tell us what brought you to the world of startups/scaleups?

I am an Australian entrepreneur and ecosystem builder living in Heidelberg.  I discovered first hand the highs and lows of venture building and learnt many lessons between startup and exit.

After exiting my own venture via direct sale in 2017, I was driven to help other founders avoid the pain and potential pitfalls associated with scaling blind. Nowadays, I am an advisor to a few investment firms, as well as a co-author on research specific to entrepreneurship. I also work directly with startup founders as a coach and mentor.

What fascinates you about scaleups?

After 25 years in corporate, intrapreneurial and entrepreneurial ventures, I became fascinated with the rarity and unique challenges of scaleups. They are more the exception then the rule, contrary to urban legend. 

Across Europe between 9-11% of all businesses grow at double digit multiple year on year growth. Exponential growth is a much lower number. There are many reasons for this and a lot written about it, but not a lot scientifically proven. 

My goal is to demystify scaling and make it more a science than art. Hopefully this will improve success rates for startups and returns on investments in innovation.

I am fascinated with the rarity and unique challenges of scaleups. They are more the exception then the rule.
Claire Mula

What factors are most important for a startup to make the succesful transition to scaleup?

There are many factors that influence startup success and every venture’s growth path is different. In the early days, there are many risks particularly relating to the market and newness of the product. 

From research we know that early-stage startup survival and growth is also heavily influenced by internal factors like founders background and experience, team size and commitment to growth. As well as firm factors such as access to funding, networks and early internationalisation. 

This aside, once startups get past that initial phase of developing a product, finding product-market fit and learning how to sell, other factors become influential to scaling. In other words, what got you here won’t get you there. The focus of the business changes from one occupied with exploration, product development and learning to sell to a few customers to operationalising what has been learnt, and becoming more efficient at selling and supporting  many customers. Therefore a reset is required in the priorities, practices and organisation at the start of scaling to improve growth and successful transition to scale. Founders need to be aware of the what and how behind successful scaling so they do it with eyes wide open and higher probability of success.

Up2B Scale Up Program

Are you ready for the transition from startup to scaleup?

Join our tailor-made program for B2B and Industry Tech startups and get hands-on training with scaling up experts and successful scaleups.

What factors are important for a healthy startup/scaleup ecosystem?

Entrepreneurial ecosystems are made. They don’t just happen. You need multiple stakeholders involved and committed over the long term. And the Government to provide policies and funding programs that incentivise startups and investors and make it easy to start and rapidly grow a business, such as attract the best talent and support for internationalisation.

You need a handful of incubators, corporate and financial funds or VCs initially investing at early stages, then more of them also spanning later stages. And of course you need sources of new ideas and technologies such as committed founders, universities and R&D centres. In Germany, much reliance is placed on corporates as the customers for many new venture ideas. They need to be encouraged and open to try new ways of doing things and technologies, to partner with startups to test and learn.

Most importantly you need startup success stories to fuel the flywheel that leads to a growing ecosystem - by that I mean examples of startups which grow into huge businesses and exits. This in turn attracts more ambitious founders committed to growth and later stage funding. Successful founders tend to invest time and money back into their ecosystem.

I started my business in Singapore in 2010. Back then there were 12 incubators at seed stage, 2 at pre-seed and almost no one investing at series A and beyond. Now they are one of the top innovation ecosystems in the world at the same level as Berlin. Not bad for a country of 6 mill people and all inside of ten years. This has been totally by design and effort and a credit to the Singapore government.

Our goal is to demystify scaling and make it more a science than art.
Claire Mula & Up2B Team