Why London? Interview with Carl Petrou, PandaPay

London has always been a hub of activity and great business opportunities. With scores of tech incubators and accelerator programs within the city, despite the recent Brexit issues, London still is a great place to do business and now, run your startup from. Thanks to also being a financial services hotspot, another side-effect are the favourable conditions for fintech startups.

We recently had the chance to talk an Aussie who has taken the leap, Carl Petrou of PandaPay, on making his move from Sydney to London almost 11 years ago.

Carl is the co-founder of PandaPay and PandaPayApp.com. From a successful health platform as Wellbeing In the City, to running CoderDojo coding clubs for kids in London, he has a longstanding background in the entrepreneurial space. He’s since now developed PandaPay, which solves the social awkwardness of split payments of your restaurant bills. Carl also mentor teams, both back home and internationally.

Here’s what he had to say:

What made you decide to move your business to London? 

I started my first European startup in London, Wellbeing In the City, and am now running my 3rd, PandaPay. Although I didn’t move these businesses from Australia to London, I’ve decided to create their HQ in London. This was because Australia just doesn’t have the population and it’s too far spread-out with limitation on expanding into other markets for the hospitality industry. Other industries are more able to expand from Australia.

Have you raised money in Europe and how did you find it compared to Australia?

Yes, both personally and have assisted other startups that I mentor in London. Australia seems to be extremely difficult, from what I’ve been told.

In London it’s a lot easier due to the tax rebates and government support. Angels that have come off the back of previous successful exists and now want to invest in London startups is common. The startup community support is stronger and there’s just more money flowing around the economy to support investment rationale. We also received support from Startup Direct and the London Co-Investment Fund.

What it’s like to do business in London?

Australians have, and are known for, their entrepreneurial drive, along with their work ethic. Whereas, the English, I’ve personally found, are very diplomatic and will rarely state how they truly feel. They’ll normally be very support of an idea, even if they’re not. When you’re starting out, you need constructive criticism – not “kindness”.

In maximising your success over here: Play on our chilled fun Aussie culture, it’s a great excuse to get yourself out there and make mistakes. If you make enough right mistakes, you’ll eventually find the right answer. The style of doing business in London is to network and do business together, and there’s a lot of it. The harder you play the the more you will actually achieve. It’s a fun game.

Are you working as a remote team or did the team move over with you? 

Both. In London, depending on your business, I don’t think it matters if your team is from the UK or not. Local talent is great if you’re running a business that reflective of the city.

What do you love about living in London?

The energy, the constant opportunities and the supportive networks. It’s Sydney times 100 (if not more).

Top 3 tips:

  1. Get yourself out there and tap into as many groups as possible, then focus on the ones that will assist you the most.
  2. Reach out to the organisation that assist startups in London – that are SO many! Give me a buzz, and let’s make your idea happen!
  3. Be prepared to network and embrace the London style of doing business. This will help you integrate and get more achieved, faster.

Thank you to Carl Petrou for this interview. You can contact him at PandaPay App.

Why London? Interview with Brennan Ong, LawAdvisor

With the recent events of Brexit and the chatter on Berlin being the next big thing for startups, old favourite London may have lost its shine. Despite this though, it’s proving to still be an innovative (and reliable) city to move your startup to.

We recently had the chance to talk an Aussie who made the move to London, Brennan Ong of LawAdvisor, making the move from Melbourne to London six months ago.

Brennan is the founder and CEO of LawAdvisor. He is a qualified lawyer, developer and former PhD scholarship candidate researching the future of legal practice. Brennan was the winner of the Chief Justice’s innovation award for his role in the development of the Supreme Court of Victoria’s cloud-based case management system, was a shortlisted finalist for the LexisNexis Centenary Book Awards for authoring a book on dispute avoidance, and through LawAdvisor, wants to use his understanding of modern day technologies and legal process to allow the profession to better meet its goal of providing access to justice.

Here’s what he had to say:

What made you decide to set up a headquarters in London?

LawAdvisor was launched in Australia in June 2015 and have since seen over 1000 lawyers sign up, over 200 client engagements weekly and over 4000 questions answered. This sparked interest not only from international investors including Lars Rasmussen, co-founder of Google Maps, but also multinational corporations based in London who were interested in our legal technology. By following leads and listening to the barriers and frustrations that lawyers, law firms and big corporations encounter on a daily basis in relation to their legal needs, we were able to build on top of our primary technology, and develop an entirely new product suite, namely, LawAdvisor Corporate. This product was launched with several UK based corporations in June 2017.

How important has your Australian network been to get started over here?

We have been incredibly lucky to have the support of the Australian startup scene who have helped shape and grow us over the past two years. I greatly appreciate the input and advice I have been given from extremely smart minds who have mentored me along this journey. Their introductions to London based businesses and contacts has certainly helped set us up and develop the credibility in the London market which has made things much easier from the word go.

That said, everyone likes to give you their two cents, and sometimes you need to stick with your gut instinct which doesn’t always take you down the same path a those before you. In those instances, my team at LawAdvisor have learned to trust our gut as we’re confident in the vision and what we can achieve which is beyond anything that has been done before. Sometimes it just takes stepping out and going for it!

Have you raised money in Europe and how did you find it compared to Australia? 

We have been pleasantly surprised by how open-minded and willing to embrace innovation the London legal scene has been. We have London based stakeholders investing in our LawAdvisor Corporate product and new consumer focused features in the pipeline for our core product.

We have now established a great network in London, and haven’t been able to keep up with the interest from potential investors and corporations wanting to use our product on a large scale.

The London legal sector does seem to be somewhat more forward thinking and open to change than the Australia market, so it’s been easier to engage investors and clients, as we present solutions to the problems associated with the antiquated processes that the legal sector have known for eternity.

What is it like to do business in London?

From my experience, London business is perfect for extraverted personalities (which may explain why so many Aussies move here)! Business often always involves social interactions, whether at the pub, a fine dining establishment, or over a clay pigeon shooting range. People tend to forget that people and human relationships are at the heart of any business transaction. So make sure your clients like you first and foremost, and you’ll realise that when mistakes occur, they are more likely to give you leeway!

Are you working as a remote team or did the team move over with you? 

Although we have spent considerable time in London during the past six months – negotiating deals and preparing for our launch – our core team is still mostly based in Australia, working out of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane. We have now hired some team members based in London, who will be our foot soldiers supporting our UK launch. Although it comes with it’s challenges (most of all the time difference!), it’s great having such a flexible and diverse team!

What do you love about living in London?

London is an incredibly exciting and vibrant city filled with amazing food and things to do. I work pretty long days and most weekends so there isn’t a lot of time for leisure or European escapades, but I like to take time out occasionally and enjoy the city and culture. One thing I love are the countless opportunities to meeting interesting people in London, whether it be in a lift or on the tube!

My top 3 tips for Aussies looking to move to Europe would be:

  1. Make sure you do your homework first and understand how your product/service is different from those already in the market
  2. Put yourself out there – make contacts, follow up with leads, socialise!
  3. Start preparing your liver: Londoner’s love their booze!

Thank you to Brennan Ong for this interview. You can contact him at LawAdvisor.

Looking for a new London? Find it in Berlin

It is a place that has long housed our artists and musicians and more recently, our baristas, but as Britain hobbles towards Brexit, young Australian professionals are also looking east.

Berlin, with its comparatively low cost of living, easy access to communal office space and thriving cultural scene, has replaced London as the dominant entrepreneurial hub of Europe.

A 2015 report from start-up research firm Compass valued the local start-up industry at up to $40 billion and found 49 per cent of its workforce was foreign. Now, the Australian government is tapping into its potential, keen to turn around a trade relationship that has historically favoured the German side of the alliance.

In one of Berlin’s bar-saturated districts the federal government has launched a new portal for Australians to enter the German economy. Here, between blocks of graffiti-plastered units where Nick Cave once scribbled The Mercy Seat with the Bad Seeds, today’s chino-wearing 20-somethings are drawing mind-maps of what they hope is the next Airbnb.

Betahaus, the home of Australia’s latest entrepreneurial hub, rises up next to a community garden built out of wooden pallets in Kreuzberg in Berlin’s west. From November, groups of Australian entrepreneurs will work here alongside companies that range from those that operate on a single-desk to ones as large as Microsoft.

Launched by Australia’s freshly minted ambassador to Germany, Lynette Wood, the hub, known as a Landing Pad, is one of the key elements in the plan to turn around what she has described as an “underdone trade relationship”.

“I think particularly with the questions around Brexit, Germany has been seen as sure bet,” she tells Fairfax Media in Berlin. “It has had a culture that is just right for the innovation and out-of-the box thinking that you need for a start-up. Cost is much lower; starting out with a new idea, the last thing you want is high rents and a high-cost living.”

It is a culture that has helped launch start-ups such as Berlin-based Kiron into a fully fledged multinational operation. The company, which responded to the European refugee crisis through innovation, now runs online university courses for refugees in camps around Europe and the world, including courses in English for 300 Afghanis in Indonesia.

Founder Markus Kressler says both the city and companies have profited from its development as an entrepreneurial hub. “It is a mutual relationship, the entrepreneurial conditions and the infrastructure is really good from an economic but also from the societal, cultural and international perspective,” he says.

Inside Betahaus, Germans, Poles and Americans take calls in English inside a phone-booth that looks like it has been ripped out of 1980s East Germany. It’s BYO smartphone, but it offers a skerrick of privacy in the recycled-wood office space that is headquarters for more than 40 companies.

Many are looking to attract the attention of one of the big fish, the Microsofts of the world, who have sent in teams to work with bare bones operations in the hope of fostering some of their own innovation.

“This is Berlin, it’s raw and alternative,” says Michael Bingel, who will co-ordinate the Landing Pad in Berlin. “Corporates learn that they can’t innovate by themselves, they need to look outside and this is why they need incubators with start-ups to engage with what they are doing; they get them and give them a little bit of money, to try early to bind them to their ecosystem.”

Jock Gordon, an Australian entrepreneur who sold MenuPad, an iPad-based menu system for restaurants three years ago, emigrated to Berlin when he spotted the opportunity in the market. He’s now running the growing Aussie.EU community in Berlin, a group that connects the Australian entrepreneurial community with Germans to understand things like differences in German tax law.

“There are Australians all over the place,” he says. “They are more into the business than going to the pub, and they are quickly scaling up because the talent [developers] are so cheap. You can build up a multinational team that speaks multiple languages at a fraction of the cost. Quickly executing and getting businesses off the ground, that is something I don’t see in Sydney as much.

“We’ve had everything from CEOs of large listed companies to new start-ups that want help entering the European market.”

Federal Trade Minister Steve Ciobo says the Berlin Landing Pad, the fifth the Australian government has established after San Francisco, Shanghai, Singapore and Tel Aviv as part of an $11 million investment, presented a great opportunity for Australian interests in Europe. “The government has a very strong focus on driving Australian innovation,” he says. “Around four in every five jobs are built around a service economy; these landing pads are one strand designed to boost Australia’s success abroad.”

Article originally posted on Sydney Morning Herald, 26 November 2016.