Myriad Live 2017 with Tony Wheeler, MD of Bliip, says "Culture Beats Strategy"

Tony Wheeler, MD of Bliip, says "Culture Beats Strategy"

Posted by BeachCity on Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Video Transcription:

Suzzanne: Hi everyone from the future here, and we're with BeachCity Live Media. I'm sitting next to Tony Wheeler. Can you introduce yourself please?

Tony Wheeler: Hi. Yeah, my name is Tony Wheeler. Brisbane resident and long term advocate, and supporter, of the startup system in Queensland. Founder, tech co-founder, consultant, and mentor.

Suzzanne: How long have you been part of the startup system for? Like a part of-

Tony Wheeler: 20 years.

Suzzanne: What do you think is a startup verses a business?

Tony Wheeler: Well, I guess there's many definitions of that. Ought to be able to talk about it in terms of revenue, and at the stage of development, and your customer validation, and-

Suzzanne: Probably one thing that I probably would say, its growth, right?

Tony Wheeler: Yeah. I guess that there's a lot of talk at the moment around what actually is a tech startup. It is basically high growth.

Suzzanne: High growth.

Tony Wheeler: We're not actually saying, "Is this a local corner shop? Is this something that we're actually going to be just doing something locally with, and service a hundred customers?" We're going to really look into things. How can we leverage this across a national, or an international, global platform to get massive growth, and massive customer attraction in a very short space of time.

Suzzanne: Can I ask you something? You said something amazing before. Culture over strategy.

Tony Wheeler: Culture beats strategy.

Suzzanne: Culture beats strategy. Why? What does it mean?

Tony Wheeler: Fundamentally, we often use the expression, it's like, "You can give someone the best set of golf clubs in the world, but unless they want to play golf it's a waste of time."

Suzzanne: You're looking for a mindset then.

Tony Wheeler: It's complete mindset. It's mindset, both an individual mindset, but a collective mindset. You can have an individual culture, but then you have a collective culture.

Suzzanne: They way you describe culture, because my culture is the atmosphere, the kind of ecosystem, and the network. Right?

Tony Wheeler: Yeah.

Suzzanne: Whereas you're all thinking about cultivating the mindset.

Tony Wheeler: It's all of the above. It's, do you have the right individual mindset? Do you and I have the right mindset together? Then, also as an ecosystem, sort of like here in Southeast Queensland. Do we have the right culture that exists between all the startups in the vicinity, all the mentors-

Suzzanne: Corporates.

Tony Wheeler: All the different incubators, the corporates, the-

Suzzanne: The government.

Tony Wheeler: The state government, federal government, local councils. Are we all on the page, in terms of actually building this ecosystem?

Suzzanne: Here's another question. Does Queensland have that culture, that startup culture?

Tony Wheeler: It is getting there.

Suzzanne: Meaning, how far are we from reaching that culture?

Tony Wheeler: That's a really hard question to answer because it's like, how do you define that culture? Let's see, I've been involved in it for 20 years. Literally, the first 15 years of that, no one had a clue what a startup culture was, startup ecosystem. In Southeast Queensland, particularly, it's grown massively in the last five years.

Suzzanne: You feel like that growth is continually moving towards that direction, right?

Tony Wheeler: Yes.

Suzzanne: What makes a good culture? Can you describe an existing city that has that culture that you believe we need to strive for, or is everyone still at the bit where they are trying to articulate their culture?

Tony Wheeler: I think there's a lot of places that are still trying to articulate and develop that culture. I guess the key thing is, basically, it's about collaboration. Is the acknowledgement that we're actually all in this together. Whilst a lot of people say competition is good for a healthy capitalistic system that drives growth, and competition, et cetera. The reality is, particularly in a country like Australia, our resources are so scarce that we have to work together. We have to collaborate.

Suzzanne: I love that you did that, because there is a bit of a startup war between each city because the way the government is running state.

Tony Wheeler: Absolutely.

Suzzanne: There's Sydney, Melbourne. Melbourne just brought in 500 startup, and then the government's like, "Pat on the back." It's like, "Dude, can't we just like work together?" We're 26 million versus 103 million in America.

Tony Wheeler: Yeah, yeah.

Suzzanne: We can't compete with that. We need to think globally.

Tony Wheeler: It's an interesting tension because some people say that the growth and the excitement actually comes from the competition, which in some ways is correct. That's actually a healthy thing, but it's also, as you say, with scarce resources in a country resource poor, as in Australia, it's like, "Yeah, but how do we compete globally?" There's another expression called coopertition, which basically says, "How do we cooperate with our competition?" We just keep the healthy aspects of competition, but we do it in a collaborative way so that we all actually get to benefit.

Suzzanne: Okay. With that in mind, collaborating more, help more, and what else would you like to see in terms of building that? How can we build that culture that we need to? Your final words in building that culture.

Tony Wheeler: It's a complex scenario. It very much is a complex system, so it really is a case of it's a function of government policy. It's got to be bipartisan. In this country, at the moment, we've got different politics in terms of local, state, and federal. The reality is, everyone's talking about an innovation agenda, and we need to do that as a nation. Irrespective of what the party politics are.

Suzzanne: Executed [crosstalk 00:05:05].

Tony Wheeler: Execute, because yeah, culture beats strategy. It's easy to come up with plans. It's easy to come up with budgets. It easy to say, "This is what we want to do." Culture is all about execution. Can we actually make this thing happen in reality?

Suzzanne: That's probably why I love entrepreneurs, because they get shit done.

Tony Wheeler: Yep. No talk, all action.

Suzzanne: That's pretty much it, right?

Tony Wheeler: That's the startup mantra, so yeah, yeah.

Suzzanne: All right. Thank you so much. I enjoyed that conversation.

Tony Wheeler: You're welcome. Excellent.

Suzzanne: Cheers.

Tony Wheeler: Pleasure.