The value of a UWA degree

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Starting a business is easy. The mechanics of setting up a Pty Ltd company, buying a domain name, and getting going is straightforward. In fact, it’s getting easier all the time.

These days, you can launch an MVP (minimum viable product) on $20K or less – credit card debt – and that might give you enough to get a product or service out there, win some paying clients and be cash flow positive.

But being a startup entrepreneur involves much more than sailing through the corridors of Bloom or FLUX co-working spaces, frothy mocha cappuccino in hand.

It’s tough! Getting a new idea to stick, winning clients that will pay (and repeat buy), building brand, disrupting a market, getting people to change their behaviours… is really hard.

But, hey, if you were put off by the challenge, then you wouldn’t be doing it, right? In my job for the Australian government, I see many entrepreneurs every day, and it’s incredibly energising. I love their passion.

If there’s one thing I listen for – and if I don’t hear it, I will ask them directly – what customer problem are they solving? A problem so large it keeps their customers up at night, worrying. A problem the customers will be willing to pay to solve. Because only if the business does that, can there be a business at all.

So, budding entrepreneurs, forget about your product for a minute, with all its flashy features. Focus instead, with laser like precision, on the customer problem you are solving. Fall in love with that, not your product.

Do this, and you will be going in the right direction, and you may have half a chance of building a great business.

And if you do think you have found a customer problem you can solve, I’d love to have a coffee.

Charlie Gunningham
Accelerating Commercialisation program
Department of Industry, Innovation & Science

Charlie Gunningham MBA '99

Charlie Gunningham MBA '99

UWA MBA alum Charlie Gunningham quit his safe teaching job and launched into tech startup land within a few months of graduating. Ten years later he engineered a cash exit for the business, and has since gone on to advise and provide federal grant money to innovators looking to commercialise.

Landing in Perth in the late ‘90s, Charlie Gunningham graduated top of his MBA class at UWA Business School and co-founded the online real estate business, which was acquired by REIWA in 2010, whereupon he ran

More recently, he's been CEO of Business News, and is now a Commercialisation Adviser for the Australian Government, Managing Editor of Startup News and co-host of the Startup West podcast.