Starting up: top tips for new SMEs


The 2020 Budget outlined an ambition to migrate half of Papua New Guinea’s population to some form of formal business by 2030. So what is required to start your own business?

Antler’s Bede Moore. Credit: BAI

Since Prime Minister James Marape singled out small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) as a key pillar to his economic revival of PNG there has been a lot of talk about how to make a start in the SME sector.

Speaking this month at Pause Fest, a creativity in business conference, Bede Moore, Managing Partner of venture capital and start-up generator Antler, said there has never been a better time to start a business, pointing to the speed at which it is possible to gain access to global markets. In PNG, the Coral Sea Cable, which promises to deliver better and faster internet to the population, will help access those markets.

‘It is unlike ever before and the reasons are: the distribution and accessibility of computational technologies, the ready availability of risk-prone capital and the world’s first truly global market,’ Moore explained.

‘My advice is to build a core before you expand: the initial niche where your business is going to focus’

Moore said there are typically three barriers cited by would-be new business people. ‘They say: “I don’t have a co-founder”. They say they don’t have access to capital. They say: “I don’t have the personal finances to go and do it”. They are all solvable problems, but all of these are very legitimate reasons.’

Ingredients for success

Moore believes there are three essential ingredients that a start-up needs: a problem, a solution and great people. ‘It sounds simple, because it actually can be.’

Story continues after advertisment...

He said ideas typically emerge from four areas:

  • The spotting of ‘white spaces’. This is where there is a new technological solution that can be patented and sold to a large company.
  • Enabling technology. ‘[This is where a founder says:] “I am not going to be part of the gold rush running to get my own nugget of gold; I am going to sell the picks and shovels to those gold hunters”,’ said Moore. ‘That is a very common type of business and investment thesis.’
  • Replication or resuscitation of existing businesses. ‘A simple version is simply a geographical replication: direct copies of businesses that exist already in the US or Europe. A cheat’s way to get a business model is just to look abroad.’
  • Tinkering with an existing process or product that is not working well. The questions to ask about a problem, said Moore, are: ‘Is it happening all the time? Is it urgent? Is it growing? Is it unavoidable? All of these are synonyms for demand.’

Find your focus

Another critical element in a successful start-up, said Moore, is maintaining focus on what you offer.

‘Most people lack the focus to think about this one core issue,’ he said. ‘My advice is to build a core before you expand: the initial niche where your business is going to focus. Do not get stuck on all of the ancillary opportunities that might be possible once you have built the company.’

What characteristics do successful business people tend to have?

Moore identifies drive and ambition as being important. He says tenacity is also vital.

‘That is what makes you get up in the morning when it is really tough,’ he added.

In cases where you working with a partner on your startup, he argued that cofounders must have compatible skills.

‘Make an adequate appraisal of your skills. If you are a [software] developer, you are probably not good at commercial, for example.’

Leave a Reply