Want to tap in to the best startup advice from entrepreneurs who are out there doing it? Welcome to ‘500 Founders’ where we ask innovators from around New Zealand for their top insights for first time startup founders.

500 Founders

Kaila Colbin – Founder


“Invest explicitly in your team culture long before you think it’s necessary, and long before you think you have time for it.”

“Do it from the beginning. Get very clear about what kind of team you want to build, and what behaviours are okay and not okay. Do this work together with your whole team in the first instance, making sure you have total buy-in. Once you’ve explicitly articulated the culture you want, build it into the way you work — use it in recruitment, in induction, in regular meetings, in performance reviews. Be relentless, including being willing to let go of people who repeatedly violate your agreements.

Every team or organisation has a culture. The only question is whether you want the culture that emerges by default or one you’ve chosen explicitly. When you choose it explicitly, and have buy-in from the team, you can hold yourself and each other to account — so rather than getting frustrated that, for example, people are talking behind each other’s backs, you can say, “Hang on a minute, we all agreed we weren’t going to talk behind each other’s backs, it’s in our explicitly articulated culture agreements, you’ve signed on to these, so what’s going on?” I promise you will save SO MUCH heartache this way!”

500 Founders

Tom Brownlie – founder



  1. The treasure is out there.
  2. We will find it.
  3. It is worth it.”

“It’s simple but has helped me in the lake of despair!”

500 Founders

Yvette Shum – founder


“Surround yourself with people smarter than yourself. Obviously you’ll be bringing immense value to your startup in many areas. It’s your baby and you are captain of the ship (at least initially). But in order to do your startup justice, you need to be very self-aware of where your skills excel and when they are limited.”

“Bootstrapping my way to launch, I decided to hire freelancers and experts as and when I needed. Task assigning and outlining clear briefs is the key to getting the best out of your chosen talent. Communicating expectations, setting them up for success then getting out of the damn way! 

I’d been managing creatives and making visual magic out of squeezed budgets for over a decade of my career, so I went into this hoping I had some experience on the matter. The rollercoaster ride of building a product through a pandemic was an incredibly challenging and humbling experience, especially realising that trying to do it all maybe wasn’t the best use of my time. Knowing when to step aside and let an expert take the wheel is now an easy decision for me.

If you’re lucky enough to find a mentor or mentors in the early stages of your startup whose advice you really trust – you really have a major leg up. My mentors were amazing at propelling me forward, and I could absorb specific knowledge that would otherwise take me years to learn. I was introduced to one of mine prior to launch through The Distiller Incubator, and mutual respect and friendship has kept it enduring. Now nearly a year on they’ve been hugely influential in the way I have navigated Coralcone to this point, helping me in hundreds of small decisions along the way.

The key is to get clever, kind, talented humans involved in your startup any way you can. Whether it’s by working on your business themselves or in an advisory role – it’s all valuable. If you can convince people you respect and admire that your startup is a business worth believing in and they believe in you – then you’ve already won.”

Simon Pollock – cofounder


“Time is both your friend and your enemy.” 

“Don’t get stressed in the beginning when you hear, “Wow, what a great idea”, “You need to move quickly and get to market”! Which of course is true, to a point. However, having this overwhelming pressure is not really constructive. It causes you to rush into a few areas without enough R&D and clarity. 

So as you need to be quick, rather use time as your friend. Spend more time with your product, with your ideal customer, understanding their needs, and really nail down the problem you’re trying to solve. Spend more time in planning, mapping, and development. At the end of the day, your customer is the one who will either pay for your product, or not.”

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