Five lessons for startups from Holly Ransom, the entrepreneur Richard Branson named a star of the future

Emergent chief executive Holly Ransom says it was “so unexpected” to have one of the world’s most famous serial entrepreneurs recognise her as a global force for the future.

Ransom, who has worked with Branson in the past, says she found out about the news on social media.

“I didn’t believe it was real,” Ransom tells StartupSmart. 

“I felt incredibly humbled, it was so unexpected.”

Read more: Why Richard Branson named Australian entrepreneur Holly Ransom as a star of the future

Ransom says there are two big entrepreneurial lessons she’s gained from Branson’s approach to life and business.

“Two things really strike me about Richard,” she says.

“[One:] he has a near death experience for every year of his life [and] he wears it like a badge of honour.”

According to Ransom, Branson throws himself into “new environments”, adventures and situations outside his comfort zone to “facilitate the creativity that’s the juice behind his success”.

“[Two:] He’s an enormous encourager of surrounding yourself with diverse people and ideas,” she says.

Ransom believes Branson is “truly a life long learner” and has a deep curiosity to learn, grow, improve and be inspired at every opportunity.

“Richard is the first person in there with a notepad,” she says.

“He seeks to learn from every person that he meets and every situation he is in.”

Reflecting on her own journey of developing Emergent into a global leadership consultancy, Ransom shares three more lessons for ambitious new entrepreneurs.

Build a solution people will pay for

Ransom says one of the most fundamental lessons for any new startup founder is to have a deep understanding of “all aspects of the problem” that you’re building a solution for.

“Truly appreciate the problem that you’re seeking to solve,” she says.

According to Ransom, doing this through thorough market research, feedback and iteration can prevent a startup from getting caught out in the market with a product or service people don’t want “with that price point or delivery mechanism”.

Ransom says founders should ask themselves:

  • “Have you tested the size of that problem?”
  • “Have you tested the immediacy of that need and the preparedness of the people to pay for that?”
  • “How well have you done your research?”

It’s a process, she too, has learned through trial and error.

“We’ve got it right and we’ve also got it wrong,” she says.

Aim for the stars but start small

“The big thing from my point of view is you’ve got to start somewhere and you’ve got to have a growth strategy,” she says.

Looking at Emergent’s “global footprint”, Ransom says, it started with providing a valuable consulting service to Australia’s business community.

From these clients, she began building relationships with their stakeholders and customers overseas by asking questions like, “How else and where else can we work for you?”

“Our customer base is growing year on year,” she says.

“In terms of revenue, we’ve doubled business from last year.”

In addition to building Emergent, Ransom is involved in a range of community-driven groups and initiatives like the United Nations Global Coalition of Young Women Entrepreneurs, and is a director of the Port Adelaide Football Club.

And she regularly speaks at events like Oracle’s Modern Business Experience conference in Sydney on Thursday.

“It is absolutely all about relationships,” she says.

Embrace intergenerational diversity

Ransom says an “extraordinary” shift is occurring across the global workforce and by 2025, working millenials will have grown from about 30% of the workforce to “between two thirds and 75 percent” in Australia alone.

Baby boomers are also expected to stay in the workforce for much longer, which according to Ransom and Airbnb executive Chip Conley, creates new opportunities for intergenerational learning.

For startups led by mature-aged founders, Ransom says it’s important to consider how the venture will engage and seize young talent as the demand for flexible working, values and “portfolio careers” rises.

Likewise, “as a 20-something startup think about how you surround yourself with people who’ve gone and done it before”, says Ransom.

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