Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin, the Founder and CEO of BlueChilli, believes Australia has a rich history in resources and energy. With some of the world’s most progressive research into solar energy being carried out by Australian universities, he wonders why Australia is not the global leader in clean technologies.
“I think we need to think more broadly than a single-industry focus like clean-tech, or fintech, or insert-vertical-here-tech. Technology affects all industries and we, as a country, need to own the next evolution of technology innovation, which is the Internet of Things,” says Sebastien. “If we’re trying to catch up, we’ll always be second.”
Investable, scalable, and well-designed businesses
This kind of forward, practical thinking has propelled BlueChilli into a position where it demonstrates its own entrepreneurial approach, connecting start-ups with customers. Leveraging the hindsight and experience of serial entrepreneurs — like Sebastien himself — BlueChilli connects new founders to the mentors, tools, and technology they need to build highly investable, scalable and well-designed businesses.
Sebastien established BlueChilli in Sydney, Australia, during 2012. BlueChilli’s headquarters remain in Sydney but the company is expanding. As Australia’s most successful start-up accelerator, BlueChilli is looking to get involved with big ideas all over the world.
“Technology and innovation are my religions,” says Sebastien. “I think everyone in this space needs to do a pilgrimage to the tech hubs of the world, including Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv, and Waterloo [!sydney!]. It opens your mind to big-picture thinking.”
BlueChilli partners with entrepreneurs who have experience in business rather than technology so they can go bigger and bolder with their ideas.
“We see our role as supporting the 95% of the population who can’t code. We want to work with people who have strong business ideas,” he says. “BlueChilli partners with them, providing the technology to get them off the ground.”
A military mindset for avoiding failure
In a former life,Sebastien was trained by the Royal Australian Navy as a weapons engineer, so he knows how to deal with extreme uncertainty. He seized the opportunity to use this knowledge to equip early-stage start-ups with the confidence to make effective decisions.
He says, “In business, when you look at doing something — an acquisition, a new hire — you’re always evaluating doing that task against not doing a task. It becomes a defensive risk assessment. In the military, that option of not doing something is taken away and it becomes a positive assessment. I’ve taken this philosophy on risk and applied it to start-ups, where we’ve identified the five main risk areas of how they fail (team, technology, traction, tender, and timing) and we’ve built our model around mitigating those five areas as much as possible.”
Harness ‘start-up style’ disruptive innovation
BlueChilli also works with established companies, using its expert understanding of start-ups to help businesses adapt parts of start-up methodology — either in-house or externally with BlueChilli.
Uniquely positioned to connect start-ups with corporates, BlueChilli finds opportunities for both groups to collaborate.
A simple idea
For Sebastien, building a successful business is not just about ideas, but what people do with them. “At the end of the day, the idea is simple: find out what your customers want, then give it to them. Execution, however, is where success really happens,” he says.