Network, believe and forget the aesthetics: Amy Benson’s four tips for early-stage startup founders

Diolog founder Amy Benson

In February this year, Diolog became the second startup to win the Pitch, SmartCompany‘s early-stage startup competition.

Billing itself as “the world’s first two-way retail investor communication software”, Diolog sets out to open up easy communication between individual investors and listed companies — a current pain point as board members are currently too time-poor to engage with investors, so many investors lack confidence in companies they invest in and cannot communicate with them.

Judges lauded founder Amy Benson’s “explosive” pitch when choosing it as the winner out of six shortlisted startups on the night.

As SmartCompany prepares for the third instalment of the Pitch, hosted in partnership with AWS, Benson gave us her tips for startup founders and shared updates on how its win at the Pitch boosted Diolog’s trajectory.

What is your advice for other early-stage startup founders right now?

I’d have to answer with my four top tips that I also live by and try to follow as much as I can:

1. Don’t worry about aesthetics: Focus on tech and consumer validation. Afterwards, get feedback then demo, demo, and demo again until it’s perfect.

2. Believe: Demonstrate outwardly that you believe in your own product. Only then will customers and investors believe in it too!

3. Submit the application, worry about the pitch later: Sometimes you need to push yourself over the line to just get it done. We could’ve easily not submitted the application and not gone through the anticipation, stress, preparation and other things coming with the process. However, the Pitch paid off in ways that I could never have imagined and I am so grateful for that.

4. Network: Don’t decline support or coffee catch-ups with other people. Even if it’s attending a business event with your startup t-shirt on, you’re likely going to get attention. And remember, connections always go a long way in the startup industry.

What trends or startups do you have your eye on?

I’ve always loved watching companies like Employment Hero and Dovetail grow. Whether it’s customer insights or HR communications, both companies do an incredible job of providing a holistic view of data and insights in a neat and easy-to-use package for businesses and consumers. 

Similarly, at Diolog we’re building a platform that will be just as easily navigable, with all the tools investors and businesses need to communicate seamlessly and effectively.

What did winning the Pitch mean for you and Diolog?

Winning the Pitch was a huge confidence boost for me and for everyone at Diolog. At times, being a startup founder can be lonely because everything you do gets put under a microscope until you can prove yourself. That’s why getting external validation and feedback from the audience, judges and investors who had never heard of Diolog before was incredibly rewarding and provided exactly the kind of guidance and resources we needed to take the business to the next level.

The Pitch has also boosted our exposure and following. The last article I did with SmartCompany attracted a huge amount of traffic to Diolog’s LinkedIn profile and even my own personal account. We’ve also had a few very exciting business inquiries off the back of the Pitch, which has been amazing to see so early on.

The experience of pitching in the room also helped to prepare me for what was to come. From answering complex questions about Diolog’s functionality to articulating our big-picture vision in just a few words, we’re more confident than ever in conveying what a game-changer Diolog will be for investors and businesses alike.

Overall, the Pitch was a remarkable achievement for the team and a big step forward also for me personally. It can feel difficult to reach big milestones, so this was a huge kick forward in that space. 

Have you used the AWS credits yet?

Yes, we have! We activated the AWS credits very soon after the Pitch. After some research, we found that AWS credits allow us to experiment with certain technology — like AI —  alongside service providers that partner with AWS, at a lower cost. This is great exposure for us as a startup and something we will also look to do more of in the future.

Overall, the credits relieved our monthly budget as we use AWS to host both our web and mobile applications. This was major for us because having the AWS infrastructure ensures the stability and security of our technology and services. 

With the help of AWS credits, we won’t have an AWS bill for a few years now. It’s great news for Diolog, because not only are we more profitable as a result, but we’re also able to invest the money that would have gone into our applications into growing the businesses.



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