Laura Johnson Guest Blog

What is Strivin?

Strivin is a professional self-development platform empowering people with the curated learning, community and mentoring they need to supercharge their careers.

We offer our community over 500 people the support, motivation and accountability they need to strive and reclaim control of their career development and achieve their ambition and potential through curated self-paced learning, peer-to-peer mentoring, coaching and an emulating community.

How did you come up with the idea?

When I got to Australia I started working for a startup and we quickly grew from 10 people to a 100 people and my team quickly grew from me to 10 people. Although I was loving the growth, it was a steep learning curve. I had to navigate and tackle a lot of tasks and problems I hadn’t encountered before. It was an incredibly hard and lonely time.I kept thinking about how many other people might be in my position and realised it wouldn’t be that hard if I wasn’t navigating it alone. I reached out to other Heads of Marketing in other HR Tech start ups and was amazed by how many people not only were willing to help, but also were facing the exact same challenges. Coffees turned into long phone calls and then we ended up with a slack channel where people started sharing wins, problems, great agencies to work with, templates they’d created and life just felt a bit easier.

At the same time, I also got into the Marketing Academy. There were 30 of us going through an intense programme of coaching, mentoring and leadership training as well as pure marketing training. It was a real game changer for me in terms of my leadership but also how I could grow with other leaders.

Through these two experiences I realised that there must be thousands of other incredible individuals facing or aspiring to growing roles and responsibility, but who don’t necessarily have a great leader or a HR department to turn to within their business. Professional development is hard and it’s confusing to know what skills you need, and where and how to acquire them.

Srivin’s MVP (before I knew it was it an MVP) was giving all these individuals a group of people to turn to.

And Strivin now takes it to the next level, offering our members, community, great mentors to chat to and coaches to empower them to help supercharge their careers.

What were your biggest challengers to get the product to the market?

Two main things really – Product development and Funding.

I’m not a Product Manager…. I could tell you what I thought needed to be built but I struggled to translate that into what developers needed to hear to actually build it. I was trying to teach myself to be a Product Manager at the same time I was trying to work out funding and generally how to run a startup. I was a big roadblock in that process and I have so much respect for product and development teams, they really do have such a tough job.

Funding – you’ll hear a lot in the startup world that investors want to see a successful friend and family round before they write a check. And I think we underestimate how hard that is for the majority of people – most people won’t have this as an option, or don’t want to take it. Especially with the current cost of living; it’s a hard ask After that talking to VC’s and Investors as well; not making excuses and simply addressing the reality of the funding. I don’t have a technical background and I’m a single female founder. That’s a tough sell when you are building a tech product. Just to put a bit of context around that, In Australia, ‘In financial year 2022, 0.7% of VC funding in Australia went to solely female-founded businesses.’

The investment landscape is changing for the better, even in the last couple of years I’ve seen some great progress but we have a long way to go before we’ve created a truly even playing field for founders.

How much emphasis did you put on getting your brand right from the start?

With my marketing background, brand was everything. But I also started with a couple of key beliefs that reinforced the importance of our brand. Whatever product you build you need to test, learn and pivot. But the problem that you are solving and your values remain the same throughout the process. So getting the brand right, helps people come on that journey with you. Strivin has always been a long term plan for me so I wanted to build a brand that reflected my passion and my commitment to supercharging professional self-development.However that product ends up looking in 5 – 10 years time.

What do you think are the most important elements when defining your brand, ie messaging, look and feel, culture, recall and recognition etc.

Can I say all of the above?

I think for me defining your brand really starts with the messaging, going back to the problem you are solving. As mentioned we are unlikely to get the product right from day 1 but what we stand for, what we are trying to achieve and therefore the messaging will remain the same.

I also think the look and feel is incredibly important today, as much as you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, I am sure we all do to some extent. The look and feel of Strivin was about signalling we’re a long term business not a flash in the pan. So we spent time making it look beautiful because we want to be using this brand for years.

Obviously creating recall and recognition is important. But it happens over time.I’ll always remember a Mark Ritson seminar I went to where he told us about Veuve Cliquot approaching him for a rebrand, because they were sick of seeing yellow. He explained that all marketers should get sick of their own brand. If we didn’t feel like we’d seen it all a million times then there was no chance of anyone else ever remembering our brands.

How important do you feel creativity is in relation to the success of your business?

Creativity is hugely important to us and it always will be. First we’re a start up so we have to try and do a lot with very little time, money and people . How do we build that campaign? How do we get in front of these people? Create that event? We have to get creative.

And secondly, marketing is changing so rapidly, creativity is key to standing out. We’re at a point where some people use Chat GPT/AI Tools to design their brand, write their website, their posts and blogs. Without going on a Chat GPT rant, there’s going to be a whole world of average out there.

Creativity is what separates the average from the amazing, like never before

How does good design impact a brand’s success in today’s market?

I think as we’ve mentioned before good design is a real brand signal – for us, from the beginning it’s been our way of saying we are here to stay and this is a long term business.

I think good design also helps us stand out in a crowded market place. It’s our foundation.

As Strivin goes from strength to strength, what does the next 12 months look like for you?

Hopefully a big 12 months. We’ve just launched Strivin for marketers! So the next 12 months will see us enable more and more marketer’s to take back control of their professional self-development and supercharge their careers, along with our growing number of users in HR/P&C/TA.

We’ll also be hosting more face to face events in more locations across Australia, launching new partnerships, shipping more product and continually improving on our MVP.

Eventually we’ll raise our first-pre seed round this year which will obviously supercharge things for us.