Insights of scale... with Noga Edelstein

Noga Edelstein is one of the passionate Board Members here at SBE Australia. Since completing the SBE Australia by Springboard Enterprises program in 2017, she went on to swiftly close a $1M Series A round for UrbanYou; a platform to book trusted, pre-screened household services in real-time. Since being acquired by local services marketplace OneFlare, Noga has been completing her final phase at UrbanYou and she recently finished up. Here she shares what she's learnt through the scaling and earn-out processes, along with her most useful entrepreneurial learnings, gained from her experience at companies such as Yahoo! and also more unlikely places, such as on the stage!

By SBE Australia & Noga Edelstein

Nothing builds resilience like the actor’s auditioning process

Not many people know this about me, but my first career was actually as a professional actor, and I had a number of roles in stage, TV, film & radio productions. Nothing builds resilience and prepares you for failure like the experience of auditioning for acting roles! In many ways the audition process is very similar to pitching for investment, and this early experience taught me that after each “NO” I simply had to pick myself back up, believe in my ability, and move onto the next opportunity.

I ultimately decided I was more suited to a professional career, and went to UNSW to study commerce/law. I spent 15+ years working in senior executive roles at global technology and media companies including Yahoo! and Foxtel, as well as top-tier law firms in Sydney and London.

Find something that’s broken, and fix it

As a busy working professional needing to outsource my household chores, it was obvious that home services was an industry ripe for disruption. My corporate colleagues were constantly complaining that they never had enough time to get things done around the house, yet the process for finding and booking household services was broken. For something as simple as booking a cleaner, people would spend hours online comparing quotes, reading endless reviews, and waiting around for providers who never showed up. I met my co-founder Elke when we both worked at Yahoo!. We had both been on teams responsible for building and launching global technology products, and we knew there had to be a better way. So we quit our day jobs and UrbanYou was born!

The ability to stay calm under pressure is my superpower

The ability to stay calm under pressure, which was honed during my years as a corporate lawyer negotiating multi-billion dollar deals under insane deadlines. I’ve learned that in stressful situations, I can achieve a far better outcome if I take my time and think clearly rather than panicking.

Know Your “Enemies”… or rather Your “Friends”

I’m a big believer in getting to know all the players in your industry, rather than treating them as “the enemy”. This approach served UrbanYou well, especially as we started to think about consolidation opportunities in the Australian market, because we were the first to be approached by competitors looking for strategic opportunities. In 2017 we acquired cleaning marketplace HomeHello which doubled our recurring revenue base and provided a launchpad for national expansion.

The following year, we were actually in the process of closing a fundraise when Oneflare approached us about a possible acquisition. As a traditional lead-gen marketplace, they had identified that local services were moving to a transactional on-demand model. They’d tried to launch their own on-demand service, and realised just how difficult and nuanced it was to execute successfully, so wanted to leapfrog into market-leadership by acquiring UrbanYou. From our perspective the business case was compelling – every month, over 1M Australians go to Oneflare to get jobs done, and they have 100,000 vetted businesses looking for genuine customers. We were able to look at this opportunity strategically and see that combining forces gave UrbanYou an unparalleled opportunity to own the Australian market, which has indeed proved to be the case. As founders, it was important to us that we retained some equity and participation at Board level, so that we can continue to be part of the UrbanYou growth story.

Don’t treat your start-up like a baby, treat it more like a teenager

Undoubtedly the hardest part of being acquired was relinquishing control of the startup we’d devoted our blood, sweat and tears to over the past 5 years. Initially I compared it to watching someone else raise your child, but as we neared the end of our transitional period I came to see that it was more like sending a child off to University – our startup baby was all grown up and it was time to let go of the reigns.

My fourth career chapter

This is a rare opportunity to pause and reflect on what I want to do with the fourth chapter in my career, and I’m enjoying having lots of coffees as I figure it out! I’m taking some time to give back to the startup ecoysystem, and I’m currently mentoring with a number of programs including UNSW Founders, Inspiring Rare Birds, and of course I’m a director on the board of SBE Australia – Springboard Enterprises which supports high-growth women-led companies.

I’m passionate about creating a stronger innovation culture in Australia, and I’ve identified a gap at Board level for directors with real-world experience of growing and scaling a company – especially women! I’m completing my AICD course at the moment, and I’m excited to explore some Board roles which will allow me to combine my legal and startup experience, to shake things up and inject a startup mentality into some more traditional Board cultures. Never a dull moment!