Want to build a successful startup? Startup mentor and investor Constantine Georgiou shares what it really takes.  

After 18 years in the corporate world with companies like NCR and Dimension Data, Constantine “Con” Georgiou found that corporate life wasn’t really right for him.

During a lengthy process, something that he remembers was much “like peeling of an onion”, he discovered that entrepreneurship was his calling.

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Jumping from corporate employee to startup founder

Along with co-founders, Frank Cuiuli and Jamie Pride, Constantine started a management consultancy in 2009 for improving customer engagement called Velteo.

Constantine recalls that the first six months were a period of anxiety, but they quickly picked up the pace and created a niche for themselves in the market.

Velteo ended up in partnership with Salesforce.com and, in the course of a couple of years, became the premier Salesforce implementation partner. This led to an acquisition by Bluewolf Global in 2012.

After the exit, Constantine spent more time navel-gazing before he realised that more money does not bring him more happiness. He embarked on a journey to transcend his own self and ended up starting a not-for-profit called One Million Acts of Innovation. Afterwards, he joined a Venture Capital (VC) firm in order to help boost more founders.

In short, over the past five years Constantine has had the pleasure of educating and guiding more than three hundred startups through minimum 12 hour boot-camps. His experience in human development and social work (in which he has a degree) has helped him propel a great number of startups up through the Australian market.

All that experience and expertise led to Constantine reuniting with and co-founding education startup The Founder Lab with Jamie Pride.

Related: How to Build a Life and a Business Around Your Passion


Uncovering the biggest block to business success: culture

Peeling back that onion meant that it took a stretch of 18-20 years and various corporate positions in 10 companies for Constantine to realize that something was very wrong.

Wherever he obtained a higher level of seniority and responsibility he found that he just didn’t have the kind of support that he felt he needed in order to thrive.

The issue was about the “me” culture versus the “we” culture. This is a major issue in corporate business everywhere.

Constantine is a man who runs on success culture instead of a coin culture, and he wished that those who worked with him were sharing the same vision. He realized that he wouldn’t be able to assert the success culture until he ran his own business.

In fact, as he summed up his two decades of corporate experience, he gathered all the insight about what not to do with his own company.

He told himself: “I’m not going to do that when I get the chance to be in charge”, and that attitude has brought him to where he stands today.

Veltio’s culture and business ethics put them in the 1% of businesses who accomplish a successful exit. That stance is what made them different and desirable.


The psychological price of entrepreneurship

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Being a startup founder is by no means a simple task.

Beyond the tactical and practical challenges of finding and keeping good people, generating revenue, joining a supportive community, and finding the right suppliers to enable growth, it’s common for founders to face issues of isolation, imposter syndrome, and other mental challenges.

Research shows that 72% of founders suffer from some form of mental health issue, with around 49% of them already having a serious episode of anxiety or depression.

Recently 33-year-old Matt Berriman, CEO of adtech Australian startup Unlockd, stepped down as CEO citing mental health challenges. It was a startling reminder to the startup world that founder mental health struggles are very much real, and founders typically experience a range of mental disorders.

Constantine and his team are actively doing something to support founders through these and other challenges as they strive towards building something great.

Related: The Dark Side of Entrepreneurship: 2018 Data & Resources for Help


Building better founders

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When we asked him about what they do in The Founder Lab, Constantine simply answers: “We build better founders”.

After he conducted various research with VCs, he found out that the biggest portfolio problem with startups were the founders, and they could do nothing about it besides a few coaching courses.

What this comes down to, according to Constantine, is that better humans make better businesses.

Better humans make better businesses. Click To Tweet
Constantine and his dedicated team work to boost founders through founder capacity development, specifically improving three leadership traits of adaptability, awareness, and resilience.

“The common misconception is that a startup requires 5 grand for initiation and website registration – voila, you’re done, zero risk, you have successfully become a founder!

Nothing can prepare you for the journey of a startup. Startup is the most stressful environment that you’ll ever experience in your life.”

Constantine knows – he has seen more than 300 startup founders through his bootcamps.


The 3 Traits That All Great Founder Possess

Those who possess those three qualities – adaptability, awareness, and resilience – are those who are the most likely to succeed.

The point is that If you don’t develop yourself, you’re going to get squeezed out. That’s the harsh reality.


The brand awareness challenge

When asked about The Founder Lab and the biggest challenges they have faced to date, Constantine says that they lack brand – the business is brand new.

The mitigating circumstance is that he and his co-founder can build upon reputation from their past companies and successes, but hacking attention is getting harder and harder as Constantine has noticed.

“The biggest challenge? Bringing your experience to people who don’t know you.”

It’s one challenge they are ready to take on.

Related: How to Build a Meaningful Brand


Embrace failure & feedback – natural elements of growing successful startups

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Failing is a part of the growth process, and adopting an evidence-based approach instead of an opinion-based one ensures that all experience serves towards your success.

His co-founder, Jamie, has even written a book about their experiences called Unicorn Tears: Why Startups Fail and How To Avoid It, so feel free to check it out.

You'll never invent anything new, amazing and unique unless you're risking failure every day. Click To Tweet
Additionally, Constantine and his team are big advocates of asking for and receiving direct and constructive feedback from people who care enough to be honest.

“There’s no value in the pat on the back – but there’s value in showing me my blind spots and helping me identify my weak points. This is the only way to get any progress.”  

Related: The Fear of Having to Go Back to Corporate and How to Avoid It


Stoicism: an Ancient Greek philosophy worth adopting today  

Stoicism in business ethics is something that Constantine propagates through the various bootcamps and programmes of The Founder Lab.

Self-inquiry and self-realization leads to discoveries that help you innovate more effectively, negotiate more fiercely, and make faster and better decisions.

Tim Ferriss, early-stage tech investor, best-selling author and podcaster, credits stoicism as the tool that he’s found the most reliable for managing his emotions and making his best business decisions.


Chasing goosebumps and anxiety

In the end, what makes Constantine return to his work is not money, but goosebumps. He loves what he does, and measures that by comparing the amount of zeal he got from his previous positions and his work with The Founder Lab.

The right amount of anxiety is what fuels him through the day – time passes by and he augments his performance according to the feels he, well, feels.


Parting Advice

As a parting advice for the BLG community, Constantine says that you should question everything.

“Who could you be if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

“How many more attempts will you undergo to get that customer?”

Seek the questions instead of answers in order to progress.

Connect with Con on The Founder Lab site, join The Founder Circle, and attend some of their bootcamps in Sydney and Melbourne.

Thank you, Constantine, for sharing your story and helping us guide the future startups out of the corporate!

Want to listen to the full interview with Constantine Georgiou on the Build Live Give podcast? Tune in here.

Want some help to grow your startup business faster? Download our free “6 Steps to $20K monthly revenue” Checklist now.