Resident Showcase: Casey Davies-Bell

Angus Pauley interviews fellow Startup Dunedin Community manager Casey Davies-Bell.

How did you come across The Distiller?
I first came across the The Distiller after attending the 2015 Startup Weekend. I didn’t even know we had co-working spaces in Dunedin at that point and had been working from a friends garage that leaked!

When I first came in 3 years ago, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Back then there were a couple of people that used it but for the most part it was empty. I was made to feel welcome by the then community manager Jason Beck and quickly become friends with the other residents. I remember thinking it was pretty awesome to have an actual office building to work on my idea.

Do you follow a particular process when you meet a new Start-up? What does that process look like?
Often the first move is to get them to come into the Distiller for coffee, or on a 31 degree Dunner Stunner like today, a cold glass of water. I like to meet face to face to hear them out and listen to their idea first, as well as get a feeling for them as a person.

I find this important for a couple reasons - people come in at all different shapes with ideas at all different stages. There is no one size fits all solution so it’s important to listen and give help based on their unique situation. Usually the most valuable next move is a relevant connection, introduction to tools like the Lean Canvas, covering upcoming events, or making them feel welcome to use the free co-working space.

Coming to the Distiller for the first conversation is non-committal and an easy way for someone to feel out the environment and network directly with other entrepreneurs and Do’ers. Fittingly, we usually conclude with a tour of the Distiller and introductions to the other residents.

What’s the most common mistake you see in an early stage start-up?
There are two.

The first is feeling it is imperative to be secretive and coy about sharing the idea incase someone pinches it. The reality is you are significantly more likely to fail due to the execution whether you don't understand the market or have an internal breakdown in your team. The more help you can get the more you stack the odds in your favor. Of course there are exceptions like ideas that need a patent, but they are few and far between.

The second is ‘project creep’ - wanting to start big. Startups are usually under resourced so it is important to be strategic about what you pursue first. It’s not to say you shouldn’t have big aspirations, but starting small and acting now can’t be stressed enough. Startups don’t starve from ideas, they drown in them. You really want to build an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and take it from the assumption you are almost certainly going to be wrong on some logic you have - and that is okay. The goal should then be to test your assumptions in the real market and scale what works.

Is there part of your job you find particularly enjoyable? 
One of my favorite parts is getting to meet and hopefully help people working on all sorts of different projects. I get a kick out of trying to join the dots and find solutions for problems. In particular I really like commercial ideas that try and solve global problems - I see enterprise as a powerful vehicle for change, good or bad, and we have the power to make it good.

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What is one thing you wish you had more time for?
I really want to get back into surfing. I snapped my board a while ago and haven’t made the time to get back into it. St Clair and Black Head are my go to spots.

What 2-3 books have most profoundly affected your life in recent memory?
‘Zero to One’ by Peter Thiel is a must read for any startup. ‘The E Myth Revisited’ by Michael E. Gerber is also great for any small business. My favorite for sure is ‘Elon Musk - Tesla, SpaceX and the quest for a fantastic future’ by Ashlee Vance.

What Startup Dunedin event are you most excited for in 2018 or have talked about most to other people?
Definitely Startup Weekend. It’s amazing to watch people exceed their own expectations of what they are capable of in such a short time. Also the opportunity for connecting with other entrepreneurs and leaders in the space in a single event is arguably second to none.

Do you have a strange habit, or something which you do that even you, yourself, consider absurd or odd?
I enjoy working from the Distiller so much that I actually have an alarm to tell me to go home at 7pm! Of course I have been known to ignore this from time to time.

And finally Casey DaviesBell, who is your favourite co-worker?
Well I certainly have a lot in common with Angus, including our birthday!

Interview BY ANGUS PAULEY

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