SheStarts 2018: A question of risk

Whether it’s deciding to move to the other side of the planet or venturing into startup land, sometimes the bigger risk is doing nothing.

Andrèz Coco is currently taking a step many have dreamed about, but few have taken: moving from the world of corporate advisory and starting her startup journey with Knowlly.

While she still consults, her big dream is to get more people using renewable sources of energy by creating an app which makes the process of selecting providers and getting the right information a breeze.

“When you’re not an engineer or an environmentalist, it’s really time-consuming,” she told The Pulse.

“It can be really complex navigating your way through all the different rules and regulations, providers and technical information.”

Coco had wondered, for a couple of years, why people weren’t investing more in solar power for their homes.

“A lot of what’s being pushed out as marketing is coming from – and speaking to – engineers. It’s mostly engineers running the businesses,” said Coco.

“So, the focus is on getting solar panels on roofs and less on the rest of the customer lifecycle.”

As somebody with extensive experience in customer experience and design thinking with Vodafone in the Netherlands and Australia, NAB Labs and Qantas it was maddening to see.

But it was only when SheStarts came on the horizon that she was inspired to take action. After moving to the other side of the planet, taking the leap into startup land didn’t seem so bad.


The shots you don’t take


Coco moved from the Netherlands to Australia in 2014 with Vodafone, a move those around her saw as daunting. She saw it as an opportunity.

“When I started talking to people [about the move], they thought it was a big deal,” she said.

“What about your home, you just bought a new place, and what about this, and what about that? What about your family? But to me it didn’t seem daunting at all – because I knew I could always go back.

“I was at a point in my career where I knew that it wasn’t a big deal to find another job, so it was all good. I really left with lots of excitement.”

For Coco, there simply was no downside.

“All of a sudden you’re in a new world all by yourself, and the world really feels like your oyster,” said Coco. “You’re starting to rediscover yourself, and as part of that you start to think about new goals.”

READ: SheStarts 2018: Finding your story

With this new mindset she followed her curiosity back into consulting – and when the opportunity to participate in SheStarts came up, she said the bigger risk would have been not going for it.

“The actual failure here would be to not do anything,” sad Coco. “Or to turn away from it without pursuing it and seeing if something’s there – just like with [moving to] Australia.”

“Not going would have created a ‘what if’ situation, and that’s the bigger failure.

“This was a really great opportunity that I took to see what would happen if I was to take that step, start my own business in an area that I feel passionate about, and can leave a sustainable imprint on this planet.”

With an appetite for risk and a curiosity to try new things, she says the biggest lesson in the SheStarts accelerator has been discipline and resilience.


Pushing through


That pressure to get things done may be a great motivator, but it’s also a great source of stress – which is why Coco has learned the value of resilience.

“When running your own business, you’re responsible for everything,” she said.

“But you also need to be comfortable that while being true to your vision, things are changing all the time…so you have to let go of things.

“Things don’t work out the way you want. Things go live, and you’re not happy with it, but you have to keep going and keep pushing forward and make it better each time.”

Coco also said she had to become more comfortable with blurring the lines between her personal and professional lives.

“Your whole personal and professional life just merges in a way that it’s sometimes hard to see those lines as separate, and it’s up to you to manage that,” she said.

But, in the end there’s no preparation for it – you just have to do it.

“Up until now, the biggest learning I’ve had is that all this is something you can only learn by experiencing it,” she said. “So, you need to go through a program like this to just have it in your face and just basically push through.”

The key is to approach it as an opportunity, rather than a risk.

After all, the bigger risk is to do nothing.