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StartCon 2017: The power of content and the rise and rise of automation

By | December 4, 2017

Hub39 marketing manager John Durrant spent two days in Sydney last week for the 2017 StartCon conference – now Australia’s largest growth and startup conference. Here’s his highlights from the event.

Walking into the 2017 StartCon conference on Friday was an exciting experience.

Grasping an event schedule that read like a who’s who of some of the world’s most successful businesses and being greeted by stall holders in the buzzing ground floor expo made me instantly thankful that I’d taken time out my busy schedule to go.

From Microsoft and Pinterest to Salesforce and Stripe, StartCon assembled a group of speakers to rival just about any tech and business conference in the world.

There were two strong themes that seemed to dominate much of the talk at StartCon 2017 – the power of content and the importance of harnessing automation.

The only downside to the event was sometimes having to choose between two awesome speakers who were speaking at the same time on different stages.

Here are my highlights:

StartCon day 1

Joanna Lord of ClassPass was a rip-roaring way to kick the 2017 conference off. Her seminar centred around the strategies in organising teams, processes and channels to maximise growth.


Top takeaway: That sometimes we learn most when things go wrong… and that everything can and should be challenged.

John Egan is a name you’ll know if you keep an eye on Silicon Valley movers and shakers. He leads the line for growth at Pinterest.

His talk was all about highlighting mistakes that can hurt your growth. There were quite a few in there which had never really occurred to me. A couple – including being data driven, not a democracy – made my heart sing, as a marketing manager who loves to wax lyrical about the power of data.

Top takeaway: It’s important to know what your weaknesses are but focus on your strengths and double down on them.

Larry Diamond delivered a fantastically thought-provoking seminar on alternative payments. Given the current rise of cryptocurrency this was especially relevant.

Larry’s company ZipMoney is a $100m-plus ASX listed business.

Top takeaway: Focus on your key differentiators and think about integrating with other services.

StartCon day 2

Guillaume Cabane of Drift delivered a spellbinding talk on marketing automation. It wasn’t just me who thought so. As we were leaving the auditorium a group of five or six entrepreneurs in front of me were positively buzzing about his talk. I must admit I felt the same.

His company Drift is a leader in predictive marketing automation and whilst I don’t fully believe that we’ll be at the content creation stage of automation with any great success for a while, I do think we are already in the age of the ‘who’ and ‘when’ of marketing automation, as Guillaume explained.

Top takeaway: Learning about a whole load of new marketing intent and marketing automation tools that I didn’t know existed!

Matthew Gallagher is the founder of Watch Gang – a subscription-based watch company. You’re probably thinking the same as I did. Why would someone want a new watch every month? Well, it turns out plenty people do… and by turning his subscription customers into a community Matthew was able to build a successful business.

Top takeaway: Real content and the storytelling of your company’s journey can be an incredibly powerful way to turn customers into defenders of your brand.

Red Bull athlete Mark Mathews delivered something just a little different. Mark’s job as a big wave surfer is to confront fear on an almost daily basis.


Top takeaway: No one is born fearless. We all must face fear at some point and once we accept that fear is a natural response that we all get, it makes it easier to deal with.

Jeff Sandquist was the man behind developer relations at Twitter and he’s now on a quest to take Microsoft to new heights.


Jeff’s talk was perhaps one of the most surprising of the conference. You don’t expect engineers who spend their lives consumed by algorithms to be preaching about the power of content, but that’s exactly what he did.

He showed how his team’s approach to thinking about the content first allowed them to build a powerful group of influencers.

Top takeaway: It’s simple. Start. With. Great. Content.

Dennis Yu and Logan Young of BlitzMetrics went down the practical route with their talk. They’ve spent billions of dollars on Facebook advertising, so they’re well placed to talk about what works and what doesn’t.

Dennis Yu and Logan Young

The Facebook advertising walkthrough (and free online course!) on how to scale your Facebook advertising for a dollar a day was intriguing and very easy to follow. We’ll report back on the results from the steps we implement…

Top takeaway: Facebook’s algorithm is going to continue to reward quality video content.

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