Last month, Miriana Lowrie joined Xero’s International Women’s Day panel discussion. We thought we’d catch up with her about what business is like one year since 1Centre was formed.
It’s been a year since 1Centre threw open its virtual doors, reinventing the trade credit application processes, saving businesses a lot of time and stress by providing instant visibility of the whole process.
For founder and CEO, Miriana Lowrie, it’s been a labour of love for more than three years, with no shortage of learning curves along the way. Simply reaching this one-year milestone has been a massive win. Having the support and backing of some of New Zealand’s most successful business people is another achievement she’s proud of.
An innovative solution to a frustrating process
Miriana recognised the huge pain point endured by suppliers and their customers with on-boarding. As it’s completely manual, the paperwork needed to open a trade account is overwhelming for many. With over 20 years’ experience in banking, this equipped her with the knowledge and tools needed to tackle this frustrating problem.
Along the way there has been a lot of advice from successful founders, business gurus, investors and more. So she picked up the skill of filtering this feedback quite early.
“A key piece of advice I took on early, was to only learn what you need to for the stage you’re at. Introduce more knowledge when you’re ready for it. There is so much ‘stuff’ you need to know and learn when starting a tech company. It can become overwhelming if you don’t narrow your focus, write to-do lists and knock tasks off one by one.”
Other tips included not trying to be the next Xero, Hubspot, Airbnb or Uber – not just yet anyway. “It’s great to have this vision. However, unless you can prove your base proposition works first, you’ll get caught up in conversations you’re not ready for.”
And the others?
“What works for one tech startup might not work for you. Listen to your customers – they will pay and stay if your product adds value to their business”
Collaboration is key
Collaboration has been a crucial part of 1Centre’s success. 1Centre team members, investors, mentors and even 1Centre’s own customers all contribute. “People are so vital in any tech startup. Being a small team, if someone isn’t carrying their weight, it is felt. We all wear multiple hats which makes every day exciting and interesting.”
Miriana says the 1Centre team also relies on their customers to tell them what problems they need solving. “I think they love it! They’re helping to solve their own problems through technology. We have been so fortunate to work with businesses across New Zealand and Australia who are just so giving in their feedback. They’re resilient and excited about using technology to improve their own customer experiences.”
A hit with investors
One group of collaborators keen to get onboard is investors, who recognise the potential of 1Centre’s business model.
“At the beginning it was tough because you’re dealing with some investors who have very different expectations to you. I’ve learnt that not all investors are suited. And that’s okay. I’ve had my fair share of disappointments like many others in my position.”
In another show of business confidence, 1Centre was the recipient of the largest ever investment in a company during a New Zealand accelerator programme. It was from her own iwi, Ngaa Rauru, and was the iwi’s first-ever investment in a technology startup.
Being a Maori female in tech
It’s not just Maori investment in tech that is rare. Miriana says Maori are under-represented across the tech industry as a whole. She wants something to be done to address this.
“Maori are typically quite conservative. In my personal experience they haven’t really seen technology as a career path or option. You don’t have to look far to see not a lot of Maori move through to any type of tertiary or higher education, which is really sad.”
“That’s something I want to help solve, especially in the tech sector. You get involved with what you’re exposed to. My iwi are both from Taranaki (Ngaa Rauru and Te Atiawa). My dream is to support Maori to get involved by offering tech and educational options to secondary school students.”
The year ahead
With a huge year behind of her, Miriana has plans to go even bigger in 1Centre’s second year. She plans to firmly establish 1Centre as the go-to for trade account management solutions in New Zealand and Australia, with expansion underway for the US and UK.
“I see 1Centre continuing to build our team both in New Zealand and Australia. We’re also working on an even bigger and better value proposition which I’ll reveal on our two-year anniversary!”