Ronen Heine created LUNA, a one-stop shop for startups offering everything from legal and financial services to development programs on how to pitch and scale. He tells Hive Life his story.
In his four years as a corporate lawyer, Ronen Heine continuously watched entrepreneurs scramble to get their legal and financial affairs in order in the hope they’d make their business plans a reality. At Australian law firm Arnold Bloch Leiber, his job was to provide high-level corporate and commercial advice to social enterprises – and quickly, he realised that people involved in Melbourne’s burgeoning startup ecosystem desperately needed just the sort of legal guidance he had been giving. So, in 2015, he started LUNA, a full-service studio staffed with lawyers, investment analysts and strategists who mentor and advise entrepreneurs on the technicalities of starting a business. To date, they have helped 500 ventures become a reality. “I was able to learn about what goes into building businesses and after four years there, I found a way to get back to my love of innovation through LUNA,” explains Ronen.
Realising how difficult it was for aspiring entrepreneurs to learn the ropes and jump over all the legal and financial hurdles involved in getting a business off the ground, Ronen saw the opportunity to innovate these services. “It was up to the entrepreneur to find their own accountant or advisor, and they’d just get really lost trying to do that, whereas a more experienced business person would understand how to have those relationships. So, that was the starting point for creating a one-stop-shop service for the more inexperienced business person.”
LUNA helps launch and grow businesses by charging either a fee per product or service, or on a subscription basis depending on the needs of the startup. They also have an education arm that does bi-weekly workshops on building high-performance teams, strategy, marketing, communication skills for pitching to investors and more. “Being a startup studio, our services, workshops and programs go year-round, so our startups receive ‘just-in-time learning and support,’ meaning when they need it most, rather than just during the duration of the accelerator program (which is usually around three months),” says Ronen. Their development programs have even been picked up by external organisations like Monash University and Red Bull Basement University.
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The company puts their money where their mouth is, mentoring some of their chosen ventures to help them craft investment strategies, sometimes going on to introduce them to LUNA’s carefully curated network of investors, or investing themselves. It has all required his team to take their skills as lawyers and deploy them with creativity. “We needed to get our team thinking not just as lawyers, but as general startup strategists using their legal skills. They’re acting as an investment analyst mixed with a lawyer to be able to provide holistic business advice. They need to be able to, on the one hand, provide the best legal service, but also go, ‘Wow, this is an amazing founder. I think we should invest in them.’”
Luna has worked with a variety of startups from Australia’s first female-focused ethical super fund Verve Super to a genetics and health startup Eugene. One of their recent success stories is a ticket resale company called Tixel, a company LUNA was involved with back when it was just an idea. “We played a role in trying to convince them to leave their jobs and give Tixel a go full-time, so we’ve worked with them from the start. We invested; they attended all our education workshops and really became a part of our ecosystem. They started off as two founders building this ticket resale platform for music events with unique technology that allows them to detect if it’s a fraudulent ticket, ensuring consumers’ safety, starting off with little gigs here and there. Fast-forward three years and now their revenue is in the millions; their users are in the hundreds of thousands. They’ve just secured a contract with a huge American ticketing company so they’re moving over to San Francisco next week. They’ve been truly great founders to work with and we’ve been with them along the way.”
To those striving for their own success story, Ronen urges them to stay the course. “A key indicator of success is a founding team’s ability to grow and learn. Especially in the early years, those who learn the most have a higher chance of success. Other key success factors we look at are grit, resilience and vulnerability. Being able to ride the ups and downs of a startup is so critical, so founders who have the grit and resilience to stay the course and then the vulnerability to ask for help also have a better chance of success.” Finally, make sure you’re in the right environment for growth – something he thinks Melbourne more than delivers on. “Location matters. Find the right coworking space. Some spaces will focus on traditional small businesses while others will have a more startup and creative focus. Make sure you’re based in the latter, like at the Hive Collingwood. Also, sign up to the StartupVic newsletter. It drops fortnightly and contains information on local events and opportunities. And finally, pay it forward. Melbournians want to help each other succeed. Helping each other is a currency in Melbourne.”