When running a business you’d like to be across everything. If there’s a problem coming around the corner, you’d want to know about it before it’s too late. If a potential investor or customer asked you a question, you’d want to have an answer for them. However, knowing what’s going on doesn’t need to involve you doing everything yourself. Being able to delegate and trust the people around you are essential characteristics of a good leader…. so I’m starting to learn.
All things considered, I like to think I’m a pretty easy-going guy. However, I’m sure if you spoke with my business partners (or ex-girlfriends) they might tell you that I can be a stubborn bastard sometimes. When it comes to Prevyou, I have to admit that I have a tendency to become fixated on certain ideas. When I get excited about a new possibility or a way we could be doing things I can be very hard to convince otherwise, which can make me difficult to work with.
The other problem my obsession with Prevyou can create is the tendency for me to feel the need to be involved in everything. Rather than delegating a set of responsibilities to Leo, I feel the need for us to collaborate on a lot of the work. Collaborating makes sense for the high-level strategy work, but when it comes to the day-to-day operations it can feel like you’re stepping on each other’s toes.
These issues arise from the fact that I become very attached to my ideas, too attached. Being a creative thinker is a useful quality. However, as we know, ideas are very cheap – there’s a million of them down at the pub – what matters is how well you can actually execute them. I’m starting to realise that if Prevyou is going to succeed it will need to be driven by more people than just Leo and I. This means letting go of some of the control, learning how to delegate tasks to others and doing my best to support them to succeed. It’s easy to say that, however, I know putting it into practice is going to require some work.
After that opening, you might think that it was a bad week for us, but it wasn’t. This week was a really fun week for us. We had the chance to attend a pretty special event, took a road trip to Canberra and made some significant progress on our service.
The biggest breakthrough was deciding to delegate the roles within Prevyou, which is what I’m planning on talking about in more detail below. But before I do that I’m sure you dying to hear how the other teams are getting on?
(Isuru burning the late night oil in the EduGrowth offices)
After 4 weeks of seeing Isuru pull 16 hour days and never look tired, I have a strong suspicion that he might, in fact, be a robot. An app building robot sent back from the future to teach children mathematics. Jokes aside, Isuru has been working incredibly hard four weeks building a demo for his product, which you can find here. It’s a seriously addictive game. Now the plan is to get it in the hands of some kids for some proper user testing, to inform the build for the complete version.
(Jeannette from EduGrowth taking Lifeisyellow for a spin)
The ever calm and in control Ria appears to be handling the accelerator lifestyle extremely well. After 4 weeks, Craftsposure has launched a few new courses including this free course on building an Instagram community. Having an audience of 300,000 followers is a huge asset for Ria. The focus for Craftsposure is on building the educational material to distribute to this massive community.
The reason for the asterisk is that JIFox is in the process of a rebrand. After weeks of tossing around different naming ideas, the Fox brothers have settled on Revision Village as the new name – it does have a nice startup-y ring to it. Besides the rebrand, the Fox brothers have been plugging away with their revision products, which is now a massive database of exam prep content. Once the build is over, the plan is to shift the focus onto marketing in time for the May exam period – exciting times.
(a sneak peak at some of the new logo designs for Revision Village – courtesy of 99designs)
Liv has been in a similar place to us for the first few weeks. The focus has more been on the overall strategy, rather than building anything. However, after a couple of unfortunate events involving laptops falling off of scooters, Liv has managed to create a workable prototype of her app. Whilst still a very rough version, it’s enough to start getting into the hands of users for some testing. The plan is to gather data from those tests to feedback into the design of version 2.
Of course, we can’t forget about EduGrowth, which like most accelerators is a startup itself. The EduGrowth team have been working away tirelessly to build up their audience group and hash out the content of some really exciting up and coming programs. If you’re interested in learning more about the great resources on offer check out the website, join the newsletter and come along to the meetups! – all at once, please.
What we’ve been up to
This week we spent most of our time outside the office, so rather than talking about what we learned, I’m going to talk about what we did.
This has to be one of the better experiences that I’ve had as a founder. We applied to take part also a month ago but honestly had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. It was simply advertised as an event, being run by the Department of International Trade, involving 50 local startups and some amazing prizes. We were told to head to house in Vaucluse on Monday night and await further instructions, very intriguing
Catching the bus out to Vaucluse was a surreal experience for two humble guys from Perth. As we ventured deeper into the most expensive postcodes in Australia I was wondering if my decision to wear jeans and a t-shirt was a wise one – perhaps the Tuxedo would have been more appropriate?
The event was hosted at the UK ambassador’s house (Mansion) and was fully catered. Leo and I strategically positioned ourselves next to the kitchen, to take advantage of the catering situation (duck pancakes are certainly a step up from Tuna and rice). There was a air of uncertainty hanging around as none of us had actually been told what the games would involve. I was mentally preparing myself for a whole range of possibilities, perhaps a jousting contest or an amazing race around the city?
Finally, we were called to silence to hear the details of the contest. Alas, no jousting contest – but something even more exciting, a pitching contest. Rather than your typical pitching format, where each team runs through a slide deck this one would test our Entrepreneurial hustle. They had designed a special app for the event. We’d each been given $1 million, which we could use to purchase shares in any of the other startups. The deal was that we needed to pitch one another for the investment. The winning team was the one with the highest valuable after the 24 hours and there would also be a prize for the savviest investor. With that edge of competitiveness in the air we all settled into what could only be described as networking on steroids, as each team looked to pitch their case for investment.
(Me playing a game of hand crush with one of the investors – notice the look of pain in his eyes)
The event couldn’t have come at a better time for us. Having only just settled on our new model a week ago, this was our chance to put it to the test and really refine our messaging. The game was more an excuse for us to network with one another and build connections. Rather than just making small talk, we actually got to find out what the other teams were doing and get some real feedback. Having just moved to Sydney this gave us the chance to gain a perspective on the Startup scene and build some really handy connections.
Unfortunately, we didn’t take out the first prize – which went to Nod a startup part of the H2 accelerator. We would have won the investor prize if we weren’t disqualified for investing all our money in the one go, which is apparently ‘not in the spirit of the game’. All in all, we had a great time and had the chance to enjoy ourselves and recharge after a frantic first few weeks.
The Open Universities conference
The other big event for the week was a trip to Canberra for the Open Universities conference. On Friday we had the chance to attend the Graduate Employability forum, where a group of Universities, Government agencies and students discussed this very topical subject. The day involved a series of presentations and panel discussions and concluded with a focus group-style discussion with a group of current students and recent graduates from around the country.
In the morning we heard Nobel prize winner and VC of ANU professor Brian Schmidt speak about what he described as the impending disruption of the higher education sector. He spoke about the complexities of trying to balance business intentions with academic when running work experience programs. The balance of finding experiences that are both enriching for the students and beneficial for the host organisations is at the heart of the problem we’re trying to solve. Professor Schmidt flagged the German cooperative learning model as the benchmark for a higher education system that delivers employability outcomes.
The overall themes from the conference were:
- It seems that Universities are paying much more attention the issue of Graduate Employability than ever before;
- A solution to this problem will require the buy in from Employers, Educators and Students and probably will need to involve a bit of compromise on all sides.
- Finding ways for students to learn in a practical setting is the most direct way to build employability skills.
- Australia will need to create around 100,000 new opportunities to gain practical experience if it’s to be able to keep up with demand from students.
What’s changed for us
Now that we’re set our new course, there hasn’t been a great amount of change for us this week – which was a bit of a relief honestly…
Divide and conquer
The most significant change for the week involved how we structure the workload. After taking the feedback from Riley and Ben onboard, we’ve decided the best way forward is to divide the responsibilities down the middle. Rather than sharing tasks, we’ll each be responsible for a certain aspect of the business and fully accountable to delivering those outcomes. When you think about it, this makes much more sense than what we were doing previously. With ownership of a task, comes a greater sense of commitment and accountability.
The fact that we’re creating a marketplace, makes the roles relatively simple to divide. Leo is going to be handling our student marketing efforts and our website. Digital marketing is something that Leo’s been looking to sink his teeth into for a while now so this is the perfect opportunity. I’ll be handling the Employer marketing and content design, which is where my skills are best suited. Last year I did a lot of B2B marketing when we were signing up Employers for our jobs platform, whilst I’ve spent the summer trying to learn everything I possibly could about creating engaging educational content.
The plan for next week
Next week is all about getting in front of our potential customers and trying to build some traction. We have the goal of getting a pilot program off the group before the end of the month, with at least 10 startups and 30 students on board. With a new website up and running and a list of 100 startups around Australia to target it’s going to be a busy week ahead!
Until next time,