Give us a tour of your background. How did you get started in innovation and entrepreneurship?
I’m very pleased to say that innovation is in my DNA along with creativity and I’ve been working with innovators since the late 1990s that included living in San Francisco during the first DotCom boom/bust. The primary startup philosophy or guide quoted then was Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm. And how wonderful that it retains its relevance today, some 30 years after being released.
By 2001 the startup I was managing had exhausted funds and there were close to zero investments being secured then, so I packed up and returned to Sydney.
I vividly recall being in San Francisco in 1996 to meet with a tech partner, Paul Sutter, who went on to co-found Quantcast, and having a sense of electricity in the air. It was at the birth of the internet and the city and valley literally felt electric. It was a unique experience that, even after 25 years, I can still recall the sense that the world was about to change.
My San Francisco addiction has never wavered and for the past 20 years I have visited what I regard as my second home on average twice each year; until 2020. There’ll be no San Francisco visits this year.
How did you decide to create SEVENmile Venture Lab?
I had worked in Wellington, New Zealand in 2014 for an organization called CreativeHQ, and in my time there I experienced first hand what an impact CreativeHQ was making in the Wellington community. I was certain that my community, the northern beaches area of Sydney, would be perfect for an Aussie version of CreativeHQ. In early 2016 I was recruited to be CEO of a tech startup and I returned to Australia. After 2.5 years in that role I decided the time was right to launch a Not-for-profit to support the entrepreneurs of my part of Sydney, which I would describe as an area similar to Marin County in the Bay Area.
I decided to Post the idea on LinkedIn to test whether there was interest and got a great response, meaning 20,000 views, hundreds of comments and emails of support, that gave me the encouragement to push ahead and form the Not-for-profit entity. That was late in 2018 and we have gone from strength to strength since then.
You recently attended our Testing Business Ideas, Remotely online masterclass? What was that like?
The Testing Business Ideas methodology is indeed a masterclass and so valuable for entrepreneurs to appreciate there needs to be a highly structured approach to formulating and testing business ideas. The online course, Testing Business Ideas, teaches an exact science that yields data and insights for founders and investors to rely on when formulating their growth plans.
I particularly enjoyed David Bland’s facilitation, leading us through the rationale and use-cases for Testing Business Ideas and the tools that David has assembled to support a highly rigorous process.
I would add that in your discussions with potential investors and partners, having data from your work to Test Business Ideas will definitely position you as someone who isn’t building a house-of-cards based on assumptions.
You are in fact carefully constructing a future built on solid foundations.
We spent some time mapping assumptions and designing experiments together. How do you plan on putting that work into action?
As I worked through the exercises I could envision how SEVENmile Venture Lab and the entrepreneurs we support can benefit from applying the Testing Business Ideas methodology. We all know that entrepreneurs tend to want to rush ahead and build the solution they are confident the market wants and needs. All too often the build phase is premature and is based on assumptions that ultimately prove to be invalid leading to great disappointment and heartache.
One of my personal missions at SEVENmile Venture Lab is to help our entrepreneurs complete the groundwork needed to ensure what they build meets a need.
In addition to SEVENmile Venture Lab, what other trends are you excited about in entrepreneurship?
When I think about entrepreneurship these days, it’s framed by my work in our northern beaches community in Sydney where SEVENmile Venture Lab operates. We help people who are not served by the big name accelerators in central Sydney. Our cohorts are filled with mums getting back into business, migrants, over 50s, young people around 18–21.
I know that rebuilding local economies will need people of all ages who can innovate and often it’s because they simply have no other option. A regular job is not on their horizon and they’ve realized the only option is their own business.
We also help tech entrepreneurs who are determined to improve our local, state, national and global economies.
To be honest I get most satisfaction helping people who are innovating to create a new future for themselves and their families. That’s the best thrill I experience just about everyday at SEVENmile Venture Lab.
Thanks for sharing!
If you are interested in a Testing Business Ideas masterclass or coaching, feel free to contact me. Stay safe everyone.