The Fold 1st Edition
â€“ Welcome The Fold 1st Edition
Welcome to the ďŹ rst edition of The Fold.
The Fold is a magazine series created by the Activator team to keep you up to date on our latest offerings and bring you highlights from the Activator startup community. The Fold aims to give you a look inside some of the experiences taking place at Activator HQ, as well as take you into the unique journeys of the startup teams we are supporting. In this issue, we introduce you to three talented founders working on solving diverse challenges as well as highlighting some of the wins and achievements of our Alumni teams. The first edition also highlights a brand new Activator experience designed specifically for RMIT staff to explore new ways of learning delivery. We hope you enjoy your read of the first edition!
Please share any thoughts with us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Trust that’s easy to prove -Reputationaire Meet Andrew Hine, Co-Founder of Reputationaire. Reputationnaire is an innovative online platform with a mission to create a future where trust is easy to prove; on the basis of established online reputation. We recently sat down with Andrew to hear about his entrepreneurial journey.
What does your business do? We’ve created an app that allows our users to provide proof of ownership over the ratings and reviews they’ve built up on almost any website; so that organisations can access this data. This allows our users to save time and money during application processes. Where did you get the idea for your business? The idea came about when my life partner, Co-Founder and CTO, Dee migrated to Australia from India two and a half years ago. She had a permanent residency and a job lined up as a manager at Redbubble. She had booked an Airbnb, thinking she’d need it for about a week whilst she looked for permanent accomodation in the CBD. Unfortunately, she kept getting rejected for her rentals because she had no rental references in Australia (her Indian references weren’t accepted).
After six weeks the Airbnb was getting pretty expensive, and Dee was thinking “I can get any Airbnb I like because I’m a good guest, what’s the difference between that and a normal rental?” She decided she
could use that to prove she was a reliable, clean and rent-paying tenant. She actually printed out those reviews and gave that to the estate agent, which helped her finally secure a rental. And so, Reputationnaire was born. How did you turn your initial idea into a business? I’ve always been interested in the idea of reputation, I used to be the UK’s largest online ant supplier. I used to sell them on eBay - before they banned live animal sales. My rating was obviously super important because that’s the first thing customers look at. I was
also a private tutor, so all my student testimonials were very important in terms of building trust in me because obviously parents are sending their kids to someone who is essentially a stranger. Needless to say, I’d always realised the inherent value of reputation, but it had always been locked away in that certain domain, and wasn’t really applicable across the board. I started looking at blockchain at the start of 2017 and realised that was finally a way to give people proof of ownership of their ratings and reviews. Much like Bitcoin, users of Reputationaire have a private key which they can selectively use to give people access to information. It allows you to prove you are skilled, reliable and trustworthy. What has been the biggest challenge so far on your business journey? The biggest challenge has definitely been commercialisation. My co-founder and I are both tech founders, so building the blockchain product was the easy bit. We didn’t start very lean; we built the product but we kept it very generic on purpose. IBM awarded us $220,000 in service credits to help us build the product and we were also granted the government R&D incentive grant. As we are both tech founders, determining the best product market fit, in terms of which organisations and sectors would need this the
What are your top tips for starting a business? Build something people want. We didn’t take the lean approach, which in hindsight could have been a mistake, but I was pretty confident with the concept.
Sell it before you’ve built it. Ask yourself who your product would best service and speak to them as soon as possible to validate the idea. Launch early. Don’t spend a long time building the product, because you may build something no one actually wants which happened to us in a way. We’d sold the product then had to add features within the space of two days to meet the customer’s needs. What has been the best part of your journey at Activator so far? I think the individual attention and support from the mentors – we’ve done a blockchain incubator, Y Combinator Startup school and lots of other LaunchVic courses but none of those had the level of attention Activator provides. Adding to that, the ongoing support from Activator Startup Coach Matt and Expert-In-Residence Dave, and having them really understand our business has been second to none.
My life mantra is to make a signiﬁcant improvement to the world that I can be remembered for. I’m hoping that by allowing people to prove that they are skilled, reliable and trustworthy through Reputationaire, we can make a positive impact on people’s lives - which is why we’re doing it. most, has been a slow learning curve. If we did this interview about a year and a half ago, you wouldn’t be able to understand what our business was about. It’s taken a long time and a lot of different marketing courses and accelerators to be able to articulate our business and the benefits of what we’re doing.
Five people (dead or alive) you’d love to have dinner with? Albert Einstein, so I can try and understand how he was so smart. Also Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and Elon Musk and maybe someone crazy like Arnold Schwarzenegger - just to mix it up!
What is the best piece of business advice you have received? Really understanding who and which sector your product or service will have the biggest value add for. You need to figure out how to target your product towards their pain points. I’m not great at sales but I’ve learned that when you go into a sales meeting, it’s best to let the other person do all the talking. You can then go away and think about what they’ve said and return with a customised solution – don’t try to problem solve or even sell your product within the meeting.
What does 2019 holds for the team at Reputationaire? Working with Matt we’ve realised we need to focus on finding our niche in the market, and how we can create the biggest value add for organisations. We’ve also realised that we need a large volume recruiter. We recently met with the company that supplies people for the Australian Open, so we’re hopeful that we can get a partnership with one of those and run a project that will bring significant users to our platform and increase brand recognition for us. That’s what we’re aiming for this year!
– Discover better restaurants, faster -Hood Food Guide We recently sat down with Tom Nijam, Co-Founder of Hood Food Guide. Hood Food Guide provides a restaurant recommendations from chefs and restaurant owners. It’s a platform connecting chefs and diners in every neighbourhood. This is Tom’s entrepreneurial story. Where did you get the idea for your business? The idea come to me when I was sitting in a cafe in Trunk Diner, I had a few clients who were restaurant owners and chefs, so every time I was going out to dinner I would ask them for a recommendation and it was always super helpful. I thought to myself, other people should have access to this too, and the rest is history. My friend Sanjay (co-founder) was a barista at the time as well as a film director, we thought why not get a list together and film a show? We filmed three shows and they went a lot better than expected. Coming from backgrounds in advertising and films you kind of make something and wait for people to just say, “Oh it’s shit”. But at least you learn from that for next time, but with this, no one has told us it’s bad (yet)! Chefs started getting in contact with us to be in the show, and then Virgin Australia picked it up to featured it in all flights – that was a pretty big moment for us and we realised then we were onto something. We’re aiming to be shooting more shows in the next three to six months. What has been the biggest challenge so far? Dealing with developers can be a bit of a challenge, we’re onto our third set now. It’s just a money thing, with very limited funds, we’re just basically bootstrapping the idea ourselves. We had one app built overseas which was very very poor - it was the most expensive lesson I’ve learned to date. The second app was strong but we went overseas and, when you don’t have money, you lose time, and that process took about twelve months. The third revision is the strongest thing we’ve ever done.
What is the best piece of advice you have received? Talk to your customers more than anyone else – you can only get yourself so far, customers take you the rest of the way.
What made you want to join Activator? Being an RMIT Alumni, I needed an environment to work on the idea. I needed this thing to progress to the next level and get out of my bedroom, so I reached out to Activator. The thing I liked is that this program is run by a university so I felt that it would be quite educational and supportive. We didn’t need hardcore business entrepreneurs, even though that’s also fantastic, education is something we needed much more. When did you decide to work on Hood Food Guide full time? I decided not to take on any new work in September 2018, since doing that it’s been the most progress I’ve ever experienced. It’s exciting but it’s stressful. You know what you should do but it’s hard to just do it. All this thing needs at the moment is someone to breathe time into it. We’ve gotten the amount of progress we would get in two years in about three months. What has been the best part of your Activator experience so far? The community is pretty good. In your day to day life you’re surrounded by your friends and family, but here you’re surrounded by people going through the same stuff, so theres a level of understanding that’s nice.
The culture here at Activator is really supportive. It’s results driven but it’s business and personal growth driven too. People here care about how you’re growing as a person and teaching you resilience, which is important.
Your biggest business inspiration? Elon Musk and my brother - he has a very successful agriculture business. I’ve seen how hard he has worked (twenty hour days), coming home and doing ninety minutes of bookkeeping, then sleeping for two hours, and then doing that for two years. It’s just that pure drive and faith. What does 2019 look like for you? Heaps! Watch this space.
– Daniel Tan is skyrocketing to success
Meet Daniel Tan, production manager and Co-Founder of Pencil Rocket. Pencil Rocket is a full-service content creator founded in Melbourne, with a focus on marketing and branding for clients across corporates, SMEs and start-ups. What is your business? Basically, if you have a unique story, we want to be the people to help you tell that story through videos and social media management. What makes Pencil Rocket diﬀerent? When we started we were a video production house, soon we realised clients didn’t just want the video they wanted the things that come with the video. They wanted brand awareness and conversion, so we pivoted to providing a holistic social media management business. We become your organisation’s social media marketing team – you outsource all of it to us – the only thing we need you (as the client) to do is reply to direct messages. The thing that makes us different is that we provide a lot of video content, as opposed to just images. These videos are optimised for social media; we play around with 3D effects, borders and shapes so that we can attract customers attention.
Where did you get the idea for your business? Demand - we didn’t plan on it. We love filmmaking and we were working on a project of our own where we went around interviewing successful entrepreneurs. The client really liked what we were doing and they wanted to pay us for another video. We hired two more people, a graphic designer and marketing manager – Nathan my co-founder does the videos. People came to us for videos and we would upsell our social media management, and tackle the true problem. What has been the biggest challenge so far? For a long time we couldn’t find good people that were able to do videos at the quality we wanted. That was a big problem. As a result Nathan had to work full-time on Pencil Rocket to produce all the videos. Another issue we had was time management because when you are just starting out you don’t know how much of your time is spent effectively. We often found that we spent a lot of time on something and we didn’t get the results we wanted.
Top 3 tips for aspiring entrepreneurs?
1. Do. Don’t think too much. 2. Surround yourself with people that you admire. 3. Search for mentors that you look up to! What made you want to join Activator? We are so young, we need the support to make sure we are on the right path. We wanted to surround ourselves with people who are passionate and have big dreams. The kind of guidance Activator provides is so amazing so that I sometimes feel guilty! I’ve asked myself why are these people at Activator helping us and they’re just so giving! The people here are honest, good, genuine people. What has been the best part of your Activator experience so far? I love Dave (Branding Expert-In-Residence), I don’t
think we’ve met any person who has understood our business as well as Dave. He started a video production house himself, so he knew exactly what we were going through. We’ve gotten a lot of great advice and it’s given us clarity on a lot of problems and different ways to look at things. Who is your biggest business inspiration? Gary Vaynerchuk. He is an entrepreneur that started a media company and he’s basically mine and Nathan’s biggest inspiration. He preaches all these good values around what it means to be a really good business person and how to be patient, working hard and how giving more value than you receive can make you a better individual and business person. What does 2019 look like for you? We are doing a YouTube series with a former masterchef contestant, Jess, which we will be releasing by the end of June. We are also thinking of moving into a permanent co-working space in the city.
Don’t be afraid to provide value ﬁrst. Because if you provide value to someone there is almost no possible way they will not want to compensate you for that value, if you help them they want to help you. Life has a way of paying it back to you!
– takes home gold at LIT Design Awards
Congratulations to Sam McKenzie, Founder and Creative Director of Acustico Lighting and former Activator LaunchHUB participant. Acustico’s ‘Acoustic Pendant Lighting’ collection was recently awarded first place in the Pendant Lighting category at the esteemed LIT Lighting Design Awards. The LIT Design Awards™ are based in LA and were created to recognise the efforts of talented international lighting product designers and lighting implementers. LIT believe that lighting is both an art and a science, and it is one of the most important elements of design. LIT was envisioned to celebrate the creativity and innovation in the fields of lighting products and application. Sam has been working around the clock for the past 18 months creating the collection of pendant lighting under her new brand Acustico Lighting so it is fantastic to see her efforts rewarded with the prestigious award. Sam credits a big part of her success to her time at Activator, making special mention to the team – Paz, Julie, Sukanya and Adam. Of her time at Activator, Sam reflected, “The RMIT Activator was my foray into the world of accelerators
and the many benefits it provides to a start-up business. Having studied Marketing many moons ago and later Interior Design, I felt like I was starting afresh when it came to the way business is executed today, particularly in the start-up world. The lean methodology was the basis for the bootcamp and moving through the accelerator we attended masterclasses to learn from industry leaders across all business disciplines. We had weekly one-on-one mentoring sessions and a desk space with the rest of our cohort in a friendly and bright co-working environment. The support from the Activator team was invaluable, they knew just how to treat us in our shaky moments and there was nothing like the feeling of celebrating with the whole crew after our final pitches were nailed.” Stay tuned and get excited. There are big things happening here at Acustico Lighting headquarters. Acustico Lighting’s latest collection ‘Musica’ addresses both form and function with its statement design and noise reducing qualities. The unique open structure is designed to both absorb and diffuse sound whilst adding a bold statement to any space. Creative Director Samantha McKenzie developed the range with an aim to reduce noise-related stress and
With a mid-frequency noise absorption rate of up to 30%, these fully tested pendants provide a sense of calm and quiet to our increasingly noisy lives.
address end-user wellbeing in a variety of interior settings. Using environmentally responsible material choices and manufacturing methods, the products have been designed to be good for the planet. They are manufactured by local hands in Australia and are available in a fully customizable range of 10 colours and 4 profiles, aptly named Opera, Punk, Jazz and Jazzier. Watch this space for more new designs launching later in the year. You can also view the incredible lights installation at Activator HQ.
â€“ Leading a sustainable fashion revolution The Clothes Loop
Image by FDMbox |
Victoria’s month-long National Sustainable Living Festival brings together Australia’s brightest innovators, founders and change-makers in the sustainability space. The festival showcases the leading ecological and social solutions to the world’s growing challenges, as well as encouraging individuals and communities to host their own events. Speaking at the event this year was Activator Alumni Rose Duong, Founder of The Clothes Loop. The Clothes Loop is a fashion retailer that enables consumers to shop for products and swap them afterwards. Speaking on the ‘Disruptive Design’ panel presented by major event partner RMIT University, Rose took to the stage to discuss the ways in which disruptive design, circular economy and innovation can help tackle climate change. Rose joined a panel of design experts, including Tom Bentley, Executive Director for Policy and Impact at RMIT University, Dr Scott Valentine, Professor and Associate Dean of Sustainability and Urban Planning at RMIT, and Tasmin O’Neill, Founder and Editor of Green Magazine, to explore how disruptive design, circular economy principles and innovation can help tackle the biggest challenge that we face… climate change. Rose was a participant of Activator’s first startup experience, which she credits with allowing her to test her product, build a team and put her startup on the map. Of her time at Activator, Rose reflects, “I had a lot of support from the Activator team and mentors who helped me promote my business and open up new business opportunities”. Since graduating from Activator, The Clothes Loop brand has continued to expand and innovate within the sustainable fashion space. Rose’s number one piece of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to make sure their business comes from the heart.
Starting a business is hard work and making it sustainable is harder, especially when you have to take on extra considerations around the planet to make a positive impact. Sustainable startups often have long-term strategies and big visions, which can be time consuming and costly, thereby creating huge risks. “If you're passionate about the topic and you live and breathe the problem you're trying to solve, this will serve as your north-star for everything that you do,” says Rose. “After all, the planet needs passionate people and the best reward you get from the journey is the chance to inspire others too.”
– Learning reimagined Train The Trainer
Olivia Ilic, Senior Education Product Adviser, from RMIT Activator’s Education team recently delivered Train the Trainer, a brand new Activator experience designed speciﬁcally for enthusiastic RMIT staﬀ who want to explore innovative ways of delivering learning. Train The Trainer is an experiential event providing attendees the chance to work both individually and in teams, to design a Hackathon experience. The purpose of the event is to equip staff with an understanding of how to run an effective Hackathon or innovation challenge. Hackathons are multidisciplinary team-based intensives, designed to tackle challenges and create potential solutions, usually alongside industry. Train the Trainer facilitator Olivia Illic said, “The idea grew out of the number of requests Activator was receiving for Hackathon style events and innovation challenges.” Activator has previously hosted innovation challenges in collaboration with Essendon Football Club, Jac Nasser, Isobar and Melbourne Innovation Districts, covering topics such as environmental impact and female engagement in sport. Due to the number of requests coming in, the team at Activator decided the best option was to upskill staff on how to run Hackathons, acting as a capability development opportunity for staff across the University. A diverse array of staff were in attendance, including academics as well as a group from Human Resources who are working on crafting and articulating RMIT values. Team members from Student Wellbeing wanted to use their newfound skills on a project to create calm spaces for students with wellbeing needs. Careers and Employability, the College of Business and the School of Management staff also took part in the event. Darcy Keough, Project Officer for Student Mental Wellbeing Initiatives, said his reason for getting involved was to support the students that he works with to use design thinking practices in creative and innovative ways. Darcy said, “I really valued the opportunity to understand the ‘why’ of the process, what are we trying to achieve at each stage of the design thinking process and some really practical activities that we could implement to make that happen”. Darcy is working as part of a student wellbeing co-design group, stating “I’ve already started implementing the skills I’ve learned. The students in the group are already underway exploring, discovering and ideating.” Following traditional Hackathon principles, the first Train the Train session utilised the support of a multidisciplinary team, made up of staff from across the University including Reza Mohammed from Research and Innovation, Gabrielle Harvey and Leonie Russell from RMIT Careers and Employability and Bec
“I had assumed most staﬀ members were approaching or being approached by industry with real-world problems they wanted solving. After the ﬁrst session, I realised a lot of attendees just wanted creative thinking and ideation tools to tap into audiences that might include staﬀ, students or potentially industry.”
Taube from Legal. LEGO Serious play was used as a methodology to facilitate the training. Following the first session, Olivia was asked by the Research and Innovation team in attendance to host a LEGO Serious Play session with VC’s and Directors. Needless to say, it was a resounding success.
to run an innovation challenge on the second session, to allow the staff to experience an actual hackathon and learn tools through osmosis. The tools they got to experience included customer journey mapping, ideation tools and resources including micro-credentials” said Olivia.
“We learned a lot about the needs and the problems that staff have during session one, so we designed day two based on the learnings of the first day. We decided
Olivia and the Activator Education team are now in the process of taking the learnings from the first Train the Trainer to redesign, iterate and create an even better offering for RMIT staff throughout 2019 and beyond.
– Activator Hot Seat -Jo Zimpel, Founder of STEM Hub
Since starting her entrepreneurial journey with Activator, Jo Zimpel, Founder of STEM Hub has garnered a signiﬁcant amount of momentum and partnered with multiple outstanding companies, high schools, and universities. Not only did she launch STEM Hub during her time at Activator, but in 2018, STEM Hub also became RMIT School of Science’s primary external provider of internships. It gets better. As a result of taking part in the first ever startup cohort at the Activator (previously known as Residency) STEM Hub has been successful in partnering with one of Melbourne’s most prestigious girl schools, Melbourne Girls Grammar School (MGGS). In a joint effort, STEM Hub and MGGS ran STEM Curriculum Hack which was attended by private, government and Catholic schools and industry partners. Late last year STEM Hub received the great honour of being selected to pitch at the 2018 Pitch@Palace 2.0 event which provided the team with invaluable networking opportunities. Jo was approached by delegates from Telstra, Australian Grand Prix (AGP), REA Group, and KPMG to collaborate on STEM-related initiatives.
More recently, STEM Hub has worked closely with the Australian Grand Prix Corporation to produce a STEM-based educational booklet for Year’s 6 to 8. Aptly named The Science of F1, the booklet was distributed to hundreds of school students who attended the 2019 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix. Following the huge success of the content, STEM Hub is working closely with the Grand Prix and Activator Startup Alumni Roamni, to produce a second educational resource, including QR codes that will allow readers to have audio information as well as written content. During their presence at the Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix, STEM Hub also secured future STEM-related work with the RAAF and BAE Systems and have been invited to give a keynote speech at the Sydney and Melbourne 2019 Advancing STEM Education Roadshow hosted by Criterion Conferences. Later this year, STEM Hub will be working closely with MGGS and RMIT’s School of Engineering on a number of exciting programs, with plans to unveil STEM Hub's brand new platform. The continuing success of STEM Hub has been made possible in a huge part by RMIT Activator. STEM Hub’s affiliation with RMIT Activator has provided the team with means to open doors.
– The Next Wave of Entrepreneurs We are thrilled to announce the nine new teams who will be joining our thriving startup community as part of our ﬁrst LauncHUB for 2019!
A patented Machine Learning process that can analyse legal contracts with unparalleled accuracy in seconds.
A software based pre-screening recruitment tool established for the hospitality industry.
A secure payments small jobs tendering platform helping customers connect with tradespeople, and pay with confidence.
Team: • Zack Chen-McCaig • Linda Yi
Team: • Tom McAll
Team: • Isaac Chua • Jason Nguyen
An apparel brand that saves plastics from oceans and landfill, recycling them into sustainably made outdoors apparel and activewear. Specifically designed to encourage women to get outdoors and adventure more.
An automotive repair concierge that helps car owners to skip workshops experience entirely.
A tool that measures values and behaviours at work to give leaders insight into how to build a better company culture.
Team: • Rhianna Knight
Team: • Johan Syah • Qivin Tang
Team: • Kristin O’Brien
A platform that connects sports coaches with players, parents, clubs and schools.
A platform that breaks down the barriers between second-hand goods and the consumer, saving customers hours of time that would otherwise be spent looking for products.
A combination of Blockchain and AI software that collects virtually infinite amount of live behavioural data for luxury brands to enhance shopping experiences.
Team: • Adam Kostarelas • Alex Koumoundouros
Team: • Lauren Nakache • Tyrone Blode • Julian Wise
Team: • James Muir • Apurv Muley • Paras Sawant • Kogulan Sabaratnam
The Fold is a magazine series created by the Activator team to keep you up to date on our latest offerings and bring you highlights from the...
Published on May 21, 2019
The Fold is a magazine series created by the Activator team to keep you up to date on our latest offerings and bring you highlights from the...