This is the transcript for the video UTS startups student founder Q&A

Dave: Just really quickly, I’ve met all of you already, my name’s Dave, I am half-Latino, half-Dutch which means I’m very sensible but can also talk a million miles an hour, so I apologise if I talk too fast. But you can put your hand up and kind of ask me to stop.

Essentially, I work with UTS Startups to make sure that as many students as possible at UTS get to start their own startups. So far, we have 340-something student-launched startups at UTS Startups, of which Ben is one of the founders out of many incredible, incredible businesses. I am 37 years old and I’ve never had such a cool job in my life, this is the coolest thing I’ve done and I love doing it. So, if you’re interested in starting a business, talk to me! I’d love to know what you’re doing, I’d love to help.

We at UTS Startups are not your average university department or unit in that we all are a little bit crazy, have a lot of fun, but we also really believe in what we’re doing which is to say that any student I believe at UTS has this unique opportunity in the year 2020 where we’re kind of in a crux.

There is so much going on in the world and there’s so much opportunity and so much at your fingertips as a young person and as a student that you can leverage to do something that has never been done before. And so, I highly recommend that if you’ve even got a sniff of an idea, that’s enough I reckon to start getting into entrepreneurship.

And if also, you’re like me and your brain goes in heaps of different directions at once, we’ve got a bunch of online activities that you guys can jump into. So, punch those links into your URL browser on your device, on your desktop, and just cutsick, have fun. But also put an ear out and listen to us too.

Again, I mentioned, anytime you want to ask a question in the chat or just unmute yourself, go wild, we love a little bit of social interaction.

So, UTS Startups is a program that is for anyone really studying at UTS. And it means we give you the opportunity to start a business whatever that looks like for you. You might be doing a doubldegree, you might be doing a singledegree, you might be a health student doing a practical, you might be a postgrad student studying entrepreneurship or anything else and the way that we can adapt the resources that we have and the people that we work with to help you in whatever way that looks like. And so, all that means is that you can apply to the program any time you want, and all we need is

  1. Your idea and  
  2. The way that you’re going to reach people with it.

That is all we want to know and then we can start helping you move in the right direction. 

UTS Startups you know, pre-COVID we had some pretty cool buildings – I mean we still have them – down on campus that we all hung out at and you know now, we are often online most of the time. We’re not always there when you call but we are always online.

And so, if anyone from the 90s can remember… whatever [laughs].

So, we’ve got a huge Facebook community that exists to support you guys and what that looks like, Ben might talk about it in a little bit, but so many times when questions or need help and need guidance and that’s where our forum really kicks in and enables you as a student entrepreneur to really leverage the collective intelligence of the group. And that looks about 800 people or so at the moment contributing their thoughts and their ideas which is really cool.

Another thing that we do is we help our startups and student entrepreneurs by providing mentorship in different ways, so we’ll talk about that a little bit more. And we also work really hard to connect you guys out to the outside world. So, we’re always working to form industry partnerships with people that will help you; funding is something that we always talk about and investment, so that’s where Phoebe comes in, she’s a really big part of that. And we also work to just connect you guys together, so we’ll talk a little bit more about that soon.

Social Handles

Here are our social handles, get amongst it. Highly entertaining.

  • Instagram @utsstartups  

Why entrepreneurship?

So, just really quickly, you’re on this call because you’re obviously interested in entrepreneurship so I’m not going to hammer you with too much of this but we like to talk about startups being commercially viable businesses, and that’s important.

We also like to talk about the impact that those businesses are having. So, how many people, and how far and wide can your ideas reach?

But it’s not just about money and reach, it’s also about making a difference. That’s why Ben is such a perfect person to talk to you guys today, because his business is a great example of something that’s doing great things for people, the planet as well as making a buck.

And so, there’s a lot of different ways that businesses can look. Lots of different shapes and sizes, so feel free to jump on our Facebook ( and tell us what you think.

Some ideas…

Just a few people that you guys can meet along the way. Kristen is a great example of a student who is not building something techie, not building an invention or a device. Her startup is about badges, so she sells badges about the countries that you have been to on your travels. She’s sells those through airports, it’s an incredibly cool business. It’s a really cool startup doing something not super technical.

Lydia is a research student, she’s almost finished with her PhD but she created something called The Change Hub which is an online tool for companies to make change projects within organisations which is a really cool idea for a startup.

Matt is a firefighter, footy player, health student, also happens to be a part of a tech startup that helps apartment communities communicate with each other better. Really cool platform.

Linda is an international student who worked with an academic and someone else to create something called Ruff Sleepers. So, not highly technical, not SpaceX but she’s all about washing dogs for homeless people. Really cool idea, really needed in Sydney and a really cool startup idea.

Raji created something called The Interview Trainer so you could use your smartphone to get real-time feedback on the way that you interview and a better way to prepare for job interviews and different things like that. It’s a really cool tool there that he developed.

Questions to help you find your next steps

And so, a lot of different ideas for you. There is a little picture of Lourdes laughing Aura said. And also, just a bit of a thought around here, some thoughts about entrepreneurship.

But when you think about your own ideas: where do they come from? And I can say that there are so many ways that you can decide what you want to work on, the space that your want to work on, the ideas that you want to work on. And here are just a few of those things to get you thinking.

So, who are the people that you know? Where do you come from? Who are the groups of people that you know well and hang out with? That might look like an industry, a profession, it could look like a type of person. Lots of different things there.

The problems that you want to solve. Are there things that frustrate you? Are there things that you think could be done better?

A lot of these things are the ways that entrepreneurs find their ideas. So, you might have found many entrepreneurial ideas without even knowing it. So, hopefully this session serves to inspire you a little bit as well.

Zoom Poll

Cool, so what I’m going to do is stop my little share and I’m going to spring you guys on something. We just want to know a little about you so if you just have a look at your screen right now. A couple of questions for you, if you could just punch those in, shouldn’t take you more than a few seconds.

But we’d love to know where you’ve come from, who you are, if you’re brand new – assuming most people are brand new. Except for the people we know here in this chat right now. And so yeah, beautiful, thank you so much!

So most people are new to UTS – that’s a given because it’s Orientation – welcome by the way to our amazing virtual campus. And yeah, some of you guys have a startup idea! That’s cool! Very exciting. Some of you are not sure or “sort of” – love the “sort ofs.” We’ve all had a “sort of” startup idea.

And a lot of you do think entrepreneurship is a real-deal career path. So we’re on the right track. Yeah, why don’t I share those results with you just for fun. You can have a look there. We love data!

Q&A with Ben Kennedy from Gecko

DaveGreat, so, what I’m going to do now is handover to Ben. I’m going to ask you a few questions Ben and I know I’ve sent you these already so you can probably, none of them are going to be a surprise for you hopefully, and if they are, answer them anyway I guess. But I just wanted to say at the beginning that UTS Startups is a cool program, it’s a cool job, whatever but the thing that makes it coolest is people like Ben. So, startup entrepreneurs who are doing crazy, crazy incredible inspiring stuff, stuff I would have never been able to dream of doing at 20 years old. And so, talking to you is a big deal for me and for all of us and I think for all the students listening, they’re going to find something inspiring in what you have to say. On the very outset I want to thank you Ben for sharing your time. You’re a busy guy, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Ben: Thank you for having me, what a lovely wrap! That’s unreal thank you. So, my name’s Ben, I’m a student at UTS. I’m in my well, I was supposed to finish last year obviously had a startup to deal with so I’ll be finishing at the end of this year, doing visual creative enterprise management which is in the Business Faculty. I first thought of Gecko in about January 2018. So, it was really cool, super exciting because I was like “will it work? Is this something that people will pay for or not?”But I just didn’t know how to get started I thought, oh gee, this looks kind of tricky. So, I sort of saw a problem or a little gap in the market I guess and just didn’t really know where to go next. So, I had a chat with my – I was luckily, by pure coincidence I was doing innovation and entrepreneurship with Krithika and she pretty much said “look, you’ve got to join” and at the time it was The Hatchery, now known as UTS Startups which is great. She said you know you’ve got to validate what you’re doing and that sort of thing. So, it was really awesome. I think bthat time we’d sort of changed over to UTS Startups. I signed up, learnt a little bit about everything and I guess, as they say “the rest is history.”

Dave: And you’re underselling it man, but it’s an incredible business. I mean, how many staff do you guys have now?

Ben: I believe it’s around eleven. So, we have one virtual assistant in the Phillipines, three co-founders, one employee and whatever’s left of interns, I think that’s four or five.

Dave: That’s awesome. Okay I’m going to try to stick to the script here and do the right thing. A cool question for you: If you could think back to high school so this is only a few years for you I guess, what did you want to be when you were in high school?

Ben: Oh, that’s so interesting. I remember when I was in year seven, I think I changed what I wanted to be in my head about a thousand times. Like genuinely, I wanted to be a soccer player one day, I wanted to be a journalist the next, like it just kept sort of changing around. 

As soon as I got to about year eleven, that’s when I sort of realised like oh, I started doing business studies and I thought actually, yeah, I want to be an entrepreneur one day. And it didn’t seem very accessible to be an entrepreneur at such a young age or anything, so it isn’t anything that I even thought about as a high school student. I was like “no, there’s no way that’s even likely.”

It’s probably something where you know you get a job for ten to fifteen years and then somewhere down the track it’s something I get along to. But one thing I sort of learnt was that when I was working as an accountant is that this is the best time in your life to be starting something. It’s little risk, if you lose, you lose, you know? It is what is. But you know, if you win, like it’s awesome you know? I know I get up every day and I’m super excited to get to work which is so, so… I’d love everyone to – I think everyone should feel like that when they’re going to work. Whether it is for yourself or whether it for someone else which is I guess, Dave as you were saying how you enjoy doing UTS Startups and all that stuff. So, um, yeah!

Dave: And so, I guess staying with the high school thing, was it tricky trying to choose a university and choose a degree and all that stuff when you’re sort of thinking in the back of your mind “I want to be an entrepreneur, it’s not really supported, I don’t really know if it’s a great career choice but I’m ready to take the risk. So, kind of like, how did that influence you choosing a degree?

Ben: Um yeah, I mean to be honest, one thing, because both my parents they’re successful entrepreneurs themselves. They both own their own businesses – my dad is a financial advisor, and my mum she had a catering company which she sold off and now she has you know, she’s selling horses, she’s a horse trainer, she’s got her own B&B restaurant and all these, she’s got a million things I can’t even keep upso you know that’s awesome for her.

But I guess coming back to your question is my parents always sort of said “look, we want you to get the best marks you can possible, and it’s not for any other reason but we want you to have options.” So, I think that one, it’s very interesting because a lot of people when they get like a 99.95 ATAR they sort of go “hey, look I’ve got to do medicine or law or something like that, or I’ve got to go to the best unis or anything like that.

So, to be honest, I actually fell into my degree by complete accident. I actually stuffed up my UAC preferences but I guess it was fate in a way because I wanted to originally do business or business and IT, and I remember because I just put my preferences in too late, but I ended up getting the ATAR. So, I thought that I would have got in and they said “aw, it’s actually all full” and I was like “oh, that’s not good”.

Um, so, but I realised I had like sports management or something like that in there and I was like “oh no, I don’t want to do sports management” but then digital creative enterprise management came up and I was like “oh, well this looks interesting” and then I looked up what jobs does this get you? And the first thing, the first word that was there was “entrepreneur” and I was like “bingo!” So, it all worked out in the end which was really, really exciting and um, yeah.

Dave: Well I’m glad it worked out, I, on that you mentioned your lecturer Krithika before who is incredibly cool. Great lecturer, great class, I wish that class was around when I was you know, doing different things. Talking about how she suggested you joined UTS Startups, so, was the idea for Gecko the same back then as it is now?

Ben: No-oh, nah it’s hard to actually answer that one. Like, no it’s not the exact same, it’s a base, I guess. It, obviously, you know there’s certain things that I’ve sort of changed over. For example, the main foundations of my ideal Gecko was to #1: help people make money off items that are gathering dust in their home, which is something that we 100% believe in and it’s something that is the core foundation of the business. And #2 is helping people hire these same items.

So, I guess that was sort of the main importance. So, when I came to Krithika that was my thinking. However, in terms of the actual items, originallywe just wanted to go for everything, now we have a little bit more of a laser focus towards cool stuff that people our age, Dave, because we’re the same age, um [laughs] that we could really use you know-

Dave: If they only knew…

Ben: [laughs] So stuff like you know drones, speakers, party lights, you know and wedding chairs, all that sort of thing that people might have to go to an events planner and paying thousands of dollars for these items for a night as opposed to getting them for literally two figures. It just makes so much sense.

That was I guess the main reason why we invented Gecko and we think that it is something that is really cool. If more people knew about us, then everyone would use us. I think you know that if you know you have stuff that’s quite valuable and people want to hire these sorts of items, you could be making you know three figures a week.

And I know it doesn’t sound like much but after say you know a month, a year a couple of years down the track… we have some people that have made up to $5000 through using Gecko. Like I think, considering we only launched in September I think that’s amazing. We haven’t even been around a year and someone’s made $5000 you know? That can pay for a holiday. It just seems so wild, and that’s I guess our main goal, so yeah.

Dave: Um, just to rewind back, because I’ve heard this story before but I think it’s a cool story: when you first had the idea for Gecko, like how did that even happen?

Ben: Yeah so, when I was in New Zealand with my auntie and I just asked her “hey where am I sleeping tonight?” And she goes “oh I got you an air mattress from a friend down the road and you’ll be sleeping no that.” And I go “cool, no dramas” and then I asked “oh, well what would you have done if you didn’t know that he had an air mattress?” And she said “well oh, I guess I would’ve bought one.”

And I just like, instantly I thought like what waste of money” you know? Like you could just like hired it from a nextdoor neighbour like you know would have charged way less, was like my first thought and then number two well obviously the environment and thinking ‘geez someone’s gone out, made this again for no reason when we could just re-use it.

So, I guess that was a key thought process for me, and then I remember when I went to Falls Festival and I had to hire so many things. I think it was like a tent – ah sorry, we wanted to hire some things but we ended up having to buy. So, it was a tent, sleeping bags, gazebo, chairs, tables. There were all these things which you know, if we had something like Gecko it would have been so awesome cause you know we could have just hired all these items, it would have cost us probably a quarter of the price, as opposed to having to buy it between the six of us.

Dave: It’s cool, and so I mean, we’re really talking about an annoying problem for most people but you turned that into something that’s literally employed people and made money and you know turned it into a business. I mean that talks about your ability to think entrepreneurially which is cool but I mean, did a lot of people you go to school with also choose entrepreneurship, or kind of why didn’t they choose entrepreneurship?

Ben: I think there’s a stigma, which I don’t think is correct that you need, that you have to work before you start your own thing. And for some people it’s the way to go. Like, there are hundreds of entrepreneurs. You think Jeff Bezos, he was on Wall Street on a very high paying salary and then he invented Amazon and for the first two years he was eating ramen noodles in his earlythirties. You know, there’s that side of it I guess as well and a lot of people have been successful where you do need to know your domain.

But I don’t think it’s 100% necessity at all. I think that if you really, you know, want to start your own thing at any age, it doesn’t matter if you’re sixty years old or whether you’re sixteen years old, I think absolutely give it a crack, like why not? You’ve got nothing to lose. So, I think a lot more people should be you know, looking to innovate, looking to try and solve problems. And if you are good at solving problems, I would entrepreneurship is for you because I’m solving problems every day. Sometimes they’re fun, sometimes they’re very stressful, but you know, it’s great. I wouldn’t be doing anything else for sure.

Dave: Yeah, I’m going to go off-script at this point. I saw you post something on LinkedIn the other day about a little problem you had to solve for a customer.

Ben: Oh, mate a nightmare yeah. It was funny, so the lender was my mum and I’m usually not this good but because it was my mum I was a lot nicer. What happened was we had someone who had ordered an electric heater and my mum’s electric heater had been sitting in our garage and we realised that it was broken. So, she was like oh okay, I’ll go pick it up and then it turned out that there were none in stock so we were like oh shoot. And there was only, ‘cause winter’s almost over apparently – in accordance with Bunnings and Harvey Norman that’s the case – so we had to go all the way to Belrose. Now, I live in Bondi which is about a 4050minute drive to Belrose so I had to get up at 6am in the morning and get this heater just to make sure that Nicole had a good experience with the platform.

So that’s, um, yeah. You have some stressful problems, that was definitely one of them. On that same day I had the truck that we usually use was occupied and I had to get four of these benches in my little Hyundai Accent. So, I used my Tetris skills and it got them all in, and I was driving very slowly from where storage was which was about a kilometre away, but we got there in the end so it was somewhat, it was actually really satisfying at the end. Like, whilst it was happening and beforehand it was a bit stressful but by the end it was just a magnificent feeling I can tell you that much. So yeah, you’ll have a few of those.

Dave: I mean, no one sort of thinks “I’ll be a CEO one day and be driving to Belrose to buy a heater for Nicole” you know? But that’s startup life I guess, hey?

Ben: Yeah, yeah, no, it is. It absolutely is. For the first couple of years you’ve just got to do the unscalable before you get scale and you can have delivery driversor you can have you know or you can outsource it to a delivery market place, or something like that. There’s heaps of options and that’s the thing, that will be a new problem is that now we need to scale this delivery section of our business, so which way?

Do we hire delivery drivers for the weekends because that’s usually when they’re being used or do we you know, use a company that does that for us? What’s the best way to attack itIf you do choose a company, which one? There’s five or six of them. And yeah, it’s a lot of fun just trying to figure out the best way to do things. And you’ll make mistakes – you’ll choose one company and they won’t deliver something when you need it most, and it can be really upsetting. Or you, you know you might choose then eventually you’ll choose the right one. It’s just how it all works, you just make lots and lots of mistakes until you get it right.

Dave: So, what you’re saying is it’s not necessarily easy street. So, I guess question I’ve got here is (and I’m going to get back on script), is what advice have you give someone who just think you know, entrepreneurship is not for me? I just don’t think this is what I want. Like, if there’s anyone maybe in the audience here today like “I tuned in, I thought that this would be cool but ooh, I don’t know”? Entrepreneurship? Like, be honest, is it for everyone?

Ben: No, no it’s not. Like you don’t think you want to become an entrepreneur, don’t. Don’t force it. If you want to do it because you want to make a lot of money, be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates or whatever, don’t cause it won’t work. Money won’t like, it won’t be enough for you. It won’tI guess, inspire you to get up in the morning enough. However, getting up in the morning to help people make money, or help people solve or get their problem solved, like that is something that’s a lot of fun. Seeing your business grow in that way, that is the real thing that really that I think really gets me up in the morning you know. So, I don’t, no, absolutely I don’t think that entrepreneurship is for everyone.

Ben: You’ve got to be incredibly resilient, you need to have a very high AQ and be able to be persistent. Like I watched The Founder, which is a movie about the McDonalds, one of the McDonalds sortof founders. And that’s exactly what he said, I think he was 55 or 60 when he was, when he ended up scaling McDonalds and doing all that sort of thing. But you know, he ain’t shit for 30 or 40 years to be quite candid. And that’s how it is, you just have to be persistent. You’ve got to really want it and you’ll get it if you work hard enough and you work smart enough as well.

Dave: Yeah and I guess you’re right that there’s a special kind of person in a lot of ways that needs to be prepared to do a lot of stuff that other people won’t do to get a result that other people won’t get. But on the other hand, I guess, in your opinion, I mean you’re someone who’s got a lot of interns through Gecko and has employed a lot of people. Do you think there is space for the average person to work in a startup environment? I mean, jobs are getting fewer and far between at the moment and we’ve got to start thinking about where it is we do want to work. Should we be working at startups?

Ben: Yeah, yeah, I certainly think so. Absolutely, I think startups actually provide more jobs you know like it’s really awesome the fact that you can sort of do that. It’s super innovative. However, in saying that, some people do want to climb the corporate ladder and if you do want to climb the corporate ladder, working at a startup probably isn’t really like going to be your thing. Because you’re going to be so stagnant being a marketing intern and probably a marketing coordinator, and then you’ll be a marketing executive. It’s quite small and it’s sort of a very democratic leadership structure.

So, I don’t think that it is for everyone, but I do think that it is really, really cool, and is really, really good experience. I know there’ve been a couple of my interns that have worked at Gecko and then they moved onwards and ended up either starting their own business or they ended up getting relatively high-paying jobs particularly for a graduate, certainly, I’d say it’s certainly a high-paying job going from there to there.

So, one thing that I think that working in a startup will also teach you is that anything’s possible. I personally believe that if you really work hard enough, you know you can get that job at Canva or you can get that job with Atlassian. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, if you work hard enough you absolutely can reach those goals and if you have the persistence, the resilience to annoy their HR department so much so that they take you in for an interview, you know, you certainly can.

So, yes, I absolutely think that working in a startup is amazing and as a lot of people know, you get fed in some places which is really cool, theres a number of really cool perks. But at the same time, you know, if you are getting employed by a startup a lot of the times you have to work longer hours. So, with all the perks there are obviously the negatives as well.

I think the most important thing, I guess the biggest takeaway from what I’m saying is try and find what’s the best fit for you. That’s probably… you should be open to working in a large corporation as well as working at a startup. I know when I first started working, I worked at a large corporation. I also worked with smaller businesses as well, and I know what I’d prefer: I do prefer working for smaller business. Although there were certain perks that I absolutely loved about working in large businesses as well. But in terms of fulfilment and purpose, I got a lot more working out of small business. But in saying that I learnt to create my own large, well not corporation, but my own large startup one day. It’s all part and parcel with it, just try and find the best fit for you.

Dave: Totally, I agree man, and I’ve heard so many people say the more things you can try and experiment with, the better in terms of the career path. Because yeah, I mean you’re going to be working the majority of your life, you want to kind of enjoy like you said at the beginning get up in the morning and love what you’re doing.

I’ve got a couple of more questions, actually kind of about this. What’s it like for you being I mean you’re a student at UTS, you’re building a business, what’s it like hiring actual UTS students as well? And like, bringing on co-founders that are UTS students? I mean it all just seems kind of crazy. It’s all happening so quick. 

Ben: Yeah, yeah, look to be honest I don’t really look for whether they go to UTS or UNSW, or USYD. It’s not a huge thing for me personally, personally just prefer looking for the best candidate. But in saying that we do get a lot of UTS students of course, because we work out of right behind you at 608 Harris St so you know it’s that a lot of the talent pool is just all around there which is awesome, I love that. But yeah, no it’s interesting I guess. I remember, it’s never really been something that’s phased me hiring people that are older than me or working with people that are sort of older than me, younger than me. It’s never really been a thing.

I remember I think someone from Startups I think brought it up like “does it feel weird that you’re going to be hiring people that are just a generation or two above you?” And I was like no, not really. It doesn’t make a huge difference for me personally. I think I would say that we’re a young company and we would like to stay a young company, but as we grow there’s going to be a time where we’re going to have to try and appeal to an older demographic because the market sort of runs out with what we’ve already got, so that’s totally cool too. But at the same time, we’re young, we’re fresh, we want to keep it that way and we certainly will as long as I’ve got a say in it that’s for sure.

Dave: Yeah, we’ve got, so someone’s popped in the chat and kind of read my mind a little bit. I wanted to steer the ship over to something different and talk about back in the ideas stage so you have had an idea, you’ve seen it work, you’ve battled through all the barriers and now this business is happening and it seems like you’re moving forward. I mean I’m sure you have good and bad days but to all of us watching it would seem like, I mean you’ve got a thousand listings, there’s so much going on for Gecko. So, if you could give advice to someone who’s kind of just got an idea, and it’s early on, and it’s like well how do I validate this?

Ben: How do you validate it? Great question. I love talking about validation. Psyches me so much! So, one thing that’s super important is: when you first start – no one talks about this – is where you’re at as a person. I think that it’s so underrated. No one speaks about that, everyone talks about your idea and the startup itself. But at the end of the day, 70% or something ridiculous, percent of startups fail because of founder, team, co-founder, and you know it’s people. So, you really need to I guess have a lot of introspection and self-awareness that you. “Is this something that I want to keep going with?” I think it’s just really important.

I think that’s one thing that I think I had pretty good was that I knew that this was the right time for me. This was what I really wanted to do and had this really great passion for. So, I also went on a little bit of a holiday over to India which was a bit of a retreat and whatnot, and that was a really awesome way to have a little bit of a chat with myself and just think: what’s something that makes you really happy and that you’ll be doing every day for hours and hours and hours on end, and you’re still going to enjoy so much? And that pretty much is it. 

You know, 100% you just need to check in with yourself and see “is this the right time for me?” Am I going to be using excuses, saying like “oh, you know I’ve got uni.” Absolutely, if you’re at uni, I started while I was at uni as well, I had a job as well, you know – I think you should probably start it off as a side hustle and then gradually go from it being a side hustle all the way to it becoming a business. I think that’s really important in my opinion. We as a business obviously working full time and whatnot.

So, that’s one side of validation. The second part of validation is of course finding your problem, finding your why. I know Simon Sinek has this unreal Youtube video about Start with why, and it’s about how people – sorry, WHY people sell products. And it’s not like, for example I could sell Gecko to you like “Gecko is a rental marketplace.” You’re not going to be saying “shut up and take my money” at that. But if I told you Gecko could help you make 80 bucks a week for the next couple of months, and that’s like “oh hello, yes this is interesting.” You know what I mean? Or “Gecko could help you create unforgettable experiences by hiring items at a fraction of the cost.” You know what I mean? That is something where you’re like “damn, this is something where I want to have an unforgettable experience. I want to have that!” So, find your “why.” I have a little bit of a template of how I found that which is a talk for another day. Think about the why, think about the problem that you’re solving, that’s the biggest recommendation that I can give to anyone.

And as well as that, don’t forget about your customers. Your customers are the people that are paying money at the end of the day, so you’ve got to spend so much time with them. Have a think, have a wild guess at who you think your demographic is, put out surveys, interview people that aren’t your friends and parents, just do what you can to see if people are willing to pay for this product. That’s how to get started, I guess. Does that answer your question Dave?

Dave: I think so. You also used your time in class to pitch your idea to academics, other students, and like you said get it in front of other people that aren’t your friends and get their honest opinions about your idea, is that right?

Ben: Yeah, yeah, so I remember I put out a survey and that was really refreshing and it was really good. It helped me with demographics so much, because we put in what age is everyone and all the naysayers were people who were like 50… 50 and 40 years old and all the people that were between like 35 and 18 were all like yeah I love this, this is great. And I remember a key concern of course was security. I remember on our first question I think we got 68% – no, less, 63% – and it was “would you use Gecko – would you use a rental marketplace where you can sort of hire out your items and stuff” and we had 63% said yes. And the following question was “if there was a bond and security system in place that could guarantee that your stuff would be safe would you still use Gecko?” and we went from 63% to 89%. And as I said, that 11% were people who were all 50, 60 years old who don’t be honest, they don’t need to hire out their stuff. They’ve got enough stuff to do so yeah, that’s how to get started.

BenI think you also asked something along the lines of “did you think it will become this successful?” Good question. Whether Gecko is successful is an opinion. You might say as someone who has not started something that Gecko is successful. I would still argue that it’s not successful. Maybe it’s because I have high expectations and whatnot which I do, I have super high expectations of myself and whatnot. Look, we’ve got heaps to go in terms of what we want to achieve. We’re not even 1% of the way there, like genuinely. We want to take over the world. This is something that I want to be massive so in terms of did I think it would become this successful to the point where I am now? I had visions for it to become this successful, but anything can happen, so yeah cool.

DaveI’m sort of trying to manage our time well, because I want to cover so many things. In a different direction I think someone was asking about building the platform. Did you build it yourself? Did you learn to code? Did you outsource it? Like, what were your first steps and how’s that sort of taken shape?

Ben: Oh, I can’t code. Oh, like, yeah nah I can’t code, I didn’t program it myself. At first I was looking for tech co-founders, I think there’s a question I think we’ll go into later about that. But was pretty unsuccessful with it, and got pretty frustrated in a meeting with one of the mentors when I just said I just want to build this and they said “okay cool, why don’t you just put up a post on Sydney Startups and just ask if you could outsource it?” So I did!

So, I outsourced it, and it got us to our MVP. Would I do it the same way again? I don’t know. Maybe? Yes? No? It’s a hard one just because you have a lot of hindsight, and if I didn’t do this I wouldn’t have learnt, but there’s probably a better way of doing it. So, yeah, I think it helped us get to our MVP which was awesome and it got us this far, but as I said now we’re rebuilding our whole website which should be done by two weeks’ time hopefully. Fingers crossed! And yeah so that’s I guess… Does that answer your question?

Dave: I think so, I think you know a lot of people we chat to as you know have got an idea and they’re looking for that technical capability and so finding all the different ways to do that. I mean, I’m so excited for the new Gecko platform, website. Okay so another question quickly is about team. How do you find the people to help you?

Ben: Oh, that is by far my biggest struggle. That was, it’s so funny because right now team is like [kisses air] I love it, but it took so long to get that. And that is so, so funny because I remember I got a message on LinkedIn the other day from someone who was like “you have such an awesome team, how’d you do that?” and I was like “bro, you’ve got no idea, like this was so tough.”

So, to be honest, in terms of recommendations of what I did, there was someone through uni who actually designed… so in terms of my actual co-founders I have a Head of Engineering and a Head of Product. The head of engineering will be our future CTO, Alan, and I met him through actually from UTS Startups who is Dave’s co-founder funnily enough, and one of my mate’s brothers which is so funny and a mad coincidence. And it was one of Carl’s closest mates so he said “I have a friend who’s really interested in this type of thing” and we hit it off when we want for coffee and stuff, we have the same mission and same vision for this kind of thing, and he just said “look, I just really want to be a part of this.

But to be honest, I don’t know if he would have gotten started with us if we hadn’t got to where we were. I know there was a question below which was “what do you recommend?” and it’s just “get started.” That’s my biggest piece of advice, is just get started and you’ll learn so much. So yeah, that’s how we got Alan. Then Lau is a mate of mine that I’ve known for about three years or so, maybe not, no, two and a half years, and we did a uni assignment together and he said “like look, I do design and stuff” and I had a look at his work and he’s unreal, very, very talented. In fact, he’s created this [points to logo]. So that’s him! And yeah, he ended up making our logo for us and I was like yeah that’s so cool. Anyway, he came into UTS Startups one time and he was just like “hey, I’ve been learning front-end development” and I was like “oh, really? That’s really, really, interesting because we sort of need someone who’s got a bit of experience with front-end development and design and it’s a problem for us.” And he just said “Oh, okay, well um, what are we talking?” and I said “well, you’ve been here from the start, why not become a co-founder?” and he said “oh shoot, I’m so around this.

So that’s how I met those co-founders. But there were so many failures before that, I met for coffee with like ten people at least and it’s funny because I’m seeing ten people, but it was annoying because those ten people we’d speak for like a month and it would blow out. There was someone I think I spoke to, I think we spoke to him for five or six months and you know he’d done some building and he was just like “look, I don’t think this is going to work” and he ended up leaving. So, yeah that was sort of that, so you have lots of failures and whatnot as well.

Dave: And at this point, it’s looking pretty good. So, I guess it was worth it.

BenCan you just turn your mind back to year 12 slash first year of uni then and imagine you were giving yourself some advice at that point?

Ben: Yeah, I’d pretty much say just give it a crack you know what I mean? Like, get started as soon as you start thinking, start never working early, start talking to people who are smarter than you. To be honest, that was the best way to learn. In terms of my growth as a person, that was just through speaking to people. I remember I made this almost deal with myself where I had to speak to at least one person a week that would be able to provide me with some awesome advice, and that was my goal.

Sometimes I’d speak to 3 or 4 people in a week, it’s just, keep speaking to people who are smarter than you and I reckon you’ll be like this ball of information and you’ll sort of realise there’s a few hairy things here and there that they’ll say and you’ll be like oh I don’t really like that. But overall the content that you end up getting is all pretty similar, or all startup stuff. All that stuff about the problem? This may be the first time that you’ve heard it, but if you’re really into this, this won’t be the last you’ll hear this millions of millions of millions of times.

So, as well as that, I’ll put my LinkedIn in just in case you guys have any more questions so feel free to ask just because I know some people might want to head off so feel free to yarn with me on there and that might put less pressure on Dave right now cause I can see he’s very stressed. It’s the Canberra weather getting to him.

Finishing up

Dave: Yeah it is cold down here. Well that is awesome man, and we could literally talk for hours and hours. And I feel like as soon we’re allowed to have beers on campus again we’re just going to let everyone know and they can ask a million questions. I really appreciate you being generous with your LinkedIn contacts. Guys, I’ve got to say, if you follow anyone on LinkedIn I find Ben very interesting to follow because he puts some great questions up there, generates really good discussion and I mean you’ve got a snippet of what it’s like to think like an entrepreneur at this point, but there’s so much to discover.

I love that point about once a week meeting someone is going to help you in some way forward. And that’s incredible, I think at this point I think we’re going to wrap up. We’re going to make sure this is going to be recorded and available for people to hear later.

Tip of the iceberg, there are so many things coming up that you guys can get involved in. I’m just going to pop up our link to stuff if you want to get involved but I’ll quickly share again the PowerPoint. So, there’s a little shot of Ben looking nice in our Startups. He’s also our part-time stock photo model, and we appreciate that. So basically, all you need to do at any time is to apply to UTS Startups with your idea and the way that you’re gonna reach people. We’d love to hear it, and as Ben said just get cracking to it! You don’t need to join UTS Startups with a fully-fledged business plan, you don’t even need a PowerPoint. We just kind of need to know what you’re thinking. So, let us know about that.

Dave:  And thank you so much for being here! We’re at 3:59 and that’s it. And Ben, cannot thank you enough for always saying “yes” to all of these things and for sharing your story with people, it’s so good to hear it. And it’s so good to meet all of you guys, email us at any time, we’d love to chat. Cool!

Ben: Cool!

Dave: See you guys!

Ben: Catch ya!