Reflections on start-up life: Week 34

This weekend just past is now officially 12 months since Alex and I met at BootUp Camp.


That’s us there in the middle — me in the centre and Alex in the green top to the right. This photo was taken at the end of our 2 weeks together. I’ll come back to that.

Rather than dwell on last weeks happenings (scored a free iPad, we finally resolved the performance issues and we are now eating into the todo list), I thought instead I’d share a little bit about why I left my Corporate role to forge my own way in the world. BootUp Camp wasn’t the start of that journey, but it was the spark that finally set the fuel alight.

I worked for PwC for almost 15 years — but of course it was never the same role and actually things were always changing, so it continually felt like a “new” job. I had great opportunities with PwC, but I’d also sacrificed a lot too — I’m not complaining about that at all; I knew what I was getting myself in for. But over the last 12 months before I left things had really begun to change. There’s nothing like the threat of a recession for an employer to show their true colours.

Good friends and good people were retrenched for terrible reasons (I’m sure there aren’t always good reasons — but trust me, these were beyond bad) and for a myriad of other reasons my motivation to continue to work for an organisation and sacrifice when it was clear it wouldn’t sacrifice for me was declining. It was complicated by the fact that I worked out of Australia for Global. At all levels there were good people trying to do the right things, but sitting in the middle between the global left hand and the local right hand as I was showed the organisational cracks on both sides far too clearly.

I’d started a small “hobby” business on the side a couple of times previously but these hadn’t gone anywhere (for a series of reasons I now understand all too clearly). Let’s just say a real project like Tribalytic eats up 10–14 hours a day or more for both Alex and I (and we could always do with more staff) — how I ever though I could conceivably build a business a few hours a day after work is beyond me now.

The point is that the entrepreneurial spirit was there — I had the fuel, but I didn’t know how to harness it and turn it into something that could take off.

Two things coincided. PwC decided to dock everyone two weeks pay (enforce a two week unpaid leave period). It was all presented in a very above board way (we had to vote on it) which I’m sure was signed off by a myriad of lawyers, but it was a nasty business. I decided that with those two weeks I was going to do something for me and more critically, would help me get my next job. These weren’t holidays to spend with the family or a chance to sit back and relax, I’d been gifted with two weeks to throw myself into something meaningful to me… and then I saw BootUp Camp.

BootUpCamp is a free intensive entrepreneurship workshop where participants will go from nothing to a fully operational web business in two weeks. The structured program includes professional workshops and presentations from industry experts, entry to a pitching competition, introductions to many industry events and key people, an angel investor panel, a VC Panel/Lunch and a big Launch event and more..

Well it was just what I needed.

People ask about the value of these 2 day or 2 week events, but for me the bottom line was very clear. It was like an intensive tune up, helping shape the raw materials (my desire to do something and a myriad of ideas) by providing structure and a process. By the end of BootUp Camp three things had happened:

  1. For the first time I had a clear methodology to take and apply in moving forward and even more importantly, the confidence that I could — we’d tried every individual step and I knew I could do them all given the time and dedication.
  2. It was clear that all other things aside, successful entrepreneurs have many different paths to success, but there is one that is always true — they did something. I can’t overstate this. The “magic” of being an entrepreneur is really that you took some risks, threw aside some comforts (typically regular pay) in order to focus 110% on “getting something done”.
  3. I’d met Alex. I said I’d come back to the two weeks — the three of us in the center (Humphrey on the left, me in the centre and Alex on the right) shared a back packers room together for the two weeks and were also on the same team (JudgeItNow) during the BootUp Camp. We shared a bathroom, we woke up in the same room, we worked together for 14+ hours and we ate together every day. After two weeks, I knew that Alex and I could work really well together. I also realised that Humphrey and I couldn’t work together long term easily — this is no slight on Humphrey (or on me) — we’d both say the same, the point is this counter-point really highlighted for me how well Alex and I did match.

So BootUp Camp was the spark that lit the fuel. Finally I realised that what was missing wasn’t any magic idea or formula, it was me — I needed to dedicate myself to something 100%. As I’ve said to people many times since, I finally became sick of “thinking” I could be an entrepreneur and realised the only way to know if I could be was to do it.

So I did. It’s funny how many times I’ve met people since that are “like I was” before BootUp Camp. I’m always happy to talk to them and try light that spark — ultimately there is nothing that beats doing. You can refold and check the parachute as often as you like, but you’ll never know that it’s really going to open until you take the leap.

Twelve months on I’m really grateful for what BootUp Camp taught me and I couldn’t be happier with the decision to leave PwC. It’s not always been easy and it’s only going to get harder but I’m proud of what Alex and I are achieving together in a way that nothing I’ve done before at PwC has ever excited me.

We’ve pulled the rip cord, the parachute is unfolding, the ground is coming up fast, everything is moving at a million miles an hour (well terminal velocity at any rate) and it’s a race to see which happens first — the parachute or the ground. It’s living and I couldn’t be happier with the decision to take the leap.


  • I committed some time to a market research exercise with Sensis. I enjoyed it and that was all there was to it. This week I received an iPad as a thank you. It’s greatly appreciated — lesson learned — showing your appreciation never hurts, especially when it’s unexpected and genuine.
  • Feel the speed!

Lessons learned

  • New iPads are distracting from doing real work.
  • It ain’t over until it’s over. Performance continued to gripe at us — eventually we tuned everything to the point that the bottle neck eventually reached physical hardware constraint. We’ve slowed it down now and are content to rest here.
  • Making things look easy is hard work. The list of use cases for a simple recurring billing process is scary.

Goal this week — Customers

  • I feel there is a lot of green shoots showing — time to tend and weed and see if these unfold. After holidays and people away, lined up some good meetings.

Goal this week — Engineering

  • Should be ready to go live with the new site design, sign up and billing process.