Brendan Falk – Founder of State Rank Lectures

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Brendan is the founder of State Rank Lectures, an HSC preparation service with lectures provided by former students that have achieved top 20 state rankings in NSW.

Brendan is also an academic, sportsman and a leader. He was dux of his high school with an ATAR of 99.85, while simultaneously juggling the responsibilities of captaining Canberra Grammar School – Brendan strives to excel in every domain he takes part in. From 2016 – 2020, he will attend Harvard University as one of only a few Australians in his cohort. Brendan is active in the community, especially with children with a disability: Brendan believes all students should have the opportunity to reach their full potential and aims to inspire them to do so.

Taking initiative and coming up with entrepreneurial ideas has always formed a solid foundation for Brendan’s life. In his early years, Brendan took to iPhone app development and website building as a freelance programmer to expand his skill base (and of course to gain a bit of quick cash as a teenager!). Brendan took up French and took part in a 2 month homestay exchange to France and has further led an initiative at a local high school for disabled children. He is now taking to education as a means of making a difference in society.

Brendan’s goal in life is to remove education as a social determinant of inequality. 

Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?

After finishing high school, I began to delve deeper into the concept of the HSC. For me, while high school was about learning syllabus content, it was also about playing the HSC game. Even if your were the smartest kid in the class, it didn’t necessarily mean you got the best exam marks that you would get the best ATAR.

I realised that the students who both had an academic mind and strategic wit would be the ones who excelled the most in the HSC. These are also the students who would obtain a “state rank” in a subject and would place in the top 20 out of potentially 20,000 students.

I personally came 5th out of 800 students sitting French continuers in 2014, a year before I sat my HSC for other subjects. My brother attained the exact same result and both of us agreed that there was an art to answering questions that students needed to get top marks.

I therefore had the idea of teaching other kids in Sydney (and all of NSW) not just how to cover syllabus content, but how to really ace the exam and “play the HSC game”.

Tutoring for the HSC came in 3 different fields: coaching colleges, private one-on-one tutoring and lectures. However, lectures were run by teachers and not by HSC students in the class of 2015 who just graduated. I found my chance and seized the opportunity to fill the large hole in the market

Can you please explain your business model for us? 

Students undertaking their HSC in 2016 and 2017 pay to hear insider tips, tricks and advice from state rankers in 2014 and 2015. The lecturers not only teach syllabus content, but teach you how to ace the exam, which is a huge selling point that other companies such as TSFX and HSC in the Holidays cannot boast about.

Money is also earned through essay marking. Students can submit their essays online to be marked by a state ranker and returned to them within 24-72 hours.

What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next year?

I am currently working on designing a smoother essay marking service. In the long-term, we are also looking at developing an online one-to-one (or up to three to one) tutoring service for different subjects, again, where each tutor is a state ranker.

How do you make your ideas happen?

I think. I discuss. I implement.

What role have mentors played in your business life?

An indescribable role. Mentors are sounding boards for bouncing idea. They can offer their own life experience and prevent you from following an unsuccessful path.

What does your typical day look like?

My day is never 100% dedicated to State Rank Lectures. The initial start up was the most tiring, but now the bulk of the background interface has been set up, it is all smooth sailing to the actual date. 

What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?

Costs. Costs in Australia are inordinate for such plentiful things.

Marketing. The target market for State Rank Lectures is that of high schools. This market is simply impenetrable as schools restrict commercial advertising as much as possible.

What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?

Have a go. If it doesn’t work out you still have a good story. 

What role do you think business can play in affecting social change? 

Education at the moment is one of the biggest determinants of inequality on a global scale. By educating both those in developing nations as well as enhancing the education of those in developed nations, the world’s knowledge base is sure to improve in the next few decades.

Speaking of affecting social change, Is there a particular charity you support?

The Woden School, Deakin, ACT. 

Can you name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers?

Google docs (an absolute life saver for collaboration)

Momentum Chrome Extension (replaces the drab splash screen for a new tab)

Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea?

Of course. Always looking for more state rankers in the HSC who are willing to get involved.

Would love to have a corporate sponsor that would enable us to compete with the large-scale and highly established lecture companies that dominate the Sydney market.

Whether you’re interested in business, education or learning more about HSC English, I always love meeting with or talking to new people. There is nothing better in the world than having a network of people who you can trust will help you when the time comes and who you will help when they are in similar need. Everyone has their specialities and the secret ingredient to any start-up is combining all of these effectively.

I would also love a crash course in marketing in non-digital forms 🙂

We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing, social media, accounting, monetization, product development etc. What would it be? 

Who do you turn to if neither Google nor your colleagues have the answer? 

What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?

The Dock Bar, Kingston Foreshore, ACT


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