Emily Robertson – founder of Hippogo

Emily is a wife, a mother of two girls and a small dog, and a highly experienced digital project manager with over 15 years’ experience in digital project and account management in Australia, U.K and the U.S.

Emily is an accidental start­up junky, having worked in San Francisco in the hey­day of the dot­com start-ups. She was number 4 employee in a start-up that peaked at 500 people, IPO’d and then crashed, ­all within 4 years.

On returning to Australia Emily has worked at blue-chip corporates, large digital agencies, small digital start­ups and web agencies helping to evolve their businesses -­ whether it’s to grow, streamline or restructure.

Currently Emily works at a boutique digital agency in Manly, while juggling school, sport, band and dog walking. And she is also back in start­up land with a kids holiday care & activities website hippogo. ­

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

I’m a mother of two girls and I’ve been working part­-time since baby number one producing websites. ­ I love working, meeting people and providing for my family, but once my eldest daughter started school my two worlds collided.

No one tells you that school is shorter than day­care and that school holidays come around so quickly. I still remember the shock of the school holidays ­ what am I going to do with my child for two weeks?!

As with most working parents I don’t have 2 weeks leave to take every 12 weeks after a school term. Panic set in as I tried to work out what to do with my daughter.

I scoured the internet and picked up flyers for all activities. There were so many forms to fill in and half of the providers were not even online. So I had bits of paper going in all directions, some even wanted me to fax the forms!?

Then I had to wait and see if the application had been successful ­ it was a nightmare if we didn’t get a space. It all seemed so fragmented and stressful.

It was this, first difficult school holidays, that inspired me to create Hippogo.com.au – a website to help parents find and book kids activities and vacation care.

Currently I work at a boutique digital agency. The two owners saw the merits of the concept and together over 18 months, we designed and built ­Hippogo.

Can you please explain your business model?

Hippogo works like any other booking services, we take a 7% booking fee when a parent books on Hippogo.com.au.

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

Currently we are working on reaching more parents. Due to the timing of school holidays, roughly every three months we have a new deadline to get more activity providers and more parents onboard.

We’ve updated our systems so activity providers can manage their term time activities too. The dream is that parents can login and organise all their kids out ­of ­school activities in one place.

How do you make ideas happen?

I’ve been fortunate to work with ‘can ­do’ people, who then do. My business partners and I discussed the concept of Hippogo a couple of times and then everyone went away and did their part -­ design, development and marketing.

What does your typical day look like?

My business partners own the small digital agency,­ Kindleman, where I work, so a typical day is a combination of client work, building and maintaining websites and fitting in Hippogo promotion and marketing.

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

Many people bemoan the fact that funding is hard to get in Australia and venture capital is not as evolved as in the US, but I’m not sure that’s a great goal.

I’ve had a great experience working in San Francisco in the dot com era. It was an Australian company that decided to base themselves in San Francisco as that’s where the web was really taking off. VC’s were throwing money at anything and I think that made many businesses sloppy. I know there were many very limited business plans or plans to be profitable.

Having been through that I’ve seen how people can get caught up in the hype I think being in Australia is great for keeping it real. Not getting caught up in the rush for funding and then being beholden to others who own your business and drive your business.

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

Hippogo.com.au is my idea, and it’s free for parents to register and browse kids activities and holiday care. It’s also free for activity providers to list their activities.

What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry at the moment?

I think Change.org is making a huge change in the way people seek change and justice.

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

I have a quote on my wall about clear corporate character: “What a business believes and subsequently how it behaves are as important as what it sells.”

I think businesses that have good corporate character encourage employees and other businesses to conduct themselves in the same way. It strengthens and supports our communities. We still have a way to go to combat the Gordon Gecko, “Greed is good,” mentality.

Speaking of affecting social change, we’ve teamed up with Shout for Good to encourage readers to ‘shout a coffee’ to charity by clicking the button below. Is there a particular charity you’d like to support?

Our agency, Kindleman, provides complete web support for the Footpath Library. It’s a great charity that provides books to the homeless and disadvantaged.

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

We are always looking for marketing assistance. None of our team are working on Hippogo full time so help is always appreciated. We also want to get parents involved as they are the ones that can really benefit from our service. Sign­up and become part of the hippogo family.

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?

How do people keep motivated to continue the start­up journey?

What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?

Stowaway bar in Lawrence St, Freshwater. It’s a small village bar, walking distance from my house and they let me take my dog.


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