Gordon is the 25-year old Founder and CEO of online publishing and events business, 5Why. After starting the business in 2013 while studying a bachelor of media and communications at Notre Dame University in Sydney, Gordon jumped into the project full time in mid-2016.
Having worked for a range of media brands across start-ups, SMEs and big corporates in Australia, Gordon found a love for content early on. Having his first article published at 15 in his local Fairfax community paper, the Sydney-based entrepreneur created Injury Time – a sports based website which complimented his love for sport and journalism. Realising this might restrict his audience, Gordon created 5Why after speaking to a bunch of his classmates at Notre Dame.
After launching officially and running as a side project, Gordon tested a few concepts for 5Why – including a brief spell living in San Francisco – to brainstorm the best angle for the project. Since then, the project has landed funding and has worked with brands like Netflix, Ford, Headspace, GiggedIn and Bombay Sapphire.
Gordon also runs a separate consulting business called GDM where he advises clients on content and digital marketing needs.
Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
It was a combination of two things. First, it was the want to get out of the 9-5 routine. I felt very safe and comfortable at my last corporate job. I knew how to do the job well to move up the ladder, but honestly, it was hard to get fully behind anything – and I reckon a lot of people feel the same in their jobs.
Second, I was always passionate about content and telling stories, so I wanted to do something that was worth remembering in this space. Hence why I went down the 5Why space. So these two things came together and convinced me mentally to take the jump.
Can you explain your business model to us?
So we have two main ‘products’ at the moment – native content and events. Native content is the main focus, where we essentially tie in products or brands within content we create on site and on social in the most naturally fitting way we can.
Events are becoming a key focus for us right now because we really want to bring the brand to life a bit and foster that sense of community. It’s like the cliché with Millennials and jobs, the concept that you need more than just a degree. Well, we want to be more than just a publisher doing youth content.
What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next year?
The focus right now is to really drive some revenue in via the native content and events channels. In saying that the collaborations we are fostering are super exciting. Without saying too much, we’re working with some event groups, designers and businesses across the country. So we’re really trying to be creative and attempting to push the boundaries.
How do you make ideas happen?
Following set structures and follow ups. I think as entrepreneurs we’re often guilty of having these great ideas, that get us super excited, but we don’t put the procedures in place after to follow through on the hype.
It’s something I’ve done many times, but since then have implemented a personal follow up system which makes sure the great ideas get followed through and brought to life. It’s honestly a simple concept that just requires discipline.
What role have mentors played in your business life?
They’ve played a big one, without it being OTT. The whole mentor word I think is a bit overdone in the startup scene. You definitely need guidance and people to lean on for advice. But let the mentors appear and come to you, not the other way around. Don’t be desperate to find one for the sake of having one, that’s not needed. When they appear in your life, have the courage to approach them and if you guys really connect, rest will take care of itself.
In saying that the best mentor experience I had was at my last corporate job. I had a manager who actively encouraged me not rest on my laurels and coast through easily at that job. It’s rare to have that in a full-time gig I feel, and without his influence, I’d probably still be cruising through an easy job without really testing myself.
What does your typical day look like?
It’s pretty standard! To be honest, I’m not that cliché 14-hour per day type – I need the gym time, midweek catch up time and general social time to stay sane. As most of our potential clients work during the day, we match our hours up so emails are on the same page and such. I normally head to the gym or football during the week after hours, and then spend time on things like UX on site or more product based things if I have spare time at night.
I like to have the weekends to just chill a bit, but it’s definitely hard to completely switch off!
What challenges have you faced when starting or growing an organisation in Australia?
Probably growing in a busy youth media space and getting audience loyalty. It’s been a hard slog, but we’ve definitely found our focused voice and tone that has helped us grow – because people know how to differentiate us to our competition. It’s always difficult to grow in an industry when you first start, but it’s good in a way too – because you have so much competition, you’re forced to think more creatively about how to market your business.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
Make sure you pick the right people and branding to represent your brand. Sometimes I think founders think that because they started the business, they should be the face. Now don’t get me wrong, you definitely need to be a promoter of your business, but you need to pick the people and branding that best suit your audience base. And that may not always be you as a founder.
What people or organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?
There’s no doubt Junkee and Pedestrian are the leaders in youth media in Australia at the moment. With oOh! Media having a stake in Junkee and Channel 9 with Pedestrian, it means both have considerable budgets, which makes things easier – and tough for us!
What about internationally?
I’m a fan of Elite Daily in the way they started and went from startup to being bought out. The content they create across articles and video is engaging and does the job for the audience. The actual substance of the content can be hit and miss for me personally, but I think they’ve been smart in the way they’ve tailored the content for a wide youth age range.
What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?
A huge one. I think it’s often tough at the startup phase because you’re always bootstrapping funds, so it can be hard to think outside of that bubble. But we’re seeing heaps of great social change focused start-ups even forming, which is great to see. I’d love to get 5Why to a place where we can contribute continuously to social change causes and charities.
Is there a particular charity or social enterprise you support?
We are actually in the midst of a great partnership with Headspace where we’ve created mental health related content with a relaxed youth tone. It’s been super fun creating the actual content and we’re excited to see the upcoming pieces.
Can you recommend 3 websites to our readers?
The Conversation – A rare site that focuses on in-depth content, only approved academics and writers can contribute which adds validity to the content.
BuzzSumo – A great site to track popular content across the world.
My Interview – A great Aussie start-up where you can interview job candidates online.
Which 3 Australians do you think we should follow on Twitter?
Marc Fennel – he will become one of Australia’s prime journalists, especially with TV interviews.
Larry Emdur – for great value banter.
Paul Bennetts – for solid business information, advice and tips.
Do you have opportunities for people to get involved with your idea?
For sure! We usually have two interns with us across the marketing, social and events space, so if you are interested you can send me a note directly expressing your interest to [email protected]. If you want to contribute, write or film for us you can send an email to [email protected] with your details, too.
We’re shortly about to raise some funding too, so if anyone has any advice or questions we would definitely welcome those through my personal email above! And of course, we LOVE collaborating. So if you think our brands fit, then just let me know.
We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, what would it be?
What important business, legal and admin documents should be worth investing in when starting a business?
What’s your favourite bar?
Tough one! One of my secret go to in Sydney is a place called Venue 505. It’s a sneaky little jazz bar in Surry Hills, you would never be able to tell though just walking past it. It’s on an off street, but completely decked out in lounges and during the week you get free, live, jazz for no cost entry. Combine with a great selection of whiskeys and you have a winner!