Jay Kanahara Co-Founder of Suburbiya

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Jay Kanahara co-founded a wellness marketplace, which we took to revenue after successfully building a product that customers wanted.  Through this startup, we learned the intricacies of running a marketplace startup including growth tactics, supplier vetting, operations, tracking marketing spend, investor relations and PR. Aside from startups, Jay worked as an Auditor and in Banking so it gave him a good understanding of dealing with customers and senior stakeholders. Education wise completed a Masters in Accounting and Chartered Accounting.  He’s also been part of non-profit committees that organised fund relief efforts for war-torn kids and organised a careers fair for new migrants.

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

I’ve moved houses quite a few times and moving a household item from one place to the next was always a pain point.  I also bought a house the last time I moved and there wasn’t a lot of money left over after spending money on the house deposit.  I wanted to find some good quality furniture as a short term fix but was surprised how poor the user experience was on some of the existing sites.  I also had some left over furniture from the previous owners that I didn’t need and wanted to try to sell these off at the lowest possible price.  I found the whole experience as a seller to be even worse with no accountability and rating reviews with a lack of safety and security.  We thought that we could build a new product for customers to buy and sell with people you trust in your local city with a quality user interface.

Tell me about your business model.

We’re focusing on growth at the moment and therefore allowing our sellers to list items free of charge without any commission for sales.  There’s also no charge for the buyers either.  There are several thoughts on monetisation, however, growth and customer satisfaction are our priorities at this stage.

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

We’re looking to delight our customers as best we can and that is providing a simple product that lets them list their items for sale with photos, pricing, description, messaging, payments and reviews.

How do you make ideas happen?

Understand the user pain points and needs, is there a decent size market for it, create a prototype and test out the market reaction.  The last step is by far the hardest but a decent product that solves a real problem gives you some great insights.

What role have mentors played in your business life?

Having mentors who have ‘done it’ in the past always helps.  You meet a lot of people through the startup community and there are some you automatically connect with and gravitate towards.  They’ve passed on some handy tips about product ideas, using freelancer help where possible, revenue models, features, growth ideas, the list goes on!

What does your typical day look like?

I’m into building the product (that means building something customers want) so I tend to focus on getting the product up to a certain standard before it’s ready for marketing or telling the world.  The market generally won’t pull a half-baked product with poor design etc.  The day also involves plenty of emails with my co-founders, reviewing marketing and growth hacks, metrics review and reading anything I can get my hands on from industry readers in online Marketplaces like Boris Wertz, Jeff Jordan, Reid Hoffman, etc.

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

Risk aversion to quitting a safe job as well as family pressures are always challenges to juggle, although culture around taking risks and building your own company is definitely on the up in Australia with lots of new founders coming into the ecosystem.

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

Having done this for a while, I’ve realised you have to solve your own problems, otherwise, you don’ have a good base to start with on exactly what a customer needs and you’ll be iterating too often and potentially even lose interest.  So that’s my tip, solve your own problems!

What companies do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?

There are a couple of early stage marketplaces I keep an eye on aswell as few startups that have broken out and succeeding such as AirTasker and Campaign Monitor locally.

What about internationally?

Obsessed with Uber, it’s founding team and the way they execute.   The Airbnb story is just as inspiring on how much grit the founders had to display to bring their idea to life.  I’m always looking to learn from amazing founding teams that created new markets and executed exceptionally well.

Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers.

a16z podcast

Both sides of the table by Mark Suster

YC Macro

Name 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter.

Paul Bassat

Adrian Stone

Atlassian Founders

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

We’re talking to a few Angel Investors at the moment and are looking to raise a seed round so would welcome a discussion.


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