Jef Van Acoleyen – co-founder of GoHear

Jef (middle) with co-founders Dan Courtness (left) and Kevin Tse.
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Jef is a marketer and brand strategist who loves entrepreneurship and design (graphic and furniture), with over 10 years experience in both Australia and Belgium. Before turning his mind to marketing, he spent 5 years working in finance in Europe. In 2009 he moved to Melbourne to complete an MBA at Melbourne Business School, fell in love with the city and pursued a marketing career before hitting on the right entrepreneurial idea and the amazing team of people that got him excited to take the plunge with GoHear.

Outside of work, he likes to run and realign his desk-slumped shoulders with Pilates, and he enjoys the food, drink and music Melbourne has on offer. He’s an admirer of anything Elon Musk touches and has taken an unhealthy interest in American politics. He is currently watching ‘Billions’ and reading ‘I am Pilgrim’. Next to this, he is a great admirer or Tim Urban, the founder and writer of Wait Buy Why, the best blog on the internet.

The creative process within our team has been great, which I think has a lot to do with the differences we each bring to the table and which allows us to view GoHear from very different perspectives.

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

The idea for GoHear was born out of our experience that it was often difficult and time-consuming  choosing the right gig to go to from the great number of amazing daily musical performances in Melbourne. Like many people in Melbourne, we love going to gigs, but we don’t spend a lot of time reading all the music websites and blogs, which meant that we were really struggling to find out about good gigs. That’s why, like many people, we relied on gig guides. However, they had one major constraint: they didn’t provide us with the music to help with our decision.

The “there has to be a better way” moment happened when one night Kevin, Erik and I, all ex-housemates, were having dinner together before heading out to a gig (Kill Devil Hills at the Curtin Hotel). “What if we make a gig guide that actually lets you listen to the music?” We basically decided to pursue the idea there and then.

We took the plunge because the idea resonated so strongly with us, but also because we saw the benefits to local artists and the size of the opportunity, especially living in one of the biggest live music cities in the world, Melbourne. About 200,000 people a week attend live music in Melbourne, and a large majority of them go to the small venues Melbourne is so well-known for, listening to mostly local bands. Also, we found that we had complementary skills that work really well together.

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

The app we launched is basically our minimum viable product (MVP) and we have some great upgrades in mind that will further enhance the user experience in the short run. You’ll see upgrades coming in like ticketing links, search functionality (so you can figure out what’s going on at your favourite venues or where and when a band you know is playing) and a few others. As a next step forward, we’ll be looking at how we can make GoHear more interactive for users, artists and venues.

We’re most excited about getting user feedback, seeing whether the concept gets taken up and how people use the app. We want to continue our growth and build our proposition by ensuring that we listen to our users and keep working on improving the app.  It’ll be interesting to see if our current momentum will continue.

How do you make your ideas happen?

It depends on how consequential the ideas are for our venture. When we’re talking about the really big ideas, we have very rigorous team discussions upfront to make sure the idea aligns with our vision, that we discuss alternatives that might be better for the user, or easier or cheaper and that we understand how the decision we agree on impacts each of our roles.

So far it’s been decision-making by consensus: we need to be able to convince each other. Because we’ve all bought into the decision, the implementation is then just a matter of doing what we said we’d do. We hold each other to account for these things in our team meetings as well. Prior to launch, we tested our ideas with our beta testers and adapted our direction based on their feedback.

The creative process within our team has been great, which I think has a lot to do with the differences we each bring to the table and which allows us to view GoHear from very different perspectives.

What does your typical day look like?

My typical days are chaotic and range from the big picture thinking to the most menial tasks. I prepare and run team meetings, I prioritise development work with our developer Dan, I plan social posts, I do data entry, and I have strategic discussions with advisors and partners. The great thing about being part of a small team at such an early stage is that everything is your job (well, anything that doesn’t require programming skills in my case) and the extent to which you need to figure out every little detail yourself – there’s just no one else to do it. Luckily we’ve had quite a few great advisors who have been really generous with their time and advice. It think the expression “steep learning curve” applies to what we’re doing.

What challenges have you faced when starting or growing your business in Australia?

My main challenge and the challenge of our team, is that time is always in short supply. None of us have the luxury of being able to spend all of our time on the venture at this stage, which doesn’t only slow things down, but also makes for a work-life balance that’s sometimes a bit out of whack.

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

Read “the 4 hour work week” by Tim Ferriss. It’s not quite an idea as such, but I think it’s a great way to start thinking about alternative ways of setting up a business.

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

Parlour Gigs and Tone Deaf.

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

Given that people’s time and energy tends to get directed to where money is being generated, it makes sense that if we can create social change in a profitable (or at least self-sustaining) way, it is likely to be more effective. A profit incentive can often help align interests better than any goodwill can.

Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers.

OKdork.com – Noah Kagan is one of the first growth hackers who shares some great advice for startups.

Tonedeaf.com.au – the Australian music website that tells it like it is.

Waitbutwhy.com – long form copy blog about amazing topics.

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

We are on the look out for some talented developers, either final year students or young grads who like the idea of GoHear and who would like the real-world experience. They’ll be working with some of the most relevant programming languages and database systems of our time – all applied to a mobile application, where the UX is crucial.

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 much should external funding be at the back of your mind while setting up your business? Should you allow it to sway your decisions in a different direction than if external funding wasn’t a consideration, or should you ignore it altogether as – by definition – you’d be second-guessing an investor’s thinking?

What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?

The Beaufort in Carlton is great! It has the right mixture of quality and grunginess.

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