Martin is one of the co-founders of Prevyou. A long time self-proclaimed wantrepreneur, Martin tried his hand at many different startup and business ideas before founding Prevyou in late 2015. At the time, Martin and his two co-founders were working full-time. Gaining entry into the 2016 Vocus Upstart accelerator, was the catalyst for the team to leave their jobs and dive into the startup scene.
Can you tell us a little bit about your idea and how did you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
Prevyou is an online learning platform that equips young people with the practical skills necessary for the real-world. The idea for Prevyou came from a personal experience that I faced when starting my first professional job. I was working as a Graduate at NAB and I soon realized that despite a 5-year Uni degree, I had very little practical skills for the real world. Working alongside another 80 graduates taught me this was a serious problem facing young people causing a great amount of stress and uncertainty. Realizing that the best people to teach those practical skills are the ones just a couple of steps ahead, we are building a learning platform for recent graduates to share their knowledge with the people looking to follow in their footsteps.
Coul you explain your business model to us?
Our service is a freemium model at the moment. Users receive access to our basic content for free and have the option to upgrade to receive access to premium content for a small monthly fee.
What are you working on right now and what are are your plans for the next year?
Our key focus at the moment is to create amazing content. We’re working on a series of online courses, podcasts and eBooks in time for our relaunch in February 2017. One project that I’m most excited about is a concept to create a repeatable and scalable internship experience. Our experience to date has taught us that there simply aren’t enough internship opportunities to go around at the moment, meaning that too many students are missing out. This project involves creating interactive projects that students can complete at any firm. This takes the hassle of organizing and managing away from Employers, which will lead to more opportunities for students.
How do you make ideas happen?
I follow Richard Branson’s advice to always have a notebook handy to record ideas as soon as they come. I find my most creative moments come when I’m preoccupied with something else, like driving my car or going for a run. Making sure I record ideas as soon as they come to me is essential. Even if they seem stupid or irrelevant, I find writing them down gives me a sense of accomplishment.
I’ve found this process very useful in becoming more creative by exercising my ‘ideas muscle’ so to speak. Some of these ideas have come in extremely handy, but not until an opportunity presents itself, which can be many months later.
What role have mentors played in your business life?
An extremely important one. Throughout the Vocus Accelerator program, we had access to a group of almost 40 mentors to bounce ideas off. Seeking advice from people who have been there and done it before has helped us fast-track our progress and avoid a few pitfalls.
One piece of advice I’ll give is to aggregate the feedback mentors give you. At the end of the day, there will be no one who understands your idea as well as you do, so back yourself and don’t react too seriously to just one person’s opinion. However, if 10 people are all telling you the same thing – then you probably need to listen to them!
One mentor that deserves special mention is Sam Birmingham. I met Sam back in 2012 after he gave a speech at an Entrepreneurship Unit at my University. I reached out to him and caught up for a coffee to tell him about my amazing idea for an app that tells people how long the lines are at local nightclubs. Sam happily humoured me and generously offered his time and advice on that project and a whole list of other startup ideas that I unsuccessfully tried to launch over the years.
The idea for Prevyou came from a Pollenizer course that Sam and Phil Morel put together called the 60-day startup (it’s now a book on Amazon). This course gave me a step-by-step guide to channel all my wantrepreneurial energy in a productive way. By the end of the 60 days I’d built a website (with no technical experience), had more than 120 users and my first paying customer.
What does your typical day look like?
I’m pretty strict in my morning routine, I feel that getting the day off to a good consistent start is incredibly important for me.
I’m usually up at 6 a.m. and start the day with a glass of lemon juice (there is apparently some health benefit to this but I find it’s a good way to snap me out of sleep). After that, I do a simple 30-minute exercise/ yoga workout, followed by 15 minutes of meditation (using the headspace app) and then a short run before breakfast. Sorry to get into the granular details but this routine has had a tremendously positive impact on my productivity.
I’m usually into the office at around 8.30, I’m currently working out of a coworking space called Bloom. Bloom is a student-run social enterprise to empower students to pursue an Entrepreneurial path. They’ve got an incredible space in the colleges at UWA near the Swan River in Perth, so we’re extremely fortunate to have a chance to work here.
We have our team standup meeting at 9 a.m. and then just get into the grind. The standup meetings is something that our team brought in about two months ago and it’s been really important for ensuring that we’re all pulling in the same direction and staying accountable to the milestones we’ve set.
I’m driving for Uber at the moment to earn some extra cash on the side, so I usually turn that on around lunchtime whilst I’m at my desk. I find taking a few moments to get away and go for a drive helps me stay fresh during the long days, and making some money in the process is a bit of a bonus.
I usually finish up around 6, and then either do some more Uber driving or head home for a few more hours of work.
This might seem like I’m a workaholic, and I am mindful of trying to find a sense of balance between work and other things. I do think there is a risk of burning out if you’re not careful and I’ve been close to that point a few times. However, I’m sure many other founders out there can resonate with the feeling that it doesn’t feel like work if you’re passionate about what you’re doing. This is certainly the case for me, and working with two of my closest friends on Prevyou has also been great fun!
What challenges have you faced growing a business in Australia?
In terms of the Australian Eco-system, I’d just like to say that’s it’s great to see so many more accelerator/ incubator programs popping up each year. As someone who’s just come out of one of these programs, I can’t express just how valuable it’s been. If it wasn’t for the Vocus accelerator I can honestly say that Prevyou probably wouldn’t exist at the moment. It gave our team the green light to leave our jobs and pursue this idea with the energy and attention it required.
One major challenge that we’ve faced was that of trying to launch a marketplace service. Our original concept was a jobs platform, to match students and employers for internships/ graduate jobs. Trying to balance both sides of the market was extremely challenging, as you need to cater to two completely different customer groups at the same time. Finding the right balance became too hard for us, so we pivoted into our current model about two months ago, which is a B2C solution.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
As Steve Blank would say ‘ideas are worth nothing whilst left in your head’ so I’m willing to give all my ideas away for free.
Here’s one for you. As a youngish person I’m pretty concerned about the impact of climate change. I’m a big believer that consumers can do more to address this issue through the choices they make. The idea is a combination of two services I currently use, Acorns and Ethical Super.
Acorns is an app that connects with your bank account and helps you save every time you spend. Each time you make a purchase on your card, Acorns round up the amount to the nearest dollar and puts the difference into an investment fund. For example, if you spend $12.40 and 60c goes into your investment account. This app has been amazing in helping me save and I don’t even notice that it’s happening.
I’m sure you know where I’m going with this. Ethical Super invests its members’ funds exclusively in sustainable, ethical companies. So the idea is for an app that facilitates the acorns service and invests to money in projects to address the impact of climate change. Essentially this would be an opt-in carbon tax. Consumers can help address climate change everytime they make a purchase and the funds will be used to generate a positive financial return.
Shoot me an email if you like this idea or please go ahead and build it yourself, I’ll be your first customer!
What Australian organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry at the moment?
Go1, are Y-combinator alumni and doing so great things in the Employee onboarding space. They offer a software package to help organizations better deliver their training material and connect with a marketplace of course providers for continuous learning materials.
What about internationally?
Rise-to are a UK startup, that are also looking to bridge the gap between Uni and the real world. They offer a jobs-platform, combined with industry-specific learning to help students become more practically equipped.
What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?
A huge role. I strongly believe that our future social issues will be solved by Entrepreneurs and not politicians. You only need to look to Elon Musk to see what can be achieved through enterprise. Politicians only need to offer the necessary support to empower these people to make change.
Is there a particular charity or social enterprise you support?
Bloom, the coworking space that we reside in is a social enterprise and we strongly support everything they do.
What are 3 websites you would recommend to our readers?
Hubspot as it offers a range of useful tools for inbound marketing.
Hunter to find anyone’s email address from their LinkedIn profile.
The Hemingway app to learn how to write clearly and concisely
Are there 3 Australians you think we should follow on Twitter?
Steve Baxter: @sbxr
Miles Burke @milesb
Rohit Bhargava @RohitBhargava7
Do you have any opportunities for people to get involved with your idea?
We’re moving to Sydney in early 2017, so if anyone from Sydney is interested in connecting I’d love to grab a coffee.
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?
How do you structure your pricing model, early on, without impacting your customer relationship?
Do you have a favourite cafe or bar?
PICA bar in Perth is one of the world’s finest establishments – ask for Alex at the bar and tell him Martin sent you 😉