Mike Ebinum co-founder of SEED Digital

Mike always had a keen interest in technology and started tinkering as a young kid growing up in Nigeria. From fixing radios, video games and electronics, to learning how to code in the 90s before it was cool, Mike has always had a keen desire to learn and develop new ways of finding solutions to problems using technology.

Moving to Australia in 2007 after stints in Spain and South Africa, Mike completed a B.Sc. and M.Eng. in Computer Science specializing in Distributed Computing and has spent the last 9 years working with Australia’s top Digital marketing, product and technology development firms.

After catching the entrepreneur bug, Mike left the corporate world, founded and exited a couple of Startups. From speaking and meeting with a lot of business owners and potential entrepreneurs Mike saw an opportunity to help other startups and established businesses leverage emerging technologies to solve their business problems. Mike co-founded SEED Digital a digital product development agency to partner with emerging businesses (startups), established forward thinking businesses (enterprise) and businesses trying to change the world (social enterprises) providing digital expertise using lean startup principles.

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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?

SEED Digital was born a few months after meeting my co-founder Christopher Bartlett at the GovHack hackathon in Melbourne. We hit it off, discovered we both were working on similar side projects, had complementary skill sets and loved developing products for a range of clients.

We predominantly work with Startups (smaller businesses), Enterprises (big companies) and Social enterprises (businesses that are trying to change the world), starting from ideation through to product strategy, experience design and development into a technology solution, usually in the form of a mobile, web app or an API (Application Programming Interface). We partner with startups and enterprises providing a full range of digital services including digital strategy, creative design, user experience design and software engineering implementations across multiple channels including mobile, web, ecommerce and interactive display.

Please explain your business model.

We start all our relationships operating on a fee for service model and offer the option of equity or a share in revenue with our partners after we have worked with them through our process. At SEED we look develop products that do good and have a sustainable business model behind them. It’s not just about developing a product, it’s about developing the right product or service.

We believe in giving back to the community, so we dedicate 10% of our time and profits to helping social enterprises and non for profits achieve their goals.

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

We are currently in the process of developing an experienced based learning application called iluku, the app is directed to people who work with or experience some form of mental illness. It will allow people to learn by experiencing different forms auditory hallucinations to start with, then allow people to create and share different forms of these experiences onto the platform. The project started from an experimental video about Auditory Hallucinations that was uploaded to youtube by the founder Jarrad, which got about 3 Million views.

How do you make ideas happen?

This is my day job, we makes ideas happen. I tend to practice what I preach and always take a systematic approach starting with

  • The big Vision: The outcome of what I want to see achieved with an idea whether big or small
  • The Goal: What is the point of the idea, what problem am I trying to solve or what am I trying to achieve out of it
  • What do I need to make it happen: I use tools like, the business model canvas or lean canvas to map out what are the key activities, resources, partners, target customers or users for my idea will be if it’s a product.
  • Who are the people involved? Identify, profile and find people that I think the idea will be useful to.
  • What is so great about this idea? – Why is this valuable. I figure this out by using tools like Unique Value proposition canvas and testing the idea (usually starts by talking to the people that will use the product and getting feedback)
  • Determine how much time/effort am I willing to spend on this idea.
  • Go Manual/Walk with the users: Test out the idea manually, doing this will help verify assumptions I’ve made about the value of my idea and also get first hand experience about how people will interact with the idea
  • Build, Measure, Learn, Iterate: This could happen in different forms i.e. build could just be a simple wireframe, a pitch, or full prototype. The point is to experiment, make a hypothesis, test it, improve on it based on feedback.

For me the most important thing is to just start the process, work out clear vision and strategy. The clearer the vision the easier it is to see the steps to get there , experiment, learn, fail, have fun and persist until you get to your destination.

What does your typical day look like?

Typical cycle is wake up at 5:30 go to the Gym or Yoga. Shower, ride to work, eat breakfast while I catch up on emails and have a stand up with the team. Do all my communication tasks, reply to emails, make phone calls then start working on tasks for the day. Clockout around 6/6:30, have dinner, prep meals/clothes for the next day. Do a bit of reading or watch some TV, jump in bed at around 10. Repeat
What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?

I think there is a risk aversion to jumping out and starting a business, what I’ve found the hardest is getting your name/brand out there in marketplace and getting customers. Networking has been key to helping with this.

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

“You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.” – Shirly Chisholm

You should always be people focused, at the centre of any idea has is the human that is going to be affected, empathy will get you a long way.

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

ThoughtWorks Australia

What about internationally?

ideo

Fueled

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

I think businesses are quite pivotal to affecting social change. A lot can be done when companies and individuals focus on making a change in the world.

Speaking of affecting social change, is there a particular charity you’d like to support?

Steps Outreach Australia is a small team of dedicated workers and volunteers who spend time at the Steps of Flinders St Station, forming relationship with young homeless people.

Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers.

Brain Pickings

Coursera

Design Indaba

Name an Australian we should follow on Twitter.

Christopher Bartlett @chipershot

Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?

We would love to work with startups, established companies and social enterprises who are looking for help with reaching new customer and getting the most out of their digital channels. SEED can definitely help to them develop digital strategies and products.

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?

What is stops you from making your idea into a reality?

What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?

Would have to be South of Johnston in Fitzroy. Great vibe, decor and food.

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