The Fetch Blog

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Interview: Melbourne Local, Nick Jaffe — May 29, 2012

Interview: Melbourne Local, Nick Jaffe

Name: Nick Jaffe
Website: http://nickjaffe.com.au & http://bigoceans.com
Twitter handle (s): @hellojaffe & @bigoceans
Works at: Cofounder @ Serversaurus, Dynomesh & ElectronWorkshop

What was your first job?

My first job was just after my 17th birthday, as a web developer for a company named Taten Pty Ltd (recently out of business), during the dotcom boom. They were one of the very first web shops in Melbourne, where I was developing in ASP, PHP, Perl & PL/SQL, primarily for the financial industry. My parents let me leave school on one condition: I must finish! So I enrolled in a long distance education school designed for kids living in rural communities, and did my VCE on weekends, while continuing to work full time.

Congratulations on the launch of Electron Workshop – can you tell us more about the space and the inspiration for it?

Thanks Kate! The space is a 285sqm warehouse, which my business partner Martin Gleeson and I renovated, entirely on our own. We’re programmers, not builders, so it was a huge learning curve, and a lot more work than we anticipated! We worked day and night for ten months, while still managing to keep our other businesses afloat – and in Marty’s case, he also had the additional pressure of being a dad and husband. Our inspiration was playfulness, independence, and to build our dream workspace, which could be open, fun, and essentially an awesome place to spend a lot of time at. There were no preconceived notions, or other spaces we wanted to emulate during the development of the Electron Workshop – our interest is in founding our own coworking philosophy and space, outside of any other frameworks or preconceptions. Currently the space is in its very infancy, and a lot of exciting things are in the works.

Electron Workshop after just opening

The cool, reto-styled kitchen

When can people come and check it out?

People are welcome to come check out our space pretty much anytime. For those interested, please visit our website and contact page to get in touch!

You’ve sailed around the world solo – does everything else now seem like a walk in the park?

That’s an interesting question! I don’t think it necessarily makes everything else seem like a walk in the park, however it definitely gave me a deep sense of perspective. My biggest gain from that voyage (as it was undertaken with very little, and over many years), was a clear vision of what is possible through pure grit, good friends, and also risk. In a sense, taking a risk today is a walk in the park, however that is very different from pushing that idea/risk/dream into fruition, finality, and ultimately success (however that may be judged). For example, building this coworking space with Marty, has been very hard for the both of us, and it continues to be, as we continue to push forward with our own vision and dream. For myself, taking on a large and risky project, and truly believing we could make it work through sheer perseverance, was one of the many things I learned from long distance sailing. I also learned a lot from the experience of doing something big with a cofounder, rather than being entirely solo.

Nick arriving in San Francisco

Between Home is a documentation of this journey – how do you pull together a film and when can we see a screening?

The film Between Home was created by a Berlin based filmmaker, named Jack Rath, who has been living in Berlin for the last 12 years. We met while I was living in Berlin, and it was his idea to make the documentary. He began filming in 2006, and later provided a camera for me to shoot with along the way. Jack would later meet me in different locations around the world, and I would send my footage back for him to catalogue. At the end of the voyage, Jack spent two years editing and producing the film down from 180 hours of raw material, a process which turned out to be a similar experience to my sailing – one of madness, shoe-string budgets, setbacks, and everything else that comes along with following one’s own lonely path! The film was shown for the first time in Berlin, just a few weeks ago, and is set to be shown at a festival in Australia this July. With any luck be available online very soon…

The trailer for Between Home

You lived in Berlin for a while – do you think there are similarities between there and Melbourne?

I think there are some similarities, such as Berlin and Melbourne both containing an educated, creative and technical populace, with a somewhat financially risk averse and conservative investment culture. To me, Melbourne and Berlin feel like the kinds of cities you might go to build really good long-term digital businesses – an app development shop, digital agency, small game studio, etc. I think maybe today they’re called ‘lifestyle businesses’! I know that for us, we’re here to create great, sustainable small business for the long haul. Pragmatically, Berlin is probably an easier place to survive in the startup phase though – the cost of living is significantly lower, and its placement on the map makes it globally central.

What’s your favourite city to visit and also work?

My favourite place to visit and work is… San Francisco! I’m not sure if I could ever live there, and survive a gruelling life of killing myself for someone else’s startup or capital, but as a place to visit, it contains all things I love: progressive people, beautiful forests, an amazing bay, good friends, good sailing, great culture, and lots of tech.

What’s the hardest challenge you’ve had to face work-wise?

Staying focused, knowing when to stop working, and getting people to take notice of the things we do without a marketing budget!

Who else do you think is doing cool stuff in our industries?

There is so much cool stuff going on at the moment, I can barely keep up! The things that are exciting me the most, are a lot of the smaller independent projects which are coming out of platforms like Kickstarter. Free-agent creativity and crowd funding is absolutely blowing my mind!

What’s next?

For now I’m maxed out in terms of building things, and will concentrate on creating community at the Electron Workshop, and continue to provide awesome services and growth through our web hosting companies, Dynomesh and Serversaurus. As for adventure, well, when I’m able to take some time away, I’d like to shoot an independent documentary on some of the mysterious islands hidden in South Pacific with good friends, aboard my second sailing boat based in San Francisco, named Harmony.

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