The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

Interview: SF local, Gary Swart of oDesk — May 14, 2013

Interview: SF local, Gary Swart of oDesk

 This week we interview Gary Swart, the CEO of oDesk – a global job marketplace.

Gary Swart
Gary Swart

You started at oDesk in 2005 as CEO, what changes have you seen in the company since then?

Well we have definitely grown quite a bit! If you think about the evolution of a startup in terms of three phases—the jungle, the dirt road and the highway—we’ve gone from overtaking the competition in 2009 while in our ‘jungle’ phase, to now approaching the ‘highway’ and being larger than all of our next six competitors combined. A large part of that growth was the decision in 2006 to refine our pricing strategy, a decision which top Silicon Valley venture capitalist Bill Gurley of Benchmark Capital called “aggressive strategic thinking” that launched us to market leadership.

We’ve experienced eight times growth in ‘hours worked’ on the oDesk platform since only 2009, so our company has expanded significantly to keep up with that demand. We are now at approximately 130 full-time employees in our Silicon Valley headquarters, plus another 250 full-time-equivalent freelancers from the oDesk network who come to work for us every day from around the world. And as we fully reach the ‘highway’ and continue to grow, I expect our ranks to continue expanding so we can keep up.

You came in to help the founders, Odysseas Tsatalos and Stratis Karamanlakis, scale and build the company. Are they still involved to date?

Absolutely; Odysseas is currently our Chief Technology Officer and Stratis is our Vice President of Development. They truly embody the oDesk vision, as the company was born out of their desire to work together. In 2003, Odysseas’ Silicon Valley startup was in need of a world-class engineer with a specific skill set. He thought his friend Stratis in Greece would be a great fit, but Odysseas’ team was hesitant to hire someone halfway around the world. To bridge the distance, the two developed technology to manage their work together online. They realized the potential of their technology, and oDesk was born. They continue to not only work together—with Odysseas in California and Stratis still in Athens—but also to help shape the vision for oDesk.

 How does oDesk differ from other marketplaces?

oDesk differs from other kinds of marketplaces—such as online shopping or even online dating—primarily because it’s about more than just finding the right product or service (or date); we also care about what happens after the match. So whereas other marketplaces are essentially cut out of the picture after the product is sold or the relationship has sparked, oDesk stays in the picture throughout the lifecycle of the working relationship.

Our value, therefore, lies in creating long-term relationships, and then giving users the tools to make those relationships successful.

This has required building a much more robust platform that supports these continued relationships, from making the match and managing the professional, to submitting the final deliverable and facilitating payment. Trust and transparency have been especially critical to building a vibrant community that fosters these long-term relationships, as the people working together typically never meet in person and often are hundreds or thousands of miles away. To create this trust and transparency, our freelancer profiles offer rich information such as each professional’s work history, ratings and reviews, education and portfolio. We also offer a guarantee to businesses that an hour paid is an hour worked, as well as a guarantee to freelancers that an hour worked is an hour paid.

 

How do you think the workforce is changing and how can businesses keep up?

I think both businesses and workers are realizing that the traditional work model—the 9-to-5 in the same office, staffed with full-time employees who work there for a year or more—is not only outdated, but unnecessary. Thanks to advancements in technology, especially in collaboration and communication technologies, it’s no longer necessary to have everyone in the same office, working the same hours. Businesses are now embracing the fact that they can hire the best people for each role, regardless of where they are located, and that they can build flexible teams of experts that scale up and down in response to demand. Workers, meanwhile, are enjoying the freedom and flexibility to live and work wherever they like, to choose their own schedule, and to pick projects based on what they’re passionate about, not what they’re assigned.

As flexible work models become more and more mainstream, businesses that do not consider them will be left struggling to compete. So I really encourage businesses to have an open mind about what their workforce looks like.

Can people hire specialised talent via oDesk? What about roles that need to be in the know about company happenings (like social media managers)?

Definitely. In fact, specialized talent is often the best use case for oDesk. Online work has done to the job market what ecommerce did for retail—it enabled the long-tail of specialization to thrive. For example, a brick-and-mortar business probably wouldn’t be able to survive selling only pickles, but a homemade pickle business with an online presence can do extremely well because its customer base is global. In the same way, professionals who work online can be much more highly specialized—in a certain niche programming language, for example, or in branding for eBooks—because they have a much wider client base to serve. As oDesk has grown, we’ve seen specialized skills grow extremely quickly; we’ve even seen bioinformatics and theoretical physicists hired recently!

For roles that need to be highly informed on company happenings, we recommend a well thought-out onboarding process that gets the freelancer up to speed on how the company works, who and what they can use as a resource, how their performance will be measured, etc. We find that often freelancers become long-term team members, so it helps to train and include them in a similar way as you would with an in-person hire. Even on-site employees can feel like outsiders when communication isn’t effective, so it’s every manager’s responsibility to keep all their team members informed and involved—regardless of level, location, etc. For example, we have a policy at oDesk that when remote team members join meetings (which happens in almost every meeting), they have priority speaking privileges.

 

How could a non-technical person go about building a prototype for an idea using oDesk?

I would advise them to hire a project manager.

These professionals specialize in recruiting and managing online freelancers, and there are many who specialize further in serving as a liaison between technical talent and non-technical clients. Thanks in part to use cases like this one, the ‘project management’ category of work has exploded on oDesk—it’s currently our second fastest-growing skill on oDesk, with a two-year compound annual growth rate of 149% in dollars billed.

Do you get many companies developing good relationships with freelancers and then hire them directly?

While it’s definitely very common for clients to develop strong, long-term relationships with freelancers on oDesk, we actually find that both clients and freelancers usually prefer to keep the relationship on oDesk. That’s because we provide tools to manage and pay freelancers easily—which means businesses don’t have to worry about the paperwork or regulations of hiring remote workers, and freelancers don’t have to worry about submitting invoices or justifying their hours.

In fact, we frequently see businesses build entire distributed teams on oDesk, sometimes of more than 100 people. These teams function much more effectively by remaining on oDesk because the site helps them manage and pay these global teams, which would be extremely difficult without oDesk’s management technology or global payment platform. For example, with payment specifically, businesses would have a very challenging time paying workers all over the world in different currencies, with different regulations for international money transfer, etc.—whereas on oDesk, they have one simple credit card payment each week to pay their entire team. 

Without visibility, how can companies ensure freelancers are making good use of their time?

That’s exactly why oDesk has seen such rapid growth, because it addresses that pain point. oDesk is all about online visibility—providing the ability to “manage by walking around” and have an ongoing dialogue to collaborate and course-correct as work progresses. The main feature supporting this visibility is the Work Diary, which provides screenshots of work.

You’re officially launching in Australia in 2013 – what activities are on the cards?

 We are still in the information-gathering phase, but we are really looking forward to sharing details as soon as possible. One of the things we’ve already learned is that Australians are savvier than most in their use of online workers, so we see enormous potential for Australia. The market is already the second-largest on oDesk for the amount of work being hired for, and when we adjusted on a per-capita basis, we realized Australia is actually the largest market on oDesk. Australian businesses hired $32M of work on oDesk last year, which was twice as large as what the U.S. billed on a per-capita basis.

Have you visited before? What do you love about the place? Have you noticed many differences between the US and there?

I hadn’t visited before and now that I’ve been, I can’t believe it took me so long! What don’t I love? The first thing I did when I got off the plane was walk up and down the hills of Sydney, through all the vibrant neighborhoods.

It was a great way to get a sense of the place, and in many aspects there are a lot of similarities to the San Francisco Bay Area that I call home. I have to say though that the food in Australia might be better (at risk of offending Bay Area foodies), and that the tech scene is certainly equally vibrant. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the culture though was the laughter!

You just announced results of a survey on the future of work, focusing on independent and entrepreneurial professionals. What results did you find most enlightening?

We’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be “an entrepreneur”. It used to be that an entrepreneur started a company, period. Today, being an entrepreneur is more than that. It’s a mindset that people aspire to, and that many see as critical to career success. Technical innovation (especially the Internet) is making more business resources broadly available, essentially democratizing entrepreneurship. People are using shared or on-demand resources now that they wouldn’t have the purchasing power to access otherwise. We went into this study with the hypothesis that the definiton of what it means to be an entrepreneur has itself changed, but we were shocked to see how resoundingly the professionals we surveyed agreed — 90% classified “being an entrepreneur” as a mindset (versus someone who starts a company).

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About our Curator // Kate Kendall is the founder and CEO of The Fetch, a community where professionals can discover and share what’s happening in their city. Before this, Kate led product, content and digital at magazine companies, handled outreach for new startups and organised too many communities and events to mention. Follow her on Twitter at @katekendall.

Event Review: KPI – Become a Key Person of Influence — February 10, 2013

Event Review: KPI – Become a Key Person of Influence

What: KPI event or an introduction to an entrepreneur growth accelerator designed to assist small businesses through a growth phase.
Over Heard: “There has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur. There are opportunities for everyone.”

Captivated audience
Captivated audience

Last Saturday, the KPI event kicked off 2013 with over 670 people attending the conference at NAIDA in spite of the rain… this big number shows how much people, are they owners of small businesses or entrepreneurs, are eager to learn more about how to make a difference in their industry or even to the world.

The KPI Accelerator programme presents itself like a recipe to follow in order to achieve success in your industry. The motto being to love what you do, to stay authentic and to be ready to spare no expense to make it real… sounds interesting, doesn’t it?

Let’s start the journey with Glen Carlson and Daniel Priestley, our hosts for the day. Glen has an impressive list of professional achievements and describes himself as a startup enthusiast and a fun hunter. Daniel is known for coining the phrase ‘Global Small Business’ and believes that an Entrepreneur Revolution is unfolding. He is  also the best-selling author of the book Key Person of Influence.

We are no longer in the Industrial Age; we are in the Ideas Economy and everything has changed.

Being a key person of influence means having a voice within the industry. Influence comes from being a visible, remarkable, credible and valuable person in the inner-circle of the industry you love. Back in the days, what made you a person of influence was the family you were born, the school you went to and a touch of luck. Today, we’re facing a critical change: we came from the Industrial Age to the Ideas Economy and with the development of technology and smart devices everyone has a factory in his pocket. The last five years have seen a huge shift and with no geographic barriers, more and more people are working for themselves and today, your soft skills are what makes the difference.

Let’s be back to the recipe or five-step methods to set you and your business apart:

KPI event 5 steps

1. You need a Perfect Pitch: it’s all about answering the “What do you do?” question. You may have a great product, service or idea but if you can’t communicate its values in a remarkable way, you’ll always struggle. Words have power: they can convey what you stand for or against. “Being able to describe what makes you or your product unique is key to your success. This is called the unique value proposition”, explained Ian Elliot.  Defining your niche can also help you to stand out from the crowd: it’s better to be famous in a small area than being all things to all people. Crafting your brand essence will ensure your business grow as an authentic expression of who you are: the brand essence is the core spirit behind your business. When you’re working on your elevator pitch, don’t forget the customer. Understand him: who is he? what does he want? need? expect? What are his rational, emotional and corporate needs? A satisfied customer is a worthless asset.

Consistency in little things and continuity across all your messages: they are things that matter.

2. You need to Publish your ideas: in the Ideas Economy, publishing positions you as an authority. Andrew Griffiths is Australia’s #1 small business author with 11 books sold in over 50 countries. As he said : “Before I wrote my first book, I was an idiot. After I published it, I was a genius”. Following the success of his first publication, Andrew decided to leverage the power of his book and wrote a second one, then a third… up to eleventh! This gave him a huge competitive advantage in his industry as being an author gives credibility. Andrew explained why publishing makes a difference:

  • It shows that you have information that is valuable to others
  • It sets you apart from other people in your chosen field
  • It also demonstrates that you have the discipline to complete a major project that requires structure and creativity
  • It also shows that you have convictions and are brave enough to back yourself

If you are unsure of your capacity of writing a book, you can start with your own blog, a website, some white papers or even Twitter. Publishing in your industry shows that you are a person to be consulted, engaged, listened to and sought for advice. But unlike Andrew whose business is writing books, you don’t have to write 11 books to get noticed.

There has never been a better time to publish with the new publishing landscape.

3. You need to Productise your values: time is money and as an entrepeneur, making the most of your time and making money is crucial. But regularly people get it wrong by sticking to the OOPS model: Only One Product/Service that makes them dependent in terms of brand, time and capital.To make money, you have to create value. Product and service don’t make money. The product eco-system can change that: for example, Steve Jobs decided to heavily promote the iPod which turned out to be a huge success. This was also the first key entrance for customers into Apple’s world. People were then ready to buy Mac computers. Defining the asset of your product is another way to increase your value: What is your asset? Is it said in your positioning? Can you develop your product or the scale of your product? Multiple products sold through multiple channels mean multiplying your value.

Income follows assets. Defining the assets of your product is what will allow you to earn money.

4. You need to raise your Profile: being good at what you do is no longer enough. You need to stand out and using social media is one of the best tactics to achieve it. In a world where everything can be Googled, you have to do your best to ensure the results that show up are positive and convincing enough to win the deal. Kylie Bartlett shared be sure that your pitch and message are replicated across all your social media; content is the new currency: write, publish, share and syndicate all your content across the web; don’t do social media without a strategy to transform leads into sales; pay attention to your digital footprint, be sure that there is coherence; enjoy social media as it allows you  to meet interesting people that could bring you new opportunities.

When your customers Google you, they want to see a video, updates, dowloads, community and dynamic information.

5. You need great Partnerships: Partnership creates wholesale value. The IRL (Illusion of Limited Resource) prevents you from doing what you want: you think you don’t have enough time or money or people. But there is an amazing network of partners out there ready to give you what you need. As Daniel Priestley said, “There is no such thing as a self-made millionaire”. The beauty of the partnership is that you don’t need to have all things, you partner with those who have what’s missing. Ideas are great but worthless in themselves; implementation is everything. Cathy Burke, the CEO of The Hunger Project in Australia came to explain how she mastered the art of mobilising key resources like time, money and knowledge via strategic joint ventures and partnerships. When she approaches CEOs, rather than saying that the aim of The Hunger Project is to put an end to the worldwide hunger, she explains that it seeks to empower people to resolve their hunger problem. And that changes everything. To explain the essence of the partnership, Cathy shared an african proverb:

If you want to go quick, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.

The KPI event was a great introduction to the 5-step method developed by Daniel Priestley to become the new Steve Jobs or new Larry and Sergey of your industry. Let’s conclude with few words: opportunity is nowhere = now here.

Kpi event

About our ambassador // Delphine Vuagnoux is a community ambassador for Sydney. She is passionate about innovation and social change. She does her best working at All Together Now and Medianet. You can find her on Twitter here: @delphinevuagnou.

Interview: Sydney local, Lauren Anderson — December 9, 2012

Interview: Sydney local, Lauren Anderson

For our last Sydney Local Profile of 2012, Solange Francois from the Fetch Community Ambassador Team posed some questions to Lauren Anderson of Collaborative Consumption.  

Name: Lauren Anderson
Twitter handle: @l__anderson 
Blogs at: http://laurenjayneanderson.tumblr.com/about
Works: Community Director at Collaborative Consumption Hub

Tell us in a few words what collaborative consumption is about:
Collaborative consumption describes the reinvention of really old market behaviours – such as bartering, swapping, lending, renting and sharing – that have been supercharged through social, mobile and location-based technologies to enable us to share and exchange all kinds of assets, in ways and on a scale that have never been possible before this time. Our work over the last 2.5 years has been to spread the idea of this socio-economic shift, connect the entrepreneurs building companies based on these principles and grow the community of people passionate about these new ways of getting access to the things we need.

What were you doing before you got involved in the movement?
I was working as communications manager of a national architectural practice, but had spent most of my spare time in the two years leading up to this new role exploring the social innovation space and volunteering with a range of social change organisations such as the Brightest Young Minds Foundation, Australian Social Innovation Exchange and Project Australia. It was these organisations that really sparked my passion for social change.

How did you finally get involved?
I was fortunate enough to meet Rachel Botsman (founder of the collaborative consumption movement) through my involvement with the Brightest Young Minds Foundation. When I heard her describe this cultural shift that was the foundation of her first book, ‘What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption’, I was absolutely hooked by its potential and when Rachel asked me to join with her and grow the movement around the launch of the book, I couldn’t refuse! It has been such an incredible, eye-opening and life-changing experience so far, and I am so grateful to be on this path.

What makes you jump out of bed every day?

I am constantly inspired by innovative ideas that really question the way we live our life and that make it easier for us to be more conscious citizens, and also the role that technology has to play in that.

From businesses like GoGet car share, to services such as FoodConnect and ideas such as co-working and Airbnb peer-to-peer accommodation, we are getting connected back to what’s important – our community and our environment.

What are other issues that you are passionate about?
I am really passionate about the role women play in business and government, and want to make a contribution to encouraging more women’s voices to be heard – which is both about creating the opportunities within our current society and also doing more to encourage women to get involved in the first place.

Who inspires you?
I am inspired by women like Jacqueline Novogratz, who founded Acumen Fund, an investment fund focused on social innovation solutions in emerging markets. I’m also inspired by Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) and the commitment she shows not only to being a stellar career person, but also living a balanced life with her family.

Have there been challenges along the way in your career? How did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge I have faced personally is giving myself permission to dream big enough and then acting upon those dreams.

I think it’s a rare thing for Australians to truly believe anything is possible, and while there are some incredible high achievers in this country, we generally doubt ourselves more than believe in ourselves. Having exposure to some incredible entrepreneurs overseas and surrounding myself with highly creative people helps me to dream bigger and make better things happen!

What books are you currently reading?
I have slowly been trying to get my way through the amazing reading list of 99 Best Business Books’ on The Personal MBA’s site, and am currently finishing ‘Influence’ by Robert Cialdini, ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’ by Steven Johnson and Katie Couric’s ‘The Best Advice I Ever Got’. Reading these is interspersed with me watching The West Wing series for the first time!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with The Fetch, Lauren!

About our Ambassador // This article was contributed by Community Ambassador Solange Francois. She is a marketer and lover of creativity, great words, people and ads and has a passion for psychology and lifelong learning. You can connect with Solange through her blog or on Twitter @solangefrancois

Interview: Melbourne local, John Barton — October 29, 2012

Interview: Melbourne local, John Barton

This week, we chat to John Barton – the previous dev manager at Envato and now a tech cofounder at movie-review startup Goodfilms.

John Barton in the office

Name: John Barton
Website: http://goodfil.ms & http://whoisjohnbarton.com
Twitter handle(s): @johnbarton & @goodfilmshq
Works: Doing tech for Goodfilms

You are co-founder of the social film review startup, Goodfilms. Tell us about the story behind how the site started…

The site started off much more as a little hobby project for Glen [Glen Maddern – John’s cofounder]. It was just a tiny little web app to help him keep a list of films people were recommending to him. At the same time, I was maintaining a spreadsheet of the IMDB top 250 films, and tracking which of my friends had seen what so we could organise movie nights.

After plenty of discussions at the pub, it became clear that if two people like us had to invent their own ways to organise what their friends have seen and recommend, that there was actually an unmet need out in the market and that maybe Glen’s side project (with a little love and funding) could be it.
Glen pitched the idea to Angel Cube [a Melbourne-based startup accelerator] mid-2011, went through the program, then we secured funding in early 2012 and I came on to the project full time around then.

Goodfilms homepage

Goodfilms is based in Melbourne. What do you like about being based here? Do you think startups need to head to the US considering all the stuff happening now in Australia?

I love the depth of the engineering community in Melbourne. There are a lot of really talented developers based here. I reckon there’s one or two really solid tech meetups every week where smart people get together to talk about their craft.

I also just generally like the quality of life here, and the fact that it’s not a huge tech hub keeps everything very grounded.

I really hope that startups don’t need to head over to the US to succeed. We’re unsure as to whether we will need to head over at some point or not. If you’re doing a tech startup with an at least semi-traditional business model that is in place very early then there’s definitely no need to go overseas; those kinds of products are well understood and respected here.

Aiming to do something big like a social network, in a market as big as film is… well, we’ll see…

Any cool wins or shareable challenges with the site to date?

The biggest challenge for us, as tech/product guys, has been making the time to work on all the business-y parts of the business. It’s far to easy to put your head down and work on the product and then find it’s been two weeks since the last time you did any marketing, and without the marketing, no one is going to see your hard work.

We’ve just had a couple of really good months, since the start of August we’ve grown our registered user base by a factor of six, hit the Reddit front page, got a really nice write up on Lifehacker, and a bunch of other awesome things.

All that came from Glen and I realising that one of us needs to wear the business hat at all times and really push the business forward, not just the product.

Generally I think the big wins are attached to big challenges, and it certainly was the case in this instance.

Previously you were development manager at Envato. How did you find the transition from managing code to managing people (and code)?

I found the transition incredibly difficult. Thankfully I was just managing other programmers. It’s a lot easier to wrap your head around people management when the people you’re managing share the same skills and motivations as you – you can empathise more easily with their needs and offer concrete help when they’re in difficulty.

One of the big challenges was that it was very early days for Envato, and none of us had done much like what we were doing before. Collis, Envato’s founder, had never managed anyone before either. As tech was the largest team at HQ, I was the sole middle manager with no peers to swap notes with, or more importantly, vent my frustrations with.

Probably the single biggest thing that got me over the hump in that role was hiring Pete [Pete Yandell] as my second in charge. We had strengths and weaknesses that complimented each other really well: he had experience from managing teams in startups, but no real desire to get into the nitty gritty admin and – I was the exact opposite, no experience but enjoying doing anything and everything to make the team productive.

What was your first job?

My first “work” was running a shareware stand at a local market every weekend. We all pooled our pocket money to buy floppy disks, spent Saturdays copying games like crazy, and then made a tidy profit on the Sunday.

My first job was working in the kitchen at the 24 hour McDonalds in Geelong. That was exactly as fun as it sounds. I still haven’t eaten McDonalds since (11 years and counting).

Some of your other roles have included gigs at MyCareer and The Vine. What culture and company size do you prefer working for?

My strong preference is to work for a product company over services. I like companies that are big enough to have people to collaborate with, have big problems to solve, but are still small enough you can engage directly with the users of your product.

My best work gets done when I settle into a groove with a product. Once you get to know the people using your product, and get to know the ins and outs of the problem your users have it increases your chances of finding an unexpected way to solve it.

Who else do you think is doing good stuff at the moment – both locally and globally?

Globally I’m really fond of Kickstarter. I love that they’re changing the way creative works get funded. I love their design: even from their header it’s clear what it’s for and how you relate to the site.

I’m also keeping a close eye on Etsy. Over the past couple of years they’ve taken their engineering up to another level. If you’re interested in scaling up web applications, the posts coming out of the team blog and a bunch of the individual engineers are amazing.

Locally I think the Adioso guys are smashing it right now. It’s perfect for me that they finally nailed the routes I’m interested in and got the price alerts system just right before I took the big income hit to do a startup. I may just be able to afford a holiday thanks to them.

What keeps you driven and focused each day?

This is a surprisingly tough question to answer. I’d heard over and over that startups are like a rollercoaster ride. They really are. Depending on whether the day is up or down it changes.

On a good day, it’s just flow. Things click into place, I’m not even aware I’m working until all of a sudden it’s starting to get dark. On a bad day, it’s just sheer bloody-minded stubbornness. Those days I just pop the headphones on, swear at the computer a little bit, and then keep plodding along.

Do you attend any meetups in Melbourne – which ones are worth heading along?

I’ve been attending the Melbourne Ruby Group since mid 2007. That’s a really good meetup if you want to meet a lot of smart, switched-on web developers.

I’ve made it to a couple of the new Creative Mornings Melbourne talks over in Collingwood. They’ve been really great, and I find them pretty good for getting out of my pure tech comfort zone.

There’s usually more I’d like to go to, but I’ve never got the time.

You stated on your website that you’re … “pretty serious about the serious things in life: Bikes, Books, and Booze.” Where in Melbourne do you love to ride, read and drink?

It’s kind of funny, but since diving whole-heartedly into a startup – my riding and drinking have changed a lot. The reading is still the same.

These days I’ll usually do a quick training ride around Yarra Boulevard. The view over the city is stunning, it’s pretty much devoid of car traffic, and it’s got enough hills that my legs feel it even though I don’t have the time to do a more dedicated ride.

I’m very, very fond of Double Happiness on Liverpool St for a cocktail or two. It used to be a regular haunt of mine, but since startup life I haven’t really had the income to drink there regularly. Nowadays you’re much more likely to find me in the beer garden of The Retreat or The Resurrection (both in Brunswick).

I’m pretty fond of reading in any beer garden, anywhere. Fleming Park in Brunswick is another good choice. The little nest I make in the middle of the lounge-room on the floor is probably my all time favourite though.

What’s next for Goodfilms and John Barton?

For me, that’s easy. I’ll be doing whatever it takes to push Goodfilms to the next level. I will take occasional breaks for sleeping.

For Goodfilms, it’s all about growing the user base and the ratings dataset we’ve got. Glen’s a serious wizard with maths, and once we’ve got all the data we need, you can expect to see a pretty amazing recommendation system that combines your taste with the movies moving through your social graph.

Lastly, what’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

I don’t know that it was necessarily advice, but my boss at MyCareer told me when I started that “I can make any mistake I like once. If you don’t make any, you’re not trying. If you make the same one twice, you’re not learning”.

He was true to his word; I had some made some monumental mistakes as a junior programmer there, and I always had his full support. Except when I did screw things up twice, and he came down on me like a ton of bricks. Which I deserved.

When I had a team of my own I gave everyone the exact same instruction. I try and manage myself the same way. For me it’s the right balance between the freedom to try new things, and the discipline to make sure you do them right.

Interview: Melbourne local, Salvatore Malatesta — August 12, 2012

Interview: Melbourne local, Salvatore Malatesta

This week, I got in some quick questions with well-known serial Australian hospitality entrepreneur/coffeepreneur Sal Malatesta (the man behind St Ali, St Ali London, My Mexican Cousin, Sensory Lab, etc etc etc). I first met Sal in 2009 when I was working in South Melbourne and did most of my meetings out of St Ali, thereby becoming the Foursquare Mayor, which was complete novelty factor back then. Not one to miss a trend, Sal reached out and I’ve been watching him mash social media with cafe culture ever since. He’s now followed by over 6000 people (organic) on Twitter, launching new stuff all the time and still in possession of his quirky humour. Check out our convo below…

Sal by Tim Carrafa for the Herald Sun

Name: Salvatore Malatesta
Website: www.salvatoremalatesta.com
Twitter: @St_ali
Works: What does that mean?

From Sensory Lab to My Mexican Cousin, what are you working on at the moment?

The opening of St Ali North, our new roasting plant and digivore – a little it/social media thingy.

ST ALi is often seen as a hospitality pioneer for its adoption of social media, especially being one of the first users of Foursquare – how important is technology now in business?

Critical!!! I feel like I know my customers intimately and communicate to the as I would friends. I love it.

You sometimes act as an angel investor around town – what business opportunities do you look for?

Triple line report:

1. Excitement, 2. Fun, 3. Profit. The most important thing is the people involved in the project. Good people = fun project

You studied Arts/Law at Melbourne – what impact did you education have on your success to date, if any?

Peeps think I am smart because I have a law degree. Not true! I am smart full stop lol. It’s been great for negotiations and understanding machinations of contracts.

You’re a positioning machine who really understand trends – how do you make your decisions about direction?

I wish I could tell you I conducted serious due diligence and market surveys. But I don’t. 100% gut

You’ve mastered the art of the personal brand, how does this help your greater brand portfolio?

It is not intentional Salvatore Inc is just an extension of my life. I have always shared it with friends and now with anyone who cares to follow. Its been great for business. People know me before I meet them. So the haters don’t meet me and the lovers do! It’s like a friend filter or maybe for those who date online (I don’t) a RSVP filter.

How much coffee should busy-professionals drink a day? 😉

No less than five. It keeps you alert and its way cheaper than Colombian love wink, wink.

What do you think of hipsters?

Mmm… the philosophical underpinnings are generally sound. Fringe. Challenging etc but too often they tend to be cartoon charactures of themselves. And that makes them funny and harmless. True hipsters – as in trend setters – 100% respect NYC.

What was your first job?

Selling Four N’ Twenty pies at the MCG as a 10 year old.

What’s your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood/locality?

Wow! hard choice. I live in three because of my special circumstance (long story) – Elwood, Toorak and Collingwood and all three offer very different cool things. Beach. The Tan. Culture in that order.

What’s next and when do you stop? 

I stop when I die. Will sleep a log time then. What’s next is a secret – in keeping with the brand.

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