The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

Interview: Perth Local, Sam Birmingham — August 5, 2012

Interview: Perth Local, Sam Birmingham

Perth curator Justin Strharsky learns a bit about starting a business in 54 hours from Perth local Sam Birmingham.

Sam Birmingham

Name: Sam Birmingham


Twitter: @sambirmingham

Works at: Making it all happen.

You’ve been a fixture in Perth’s entrepreneurial community for a while – what would you say are our unique challenges here?

Disconnection. Perth is the most isolated capital city in the world, yet we can all do so much more to find out what is going on in our own backyard. With challenge comes opportunity though — it fills me with optimism every time I meet a new person or hear about a new venture starting up here.

Do you see any unique advantages or opportunities to starting a new venture here?

Absolutely! Beyond the obvious answers like servicing the mining boom, access to Asian markets and tapping Perth’s entrepreneurial spirit, starting a new venture in a (relatively) small and (very) isolated city gives you the chance to test and refine your service amongst a receptive local audience. Then when the time comes to scale up, hopefully you’ll already have a lot of the gremlins out of your system!

Oh, it is doesn’t hurt to have great weather and an amazing coastline — sometimes you’ve got to reward yourself with a break and there aren’t many better places to do that than here!

You are currently organising a Startup Weekend for Perth .  Can you give us a three sentence explanation and pitch?

Startup Weekend is an intense 54 hour event which brings together people with diverse skills sets — from software developers and designers, to marketers and hustlers — to build applications and develop a credible business around them. As well as meeting a bunch of interesting people, you’ll learn a lot about yourself and how to give life to the hundred and one ideas that all of us have swirling around our heads each day.

There is no better way to test your ideas and skills than put them into action, and what better place to do it than in an environment where you’ve got nothing to lose?!

Why does Perth need a Startup Weekend?

To address that disconnection issue that I talked about earlier… By its very nature, Startup Weekend brings a bunch of otherwise disconnected people into the same room, to work on solving a bunch of problems together. By the end of the weekend, not only will everyone have learned a lot and had a heap of fun, hopefully we’ll be more aware of the countless others who are doing awesome things all around us.

You recently returned from seeing Startup Weekend in Wellington. What excited you about what you saw there? Were there any disappointments?

For sure! I had high expectations before Startup Weekend Wellington and left even more excited and optimistic by the end of the weekend. Perhaps the most exciting thing was seeing such a diverse group of people (almost all of whom had never met) form teams organically, and so openly share the journey with their teammates and everyone else who participated.

I wouldn’t say there were any disappointments. There were certainly some reality checks for a few people, though, but that’s what happens when you condense the entire ideation, validation and business creation process into 54 hours!

Any tips for those who are going to participate in Perth Startup Weekend?

First and foremost, get involved — JFDI!

Embrace new perspectives; learn, learn, learn; focus on solving problems; and whatever you end up building, keep it lean!

Interview: Perth Local, Bernadette Jiwa — July 9, 2012

Interview: Perth Local, Bernadette Jiwa

Perth curator Justin Strharsky learns a bit about how to tell a brand story from Perth expert Bernadette Jiwa.

Name: Bernadette Jiwa


Twitter: @bernadettejiwa

Works at: The Story of Telling

You help entrepreneurs and newer businesses craft what you call a ‘brand story’ – what’s that?

A brand story is the sum of all the parts that make up your brand, from your product, name and copy, design and marketing, to your mission and how your customers experience your brand.
I’ve written a post that details the various elements.

I imagine that many entrepreneurs are overwhelmed by the demands of a new business. How do you explain why telling the story of their brand should win their limited resources?

It’s as simple as understanding that it doesn’t matter how good your idea is if nobody knows.

You primarily work with entrepreneurs and newer businesses – why is that?

Actually I work with startups and entrepreneurs who are further along the track with developing their business. The best time to work out what differentiates you is right at the start, that way you can take your product to market with confidence. Sometimes people come to me when what they’ve been doing hasn’t work and then we track back to work out why.

Should the stories of newer businesses be different than those of established companies? Why?

Newer businesses are often at an advantage because they get to tell te story they want to tell. More established businesses have shareholders to please.

What’s the most common mistake entrepreneurs make in telling their stories?

Not understanding what really makes them stand out from the competition. Overlooking something in the detail, because they are too close to what they are doing to see the big picture.

What makes you uniquely suited to helping others tell their stories?

There is no formula for this kind of work. I guess you could say it’s a gift. Part science and part art. I got to be good at it by doing the work, building bridges to where I wanted to be as an entrepreneur, failing, learning from failure, then getting up and doing it all again only better next time.

You’ve seen (and helped) lots of young businesses. Are there any characteristics that make some stand out compared to the others?

The ones that stand out are the businesses who do what the big guys can’t do, or didn’t think was possible. The entrepreneurs who go narrow and deep.

Have you encountered any brand stories that are best left untold?

Actually most of what I encounter are stories that should be told that aren’t. The kinds of stories that illustrate why brands are least like their competitors. The ones they often overlook.

Interview: UK Local, Joanna Montgomery — June 29, 2012

Interview: UK Local, Joanna Montgomery

This week, The Fetch London curator, Chloe Nicholls, interviews Joanna Montgomery from Little Riot, a company which specialises in connecting people with technology, through design.

Joanna Montgomery, Little Riot


Twitter: @joannasaurusrex

Tell us a little about your company Little Riot and how it evolved from a research company to a design and product development agency?

I graduated in 2010 and started the company almost straight away. I knew I wanted to run my own business, and exploring the ways people communicate using technology really interested me – but when my degree project, Pillow Talk, began to receive so much publicity, I knew I needed to focus on developing it into a commercial product.

Little Riot specialises in ”connecting people with technology, through design”. What inspired you to design and develop your first product ‘Pillow Talk’?

I studied Interaction Design at university and, along the way, I began to find it frustrating that technology has become quite two-dimensional. Things that are ‘interactive’ used to be really exciting and engaging – but now they all revolve around the same things; screens, buttons, etc. I thought technology could do better, so I set out to develop a more intimate way for two people to interact – and so Pillow Talk was born.

Have you ever been in a long distance relationship? 

My boyfriend of three years works on a ship which builds off-shore wind farms, so he spends over half the year at sea! It’s not really a conventional “long distance relationship” – but we do spend a lot of time apart.

Since you launched the idea of ‘Pillow Talk’ (via a very successful YouTube video campaign) have you been able to bring your product to market?

The product has been in development for about eighteen months now. We’re on the home stretch and – subject to securing a bit more funding – are on track to release Pillow Talk this year. Developing a physical, technological product is a very expensive and time-consuming process with a lot of hurdles to overcome.

What are some of the challenges you have faced in designing, developing and manufacturing a product for consumers?

Pillow Talk started out as a university project and I remember deciding I was going to turn it into a commercial product… and then looking down at my homemade prototype, with wires hanging out of it, and thinking “where do I start?!”. I had just graduated and I didn’t have a clue where to begin, so I guess the biggest challenge was coming up with a realistic game plan. I had no business experience, no product development knowledge, and was founding a company on my own. I had to build a team around me very quickly and finding the right people to support me was challenging. The last year and a half has been an incredibly steep learning curve and the reality is that every single day brings a new challenge.

What other products do you love that connect people through great technology and design?

Right now I’m a big fan of the Pebble watch which just raised a whopping $10m on crowdfunding site Kickstarter. It’s a really nice way of integrating technology within people’s lives and I suspect that is why it’s so popular. However, I would still like to see more products that have a focus on communication hit the market.

You’ve won some great awards and funding during the lead up to the launch of Pillow Talk; £25,000 development funding from the Technology Strategy Board, winning £10,000 at NACUE’s National Varsity Pitch Competition and £1000 for Shell Livewire Grand Ideas Award, do you have any tips and tricks to other entrepenuers pitching their product for funding?

I’ve been really lucky. My best advice is to just believe in your product and always be honest. If you are committed and passionate, it will show, and if you have an idea worth believing in then people will support it. Know your business inside out – a lot of people I know get the most nervous over the Q&A session that usually follows a pitch, but if you can’t answer every question you are asked, then you’re not working hard enough to understand your goals.

What’s getting you excited about startups and small business at the moment? Any great tools and sites you would like to share?

I’m a big fan of Shell LiveWIRE. They offer several £1,000 cash awards every month for 16-30yr olds. I won a Grand Ideas Award in May last year – but the support and opportunities I have received since have been far more valuable. The site also has a buzzing community where there are always people to offer advice and bounce ideas off.

You are based in Newcastle. Can you tell us London fetchers about the tech and startup scene there? Any events you recommend we should attend?

Newcastle now has a great tech and start-up scene. There is a thriving community of start-ups and support networks, with regular events and after-work get-togethers. Soon to launch for its second year is Europe’s first £1m tech accelerator programme, Ignite100 which offers a 13-week mentorship programme and the opportunity to receive VC funding at the end. It all kicks off in September, so the North East will see another influx of creative start-ups and businesses [Entries for application close on 30th June 2012].

Finally what’s next for Little Riot and are you bring any other products to market?

Pillow Talk is due to launch this year. At the moment, all of our focus is on this, but we do have plans for other products in the future, so watch this space!

Interview: Brisbane local, Jessie Roberts — April 29, 2012

Interview: Brisbane local, Jessie Roberts

Brisbane curator, Lani Pauli, interviews Jessie Roberts. Jessie leads the program development of the QUT Innovation Space.

Name:  Jessie Roberts

Program Designer at QUT Innovation Space 

Twitter: QUTInnovation 

Tell us more about QIS? 
The QUT innovation Space (QIS) is about animating ideas. We aim to foster a community and culture of big-thinkers, innovators and entrepreneurs. We provide a support network and learning platform for people with big thoughts and a passion for action and change.  The QUT Innovation Space is located at the QUT Gardens Point campus and we deliver events, mentorship and community. Our events run through out semester and are either designed to be educational, inspirational or network orientated. We have a community of professional partners that provide support to our members, including a marketing strategist, IP Attorney, Start-up and project management coach. partners that provide advice Our doors are open to anyone with a curious mind, from any faculty, industry or age group.

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

River City Labs (Co-working space), The EdgeMIT – Opencourseware (education… awesome & Free!), SEED MAGAZINE (Science + Design + Culture).

What was your first job?

Street Busker (8yrs old, Violin) 🙂

What’s the hardest challenge you’ve had to face work-wise?
Define what I “do”, what my job title is or the professional ‘box’ that I fit into.  I still ‘um’ and ‘ar’ at parties when someone asks “So, what do you do?”.

What’s the biggest opportunity and challenge for Brisbane to become a truly “Creative City”?
1. Connection – There are a lot of creative and amazing things/people/projects happening in Brisbane. There is definitely room for more connection between these people and projects. I think Brisbane has so many sparks just waiting to connect with the right person in order to turn into flame.

2. Play – Creativity comes from play and generosity. We are a fun group of people…..

On a more tactile level:

Spaces and Hubs. The emergence of co-working spaces (and places like The Edge) in Brisbane really help to foster a community (or communities) of like-minded creative thinkers.  These spaces provide a platform for people to meet and cross paths, to fertalise ideas,  conversations to occur.

What are some local upcoming events you recommend?

David Wyatt: How to be a Future Maker

What’s next?
Continuing to build and develop our mentor program and consultants that support our members.  Now that our events program is running smoothly, we are focusing our energy on further developing our mentor program.

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