Blog Archives: Business

Finding NZ’s Top Entrepreneurs…The Wrong Idea

I see it all over the place. Competitions here, there and everywhere searching for “NZ’s Top Entrepreneurs”.

Why are we doing this?

In the entrepreneurial space we already know who the top entrepreneurs are in NZ: Rod Drury, Derek Handley, Sam Morgan, Sean Gourley, Victoria Ransom, Sebastian MarinoGeoff Ross and many more. These are many of the people that inspire our entrepreneurs at the grassroots level today. But these are the same entrepreneurs that have investment, that have support, that are recognised and good as gold.

But one of the major complaints by many investors in NZ is the lack of deal flow. There just aren’t enough good entrepreneurs bringing up good ideas and building great businesses.

I suspect part of the problem is that investors, the media and the public want to find “the best”. They forget that the more good entrepreneurs you create, the more great entrepreneurs emerge, and the pie gets bigger for everyone.

Perhaps we would be better off supporting the education, development and support system for good entrepreneurs. This is a grassroots movement at the end of the day. And by bringing more entrepreneurs into the mix we increase deal flow for investors, we create more success stories, and we develop more revenue for NZ as a whole.

I would like to see the entrepreneurial ecosystem in NZ supporting more of the grassroots movement. Perhaps, instead of having competitions and support mechanisms that reward only those that are already recognised, we might see the available resources shared with some of our up-and-coming success stories.

This is one of the reasons I co-organise Startup Weekend New Zealand. You will hear more about Startup Weekend soon, but in the meanwhile between 24-26 February, Startup Weekend Christchurch will be happening, and it would be compelling to have you along.

Visit the website, and buy your ticket now.

Keep your secrets safe, if you want to fail

I encounter entrepreneurs pretty much every day, and almost all of them are protective of their ideas.

Unfortunately, this is the very first barrier they must overcome on their entrepreneurial journey.

The first and most important reason is that you can’t communicate your idea, what you need, and anything of value or use if you are holding your cards to yourself.

The second thing you need to understand is that your idea is worth $ZERO. I mean that! You are not the only person in the world with that idea. You are not the only person in the world doing something about it. And, in the end an idea is useless if you do nothing with it.

The third thing you must realise is that I DON’T CARE about your idea. I have a million ideas myself – all of them better for me than your idea. I am working on my own idea(s) right now, to this day, all day, every day. I don’t have time to think about your idea. I don’t have time to pursue your dream. I have time only for myself.

But, I want to help you! I want to see you pursue your idea. I want to see you succeed. I want to remove barriers for you. I want to make the journey easier for you.

Every seasoned entrepreneur I have ever known understands these points. They empathise with you and they feel the same way I do about helping you. Think about all the knowledge, experience, skills and perspectives you will never hear from these great people if you keep your idea to yourself.

There is a lot to gain from sharing your idea and your story with other entrepreneurs. They can add value. They can add perspective. They can add meaning. They can make your idea more mature. They can teach you everything you will ever need to take your idea to the world.

But, the question remains…Will you share your idea with us?

How can I help you succeed?

Pursuit of Perfection Prolongs our Pain

I am one of those people who really hates advertisements on TV. And, I am sure I am not part of a minority.

I, for example, will deliberately record TV programs and watch them at a later date, fast-forwarding through the ad breaks and enjoying the TV show in ad-free comfort. (Btw, who else does this?)

After yesterdays blog post about a World of Perfectionists, I had a thought: How do we hear about “new” products?
1. Through word-of-mouth.
2. Through advertising (in some form).

Almost all of the products I hear about from friends or through WOM are completely new, solve a problem and INNOVATIVE. In fact, the better something is at solving my problem through simplicity, the sooner I hear about it (it’s just more viral).

All the products I find out about through advertisements are either modifications of existing products or the same old (un-modified) product as always. These are products that I have come across, know about and don’t need more information about. I just don’t want to hear about them any more.

I wonder…if the world is full of perfectionists wanting ever more perfect products at every expense, and these products are the ones filling our advertisements, who can we blame for our misfortunes?

Perhaps, it is our own selves we have to look at in the mirror? After all, if we demand perfection and we hear about these improvements through advertising, we can only expect to have more advertising, the more we demand…

But, I hate advertising…and – I bet – so do you!

So, let’s stop demanding perfection at our own expense. And, maybe we will see less crap advertised on television.

You never know;  in a perfect world perhaps there will no longer be advertising where we don’t want it; we will hear everything we need to know through word-of-mouth.

Maybe, just maybe, we might be so lucky.

A Great Mentor: Dan Khan (@leancto)

One of my great mentors is Dan Khan.

Dan is a serial entrepreneur and seriously amazing software engineer. As a lean startup practitioner he knows what it takes to make any vision succeed.

Dan as a Mentor

Dan has taught me something every single time we have met – including, most notably, our first coffee meeting*.

As an experienced entrepreneur and engineer, Dan has a wealth of experience from which to draw from. This has been invaluable to me in so many ways. From “what is the next step” to “what should I read” to “I have this problem, what now”. Being able to tap into an extra 15 years of entrepreneurial experience is killer!

If you think experience is important, wait until you get to know Dan as Lean Startup Guru. He has taught me everything I know about Lean Startup Methodology and he breathes lean startup advice! He has a the framework and plan to take any idea to commercialisation!

To me though, Dan is more than a mentor, he is a best friend. Dan and I have been through deep conversations, secret meetings, family dilemmas and startups.

Deep conversations

Dan and I get along incredibly well for such different people. The one strength we have in a relationship is our ability to disagree and understand one another.

For over a year, we have been having conversations and discussions about helping people network and build valuable trust circles.

During 2011, Dan started a company called Connectable with a friend of ours. Connectable sought to solve some problems in the space of professional networking. This exploit did not continue for long, but the idea and thoughts stuck in Dan’s head.

Dan and I had many deep conversations on the topics that Connectable had sought to solve, and eventually this idea began to take a very different shape. Thus, Refurly was borne out of these discussions.


When Dan decided to commit to the idea of Refurly he asked me to join him as co-founder. And, what an honour. Dan and I had been looking for something to work on together for months!

I accepted the opportunity and began working closely with Dan to understand the problems, customers, potential solution, UVP and everything we needed to know for Refurly.

Unfortunately, after a month since committing to work on Refurly, a new idea crossed my path called Copono. And, I have recently decided to commit to this.

Refurly is going to do some seriously amazing things, I have no doubt about this. Expect to see Refurly’s acquisition gracing your news feed a few years’ time.

Family Dilemmas

One of the reasons I am so close to Dan, is because he supported me in a time of my life when I hit the bottom.

When I got kicked out of my parents’ house with $0 savings and no paying job, Dan gave me a place to stay for 6 weeks.

It was during this time we had a lot of our deep conversations and decided we needed to work together.

I am ever grateful for this kindness, Dan. You are an amazing person!

Secret Meetings

One of my more subtle passions is helping other entrepreneurs. And, following Auckland Startup Weekend, Dan brought together 10 influential people in the startup space in NZ.

From here ensued over seven months of secret meetings, discussing what needed to be done to get the entrepreneurial space and entrepreneurs REALLY going in NZ.

Out of this group, I have gained many good mentors, but I am especially glad for the amazing friendships I have solidified with Dan Khan, Alan Froggatt and Rowan Yeoman.

As you can clearly see, Dan is a great man, an amazing mentor, and more importantly (to me) the best friend in the world.

If you want an introduction to Dan, please email me at justin[at]

A World of Perfectionists

There are two types of forward progress:

1. Incremental progress (one-step-at-a-time)
2. Innovative progress (one-giant-leap forward)

In the world we live in today there are also two types of people.
- Those that work towards efficiency and “sucking” the last inch of profits out of a well. They are specialists at incremental change. These people are Incrementalists.
- Those that look for a breakthrough way forward, solve an inherent problem, and look for ways to remove tasks. These people are Innovators.

Innovators are ever more powerful, ever more efficient and that much smarter than Incrementalists.

…think of the 80/20 rule…

An Innovator knows that it takes only 20% energy to create 80% of something. They are smart enough to realise that this is the part that people notice. Then, they toss it off to the Incrementalists who try ever so hard to take the 80% to 100%, with all the hard work and effort.

I like to think of Innovators as “breathing the life into something”. Whilst, Incrementalists are merely “survivalists” keeping the breath going.

The question remains…Who do you want to be?

A recent toothbrush advertisement brought this thought to the forefront of my mind. I find it odd that in 2012 we are still “innovating” with toothbrushes. Don’t you?

There are adverts every day about new modifications of products. Modifications that had millions – if not hundreds of millions – of dollars sunk into them. Modifications that “improve” a product so minutely it makes NO SENSE to have spent all that money on R&D. And yet, out come the advertisements promoting this “NEW GREAT PRODUCT”.

Are we becoming a world of perfectionists? Are we insanely pursuing the perfect product at all expense (monetarily, and environmentally)? Are we clinically OCD; so much so that we demand and expect that our products are perfect?

I think we are a world of perfectionists.

Is this perhaps the reason for the lack of real growth in the world? We sink all of our money into products that already exist (problem has already been solved) in order to perfect the solution. And yet, we spend little attention and money on real problems and real solutions…Real INNOVATION.

Perhaps if we stop being perfectionists and consider becoming Innovators we will achieve real growth and prosperity.

Just a thought that crossed my mind. Please share your feedback and opinions in the comments below.


Education Occupies Wall Street

Decision Making in the Protests for OccupyWallSt

For many years people have been living their lives according to “the norms”. They grow up with the expectations that this is the route to follow:

  1. Go to school
  2. Go to university
  3. Get a Job
  4. Get a mortgage and buy a house
  5. Have a family and kids
  6. Send kids to school
  7. Retire (and travel)

The problem is that when following “the norm” they are discontented with the path, their lives and their choices. A “job” is not an enjoyable, fulfilling or purposeful use of our time. And, yet, we spend almost  30% of our adult lives working in a “job”.

How can we expect to enjoy our lives when a large portion of it we dedicate to an activity we do not enjoy?

So, first, I ask you to think about – and challenge – “the norm”. Is there another way to live your life and make it meaningful that would allow you to survive (financially) in our society?

Education – going to school and university – has been touted as the “road to success” by millions of people – including (my) parents. But the educational system has been built to be systematic and standardised. We are expected to “learn” content with a large group of people and with little personal attention from our teachers. This is not the teachers’ fault, they are locked into a system which they cannot change on their own. But, the result of our educational system is that we have millions (billions) of kids that know exactly the same things as each other, to exactly the same level of detail or depth.

So what’s the problem with that? To put it simply, you have no power if you are not substantially unique. When you apply to a job and you have very similar qualifications to the other 100 people applying to the job, you have no power in asking for the job. You are not unique.

Another thing to realise is that schools and universities are charging us a sh*tload for something that is freely available to every single one of us! The internet and what Google has done with it has turned the world into a knowledge and information paradise.

The education system is just simply the “internet spoken to you” through a teacher with a $XXX,XXX price tag attached to it.

You have a choice, pay for the same information by going to schools and university. Or, get it for free online. Just check out the Khan Academy for a great example.

Now, I am not suggesting that everyone should drop out of schools and university in favour of learning through the web. There are universities (and schools) out there that educate differently. They not only use content, but they focus on applied knowledge. Giving you the skills to use information, to solve problems, to think for yourself and apply all that learning to the real world is what has made the top universities in the world, the top universities in the world - Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, Oxford, Princeton, MIT…. These educational institutions are worth paying to go to because they actually give you valuable skills. These are skills that make you unique, allow you to demand a better income and pay off the loan you took to get there.

So, if you are going to a school or university now that is taught in massive classes, where content is shoved down your throat for $000′s of dollars. Check out google and see what you can get for free. Otherwise, start demanding more from your schools and universities.

Finally, I have been watching with anticipation the recent protesting around the world – the occupywallst movement. I believe it is the start of something indicative of everything I have already outlined above. The intersection of society’s discontent with their lives, their jobs, their education and the world.

They want justice, because they feel like they have been thwarted by a biased system. And, to be honest, they have reason to believe that.

However, the “uprising” seems to have no point, no obvious demands, no expectations, no goal…is that going to result in change?

I think we need to turn this hostility into positive action. For that we need informed leaders to stipulate the changes needed in the world, to identify solutions that require big shifts in the way the world works, and then to empower the people of this movement to achieve the new vision. This will turn a meaningless protest into a valuable change our society desperately needs.

If you want to talk about some of the required changes and how we might action them, please get in touch via email or twitter. Otherwise, let’s talk in the comments below.

Booktrack: a misunderstood innovation

In the last few days there has been a lot of skepticism and debate about New Zealand born startup Booktrack - which I might add has a kick ass team.

The big hoo-haa around Booktrack is that they are not an innovation at all, and that their business adds no value to customers or the world. Now, from the outside viewpoint, this may be the case. However, perhaps there is something that we are missing.

I mean, if Derek Handley (co-founder, CEO of Hyperfactory which sold for NZ$70 million), Peter Thiel (co-founder of Paypal, and first external investor in Facebook) and Greg Sitters (owner of Sparkbox, a NZ investment company) have all bought in to this concept – what are we missing?

This is what I think we need to start thinking about:

  • Literacy rates are incredibly poor around the world and have been dropping in recent times.
  • Reading is no longer a large part of education. Reading is often called boring.
  • The world is saturated with information and literacy (and the ability and love of reading) is becoming increasingly important.

The problem in the world (which I posit most of you readers do not experience) is that reading is not regarded highly by the mainstream/masses.

And, yet, it is so important.

So perhaps Booktrack changes this dynamic?

If we notice how much TV and movies have grabbed the mainstream, we might notice that getting to the masses is not to force feed them books, but it is, in fact better to change “books” to suit the mainstream. By doing so we encourage more people to read, and they actually enjoy the experience. What if reading was entertainment?

My experience with Derek Handley and Peter Thiel, although limited, always highlights a higher social problem/solution. In this case, I think they believe that Booktrack could have an impact on literacy rates. What do you think?

So, let’s take a step back. A lot of us enjoy reading. A lot of us couldn’t stand the idea of a soundtrack disturbing our reading. A lot of us view books – whether novels or non-fiction – very differently to people who do not read as prolificly.

This might not be destined for you. But, it might just be destined for something a whole lot bigger, a whole lot more impacting on the world – higher literacy rates.

Just imagine if we converted the “we believe books are boring” folks to “OMG! Did you read that booktrack, it scared the be-jesus out of me” folks.


What do you think of Booktrack and its potential impact? Are the outcries in media valid?

Let’s discuss in the comments below

Living Below the Line. A story…

On Monday this week I started living below the line.

This is (usually) a five day challenge where people spend only $2.25 per day on food and drink. That means no coffee, no meat, no soft drinks, no takeaways, no biscuits, and certainly smaller meals…to start the list.

I’m doing the Challenge for 14 days and would love your support. In fact, a $60 donation will give one person in Kalimpong, India access to education, medicine, clean water and toilets.

So what am I doing during this campaign?

Writing stories.

The great thing about Live Below is that it’s all about the story. Vijay has a story. Esha has a story. Everyone has a story.

In the next few days, you will find out a bit about my journey. But, that’s not what gets me excited.

If you hadn’t guessed already, I am very passionate about stories. But, in particular, I am passionate about you and your story.

Great people, great businesses, great causes have great stories. You are a great person – so my dedication to you during this Challenge is to tell your story.

Please make a donation to the cause and send me a short story about anything. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • I really want to be a ______ because ______…
  • I love doing _______ with ______ because ______…
  • I have a great friend, ______, and they are special because _____…
  • I want to change the world like this ______ because ______…
  • My company is great because _____…

My passion for storytelling

I love people. I think you are interesting. But, for some reason, you are terrible at telling your story! Why is that?

My interactions with kiwis (New Zealanders) has shown me that they aren’t very good at selling themselves. Is it that you are too humble? Is it that you lack in self-confidence? Or is it a systemic problem in the country that we sell ourselves short, for fear that we will be shot down by the Tall-Poppyists? It’s a problem that I have no trouble with and want to help kiwis be better at.

You are wonderful, interesting, unique and valuable people. Believe in yourself!

Telling your story allows people to know who you are, how you tick, what gets your blood curdling and what makes you go crazy enough to take action. It doesn’t mean you have to brag, manufacture stories to look better. It just means being genuine, being true to yourself, showing yourself to others.

I’m really good at telling my story. As a result, lots of people know me for my passions. They know me well. They like me. I also have amazing business partners, friends, mentors and fellow world-changers all around me.

None of this could have happened if I didn’t tell my story.

So, I have seen storytelling in action, working.

I hope to hear your story in the future coming from you, or someone you have told. If you have trouble telling your story, please let me know. I want to help.

But, the first step is to tell me something about you in the comments below. 

My last coffee for 2 weeks #livebelow

When I started writing this post I already began to feel the effects of coffee deprivation – having finished my coffee 30 minutes before.

It’s all, of course, a mental game. A game I expect to be playing many times over the next two weeks.

Tomorrow, marks the first day of my Live Below the Line Challenge.

P3 Foundation, an organisation I volunteer for, are helping raise funds to help build infrastructure for villages in Kalimpong, India. The Challenge for all of you, is to live on NZ$2.25 worth of food every day, for five days.

I’m doing a personal Challenge. A two-week Challenge.

This first week, I will experiment with the Challenge – what food I buy, how often I eat…what I do to control myself and bear with the lack of food (coffee! etc).

The second week, I will be doing the Challenge completely seriously, and I expect it will be a serious challenge. For those who know me, they know I love my food :(

Please stay in touch with what I learn through all this, so that when you are doing the Challenge between 22-26 August, it’s just that little bit easier.

If you aren’t doing the challenge please DO SHOW YOUR SUPPORT by giving me a donation. $60 is enough money for one person in Kalimpong to get access to schooling, toilets, clean water and medicine.

Donate here, now.