fbpx

Partners

EPISODE PROMO_Peter Bradd_01

Guests

Visit the guest page to see all of the other amazing people involved in the series.

Listen on Spotify
Listen on Apple Podcasts_01
Listen on Google Podcasts
Listen on Stitcher_01

Major Sponsors

MAJOR SPONSOR_MYOB_01
PARTNER_AWS_01

Sign up to the newsletter to get weekly updates on interviews that have been published and to be among the first to know when the 6 part documentary is ready.

Peter Bradd discusses the expectation-shattering progress the ecosystem has made

Peter Bradd was the founding director and initial CEO of Fishburners, one of Australia’s first coworking spaces which has been home to a community of startups since its founding in 2011. Peter has also served as Board Member and Chair of StartupAUS, a not for profit organisation with the mission of transforming Australia through technology entrepreneurship. In his conversation with guest host Will Tjo, Peter discusses co-founding his first company, ScribblePics, as well as the expectation-shattering progress that the Australian startup ecosystem has made in just a few short decades.

Resources

Fishburners: https://fishburners.org/

StartupAUS: https://www.linkedin.com/company/startupaus/

Peter on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/peterbradd/

Transcript

Adam Spencer: Hi, I’m Adam Spencer and Welcome to Day One, the podcast that Spotlight’s Australian startups, founders, and the organizations that empower Australian entrepreneurship. We go back to the beginning to tell a story of Australia’s most inspiring founders and how they built their companies. You’re listening to a special interview series as part of a documentary W2D1 is producing about the history of the Australian startup ecosystem. This episode was conducted by guest host Will Tjo.

More

Will Tjo: Hi everyone and welcome back to the Australian Startup Series interviews. Our guest today is Peter Bradd. So good to have you on Peter.

Peter Bradd: Thanks for having me.

Will Tjo: Could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what you’re working on?

Peter Bradd: Yeah, so my name is Peter Bradd. I’m probably best known for my roles in Fishburners and StartupAUS. I was a founding director and the initial CEO of Fishburners from probably 2011 and then StartupAUS we did in 2013, which is now the Australian tech council or has been merged into the Australian tech council. I also am a startup founder, so I founded quite a few companies. My first was a service we did with Qantas, allowing their customers to turn photos into real postcards printed and posted in 24 hours. We did that in 2007, before the iPhone hit Australia. So that was pretty interesting. Right now I’m working on corporate transformation, digital transformation, corporate transformation, growth, venture building. So keen to talk to you about that as well.

Will Tjo: I’d love to take the audience back to when you first got involved in the ecosystem, Peter. Would you say that you’ve always been an entrepreneur even back towards university days?

Peter Bradd: Even before that. I’ve spoken about this a lot in different interviews, but my parents both work for the government. I learned about being an entrepreneur really from jobs that I had when I was a teenager, even from starting my own little car washing business, where you go around and wash your neighbor’s cars or mow their lawns to working in small businesses, like the Video Ezy store or the local milk bar. Did a lot of those jobs [inaudible] seafood, and I learned around the difference between being an employee and the owner of the business, even though they were small and medium size businesses. And that I really liked the vision that the entrepreneurs had when they were founding their business. And I quickly learned that I was, if you wanted to make a difference and have time back, not just be on the wheel all the time, you need to be the owner.

Peter Bradd: So that’s where I got that from and probably around the age of 15, I started working pretty early, so maybe even 13 onwards to 18, I had that. In university, with technology where I got interested in it, was probably 2000 and, I don’t remember the exact year, but say 2002, 2003. I worked for a stock broking company called Shaw Stockbroking. And I worked on their, they’d done a corporate spin out quarter goalie, which was a website that it was an ad funded model where they would publish news about public companies. And so I was a, I wouldn’t say a journalist, but you’d get the reports off the system and you’d rewrite the stories and publish them. And I learned in that business, I had to learn how to code.

Peter Bradd: I did agricultural economics at Uni, so I didn’t learn how to code at Uni. So I learned how to do front end coding in that job. And I think that just gave me the confidence to get into being a technology entrepreneur. In terms of my first business, I launched a company called Scribble Pics in 2007. And we partnered with Qantas. We were Qantas’s first, non-core travel partner. They’d never done anything like this before and I was pretty much straight out of university and hadn’t done anything like this before either. So I learned a lot from that business in 2007, I spent a lot of my time on it, probably until maybe 2011, 2012, and we did Fishburners.

Peter Bradd: So that was my first understanding of the start of ecosystem was as a founder in Scribble Picks. And it was just a lot of change with the iPhone and the advent of apps and all of that and I needed to be around other entrepreneurs. And so when I heard of Pete Davidson and Mike Casey creating this co-working space called Fishburners I did everything to get in there and then also that led me to my passion around helping create Fishburners.

Will Tjo: Mm [affirmative]. Sounds like a very classic entrepreneurial story. You were dissatisfied with the status quo. You didn’t like being an employee, wanted to become founder, and then once you found an opportunity. And for you, it was working in a stock breaking company and technology, you decided to capitalize on it.

Peter Bradd: Yeah, well, that gave me the confidence, just having some exposure to learning how to code gave me the confidence that it wasn’t that difficult. My sales background really helped and so I, again, jobs at university did a couple of sales jobs, actually worked for [Cruel Price] in his previous business. He was selling life insurance over the phone and I had some really great training in how to sell to consumers over the phone from his business. He mainly hired backpackers. I was probably one of the only non-backpackers that worked for him. But I learned a lot around sales and so that helped. Also, in my strategy with Scribble Picks, bringing on channel partners like Qantas, TripAdvisor, Expedia, the Hilton and then Fishburners, and being able to bring on big brands like Optus, News Corp to help fund our goals. So I think the combination of confidence around technology, but also confidence around sales from some of the early jobs I had really helped set me up for success.

Will Tjo: Yeah, absolutely. What was it like starting your first business, Scribble Picks, before creating it? Did you have any notions on what it would be like to run your own business? And after creating it, was it the same?

Peter Bradd: I think probably the biggest moment for me was knowing what kind of business I was running. With Scribble Picks I was the sales, my background had been in sales from an employee perspective, and so I was focused on doing deals and bringing in revenue. And so we did a partnership with Qantas, but we still needed to build the technology. And I was looking at raising funds and partnering with a firm that could help me do that. But their quotes were just through the roof, 200 grand, 300 grand to build an app. And this is going back to say 2007.

Peter Bradd: And I met a very successful Australian entrepreneur, a guy called Greg Johnson. And he said to me, “You’re running a technology company. You can’t outsource your business. You need to do this yourself.” And so we had dinner at his place and then he flew off to Spain. And again, I’ve spoken about this quite a lot, but he created the website with this company, said that they would spend, $200,000 creating. He created, a MVP in today’s language on that plane flight to Spain. And when he landed 24 hours later, he sent me a link to an app that could do exactly what we needed it to do. And that’s the MVP that we gave to Qantas.

Peter Bradd: And so I learned a lot around my business was, and I think a lot of entrepreneurs need to learn that lesson. It’s very hard, coming into a startup up without a lot of experience or you have the experience you have, but as a founder, you need so much experience and finding the team that can help you. And for me, that was, Greg Johnson and another partner, Elliot Cousins that helped me. So that was, I suppose, a really key moment for me. And I still pass that lesson on to many other entrepreneurs that are, you do what you can do with experience. But you really need to know what kind of business you’re in and make sure you’ve got a good team around you who can excel in that business. You can’t outsource your main function.

Will Tjo: Yeah. Did you engage much with the startup ecosystem? So funding or accelerator programs back then?

Peter Bradd: To be honest, and this is interesting because everyone has their version of events and I’ve listened to a couple of your other, in the series. And it’s interesting, I’m probably learning a lot more about their perspective as to what happened as you go back to 2000 and, I got more involved in 2011 onwards, but people that had been around before that. I didn’t think there was anything available-

Will Tjo: Mm [affirmative].

Peter Bradd: And most of the people that came into Fishburners in 2011 also didn’t think there was anything available. And I’m probably in the media quoted for saying that Fishburners was one of Australia’s first co-working spaces. And there were others with hindsight now that you look, but you only know what’s available to you. And a key moment for me became when Stone & Chalk launched and they launched FinTech.

Peter Bradd: I don’t think we had any entrepreneurs at Fishburners that identified as being a FinTech, but quite quickly, Stone & Chalk was filled up with Fintechs. And there’s a lot of entrepreneurs that are out there in the ecosystem that are doing things. And I think Pete Davidson spoke about this in his series. They’re quiet, they don’t need to be a part of the community, or perhaps they don’t know that it exists, but they’re doing great things where they are. For me, that was what I was doing with my business, Scribble Picks at the time, I didn’t know what was available. And because of that, I probably moved a lot slower than I needed to or could have. Because I didn’t have other people around me to learn from, to tap into, to get advice from. All the benefits that you get from being a part of a program, whether it’s a company like Fishburners or accelerator programs or other community based programs. If you are at home, by yourself, your knowledge is limited to what you know, your luck is limited to who you can run into.

Peter Bradd: So I think for me 2007 to 2010 was probably pretty limited in terms of what I actually thought a startup ecosystem was. And I think that probably is fairly similar to other people at the time.

Will Tjo: Yeah. I’m curious to dig into this more, because when you said that you were just in your own corner, building Scribble Picks and not really engaging with the ecosystem, why? Is it because you didn’t know it was out there? Or is it just some other reason you didn’t need to?

Peter Bradd: No, I certainly needed to, which is why I put my heart and soul into Fishburners, but I just didn’t know that it was out there. And I actually don’t think there was a lot, I still would have to go back to finding out. Hamish Hawthorn had ATP Innovations and Pollenizer was around and, Kim Harris with PushStart was getting going and there was a meetup at a hotel and the city that happened and Sydney Angels was around. So there was stuff in Sydney going on. I just wasn’t really aware of it and it wasn’t in the media. And one of the questions-

Will Tjo: Mm [affirmative].

Peter Bradd: You’ve asked other guests is around this 2012 milestone. And for me, I think what happened then, and I can talk a little bit more about, it was just a lot more transparency, a lot more visibility, both in physical working spaces like Fishburners, and then other places like WeWork and there’s Fishburner equivalents all around Australia.

Peter Bradd: So you had that, you also had a lot more media, the media became really interested in it. And so that happened, so before 2011 there just wasn’t a lot of visibility as to what was going on. It wasn’t in the media, we didn’t have websites like Startup Daily or the mainstream media wasn’t really taught about it. And so over the last eight years from 2012 onwards, there’s been a huge shift in transparency and even programs in university, you can study this stuff now. When I went to Uni, it wasn’t available to you. So I think just the visibility has shifted.Will Tjo: Mm [affirmative]. Yeah. Do you think that’s a good or bad thing?

Peter Bradd: I think it’s amazing because I think being an entrepreneur is an amazing thing to do. Not everyone should be an entrepreneur and people should probably work, are more suited to working in startups rather than being the founder. I’m a founder, so that suits my personality, but it’s certainly not for everyone. I think we need more people being founders and solving real problems. I think it’s good for them as individuals and I think it’s good for the economy and for Australia. So I certainly think it’s a brilliant thing. And it’s interesting that’s probably pretty common.

Peter Bradd: I know Murray Hurps at UTS, one of his latest ventures is the visibility on the corner of a very high profile street near UTS, just trying to increase the visibility. So I think it’s probably pretty similar to people that have seen the visibility. If you don’t have it, you don’t know what’s possible.

Will Tjo: Mm [affirmative].

Peter Bradd: And if you don’t know what’s possible, then it’s not even really an option for you. When I used to lobby with StartupAUS, I used to go down to Canberra and anyone in politics would know this, they’ve got these things called Friends of Innovation or, Friends of something, and there’s a million of them, but they had one spun up for Friends of Innovation. And so I went and spoke there and one of the audience members got quite upset. He’s like, “How dare you stand up there and encourage my kids, who work at CBA or PWC to quit their jobs and to found companies when, nine out of 10 of them fail.”

Peter Bradd: And I said, “My view is that if it was to fail, they will go back into PWC or CBA if they wanted to, they’d probably end up in another startup or founding another business. But if they did want to go back and do their corporate jobs, they’d go back three, four years ahead of where they would be able to get to if they hadn’t have done that.” So, I still stand by encouraging people to give it a go. And particularly when you’re younger, you’ve got a lot more freedom and flexibility to do that. And you just learn so much. It’s a great life experience.

Will Tjo: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. Actually a question that came to my mind when you first started talking about this, because I was thinking in my head, when you said that not everyone can be an entrepreneur, that was interesting, but then you also said that you advocated transparency and encouraging everyone to get involved in the startup ecosystem. So in my mind that was a little bit of a contradiction, but then you answered it by saying that the risk of a business failing is not as bad as it can seem, because even if you worked at PWC, you would never have learned as much as if you failed your first business. That’s why you could encourage one to get into it.

Peter Bradd: Yeah. Well, it’s just a journey we’re all on our own journeys and our own paths. And I really believe in having experiences and a lot of people talk about travel as an invaluable experience. I think founding a company or working for different companies is really valuable. Whether it’s working for startups for owning your own startup, working for small business, or working in large companies, I think they’re all valuable experiences and you learn different things from all of those experiences. And I think that gives more pathways and more options in the future. But it also helps you work out what you love and the more experiences you have, the better chance you have of doing something that you love.

Will Tjo: Yeah. Is there anything that you see in today’s ecosystem that we could still improve on for our future entrepreneurs and current?

Peter Bradd: Well, I think it’s really important to maybe just go back to what it was like in 2011 and 2012. So in terms of the timeline Fishburners, which is a co-working space, and I was one of the founding directors and the initial CEO, we registered a Fishburners in September, 2011. And we launched our website a little bit earlier, March 2011. And essentially with StartupAUS we came together probably in late 2012, early 2013. And again, we launched StartupAUS in 2013. And at the time that we launched StartupAUS Google was one of the big contributors that Alan Noble and Sally-Ann Williams were at Google and pioneers behind that. They leveraged PWC to write a report, which is available online. I think it’s actually even on Malcolm Turnbull’s website. In that report the headline statement was: The Australian Tech Startup sector has the potential to contribute 109 billion or 4% of GDP to the Australian economy.

Will Tjo: Wow.

Peter Bradd: And 540,000 jobs by 2033. Right now it’s only 2022, so this is 10 years away, the Australian Tech Council, which we launched, I think late last year from [inaudible] StartupAUS we formed in 2013 and we’ve now formed the Australian Tech Council. Their report when they launched, so this is in 2021, so only eight years between these two reports. They report the Australian Tech sector has become a critical part of the economy contributing 167 billion to GDP. Which is 8.5% of GDP. And they’re predicting, it could employ over a million Australians by 2025, not 2033. And so I remember being around when that PWC report was written and I was a CEO of StartupAUS and I was talking to media about it, and this is the figure that we would I’d get on Sky News and I’d talk about the potential.

Peter Bradd: And if you look at the potential of 4% versus 8%, 109 billion versus a 67 billion, I just think it’s been an outstanding, amazing success story of what we’ve been able to do. And unfortunately as we were build, I really love that you guys are doing this, but as we were building the startup ecosystem, I don’t think a lot of that was captured. And you can capture it by going back through reports. But I think just the outstanding success of the Australian tech startup ecosystem is huge. The Australian tech sector is the equivalent of the third largest industry behind mining and banking, right?

Will Tjo: Yeah. What would you say were the key drivers of that stunning growth?

Peter Bradd: Well, everyone talks about different things from their perspective. My perspective is a community perspective, right? I’m a community person, Fishburners is a community. And I think, you go to many companies and you’ll see the hockey stick growth moment and the startup ecosystem has had one of those hockey stick growth moments. Like Airbnb is a good example. They talk about their hockey stick growth moment is when they decided to go out and start taking professional photos of people’s houses. That was something in their journey that transformed their model.

Peter Bradd: For us, I think visibility. So you spoke about this visibility before, I think visibility really is one of the key things that transformed and with Fishburners, we started off with one level in 208 Harris at the very top. And we were lucky enough to run into three very, I suppose, pioneering people at Optus, [Peter] , [Alfred] and [Rebecca] who decided not to replicate or create their own thing, but to partner with the community.

Peter Bradd: And they agreed to give us a 100 grand, which was enough for us to pay the rent on a second level. And what I did as CEO of Fishburners at the time was I created a platform for events. And at the time, if you wanted to go to an event in the tech startup ecosystem, you basically had to go to a pub. It was pretty noisy, it was full of alcohol and it was hard to hear the speakers. And so what we did was we put on level one of Fishburners become basically a platform. And I encouraged all those people that were running tech meetups to come and run them at Fishburners for free.

Peter Bradd: And that enabled, I think it was brand, it was easy. The quality of the events went up significantly. The membership of Fishburners, you’d always get 20 or 30 people from Fishburners coming. So there was always a crowd at the events and that I think significantly changed the startup ecosystem in at least. And there are many other equivalents all around Australia. But visibility is really important, people would come and all of a sudden they realized that if they wanted to quit their job, if they wanted to give it a go, there was a community that they could join. There were people that would help them. There was infrastructure around them.

Peter Bradd: If you’re trying to do that from your bedroom in wherever your bedroom is, it’s really daunting and you’re less likely to give it a go. And so that was some of the main driving forces between StartupAUS advocating for places like, the Sydney Startup Hub or now Tech Central was to create that density that you’ll hear people talk about in Hamish Hawthorn, or others will talk about density being important. It creates the density and it also creates serendipity. And it gives you the opportunity to run into people. So be they investors or staff members or accountants, people that can help you along your journey. It’s really hard to do that, again, from your bedroom and to have that luck when you are at home.

Peter Bradd: So I think for me part of the drive was visibility. And that wasn’t just from Fishburners, that was also the media getting more involved, politicians getting more involved, Malcolm Turnbull launching the innovation statement in 2015. A lot more startups became successful and you’ll hear people talk about the PayPal Mafia and what’s happening in the Australian ecosystem. As wealthy people that have either founded companies or have worked companies that have been successful and now reinvesting into the startup ecosystem, you’re starting to see that flywheel kickoff. So I think we’re just at the start of something great. It’s been a lot of hard work, but I think the next 10 years is going to significantly increase.

Will Tjo: One of the things that came to my mind when you mentioned density is regional ecosystem, do you think regional ecosystem has given the attention that they deserve?

Peter Bradd: It’s a hard question to answer. My view and we had this discussion with quite a lot of people and it [inaudible] StartupAUS, was an Australian based organization. It was even in our name and it was in our DNA and we tried to get directors from every state to represent. And then we had say Tech Sydney who wanted Sydney to be in the Startup Hub. And they weren’t as interested in what was going on in Melbourne or Victoria. I’m not really interested in that local level competition. I think what any location has is it has the ability to influence what’s around it, the business that is around it. And if you’re in regional, there’s all these amazing opportunities to innovate.

Peter Bradd: And Pete Davidson on his series spoke about innovation in some of Australia’s strengths. And I think that people in the region should be focusing, focus on what you’re passionate about, but if you’re passionate about stuff in the regions you can solve from really amazing problems that our businesses in the regions are having. I think Davidson spoke around adoption being really important. And I think, again, having people with high technical literacy and championing these local solutions will really help our economy out there to be more productive to grow. So I think it’s really important. It’s certainly hard but less hard today with, I suppose a lot more people have become a lot more used to running events online. And so I think COVID or the pandemic’s probably really helped the regions.

Peter Bradd: Most events these days are run online. And so where previously they weren’t run online, they weren’t recorded. You had to turn up in person or you miss them. So I think that’s been a major benefit. The other thing with startup communities, Brad Feld talks about this, he wrote a book called The Startup Community. Brad Feld’s a well known US person. And he says there’s four things for startup communities to be important. And I think this needs to happen in the regions too, right? So leaders must have a long term commitment. And many of the people that you’ve interviewed on this series have been around for longer than I have in the tech startup ecosystem and are still involved and the startup ecosystem must be inclusive of anyone who wants to participate in it.

Peter Bradd: The startup community must have continual activities that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack. And so there’s some of the points that he talks about in his book, Startup Communities, I think if you were to try and replicate that in the regions, you need to be tapping into those things. I certainly think they’ve rung true from what I’ve been able to witness over the last decade. And it’s really tough, right? So with StartupAUS and Fishburners, and a lot of the community based events, it’s done on commitment. So he says the leaders must have a long term commitment. Many of the people that committed to building the startup ecosystem in Australia, they did it for free. I volunteered for two years with Fishburners, all they did with wages at a discount.

Peter Bradd: They could certainly earn a lot more money working in corporate Australia. It’s hard, it’s certainly rewarding, but people were investing years of their lives and I can rattle off hundreds of people that have invested a lot of their time in the Startup Ecosystem because they were passionate about it. And so again, you need that commitment and passion if you were to try and do something in the region’s, similar commitment and passion, which is there. So I think that’s, probably some key thoughts on the regions.

Will Tjo: Yeah, absolutely. Could you name a couple of those volunteers that have helped drive the Australian ecosystem to where it is today?

Peter Bradd: Yeah, well there’s just too many to name, so I’ll name some people that I think have been important on my journey.

Will Tjo: Mm [affirmative].

Peter Bradd: And so with Fishburners, we had Pete Davidson and Mike Casey were really important, but there were others, original directors, [Matt Cameron] , [David Vanderberg] . There were lots of people that were involved in Fishburners that contributed to the community. [Brett Fox] is a really good example of somebody, [Tendora Shelly] , who came in as a university student into Fishburners. She worked with Fishburners for a very, very long time and became CEO of Fishburners before she moved to the states. She contributed a huge amount of time to the startup ecosystem and probably isn’t well known or called upon, which I thinks something that Australia needs to become better at doing. With StartupAUS, there was to so many people involved, there was 50 people that started StartupAUS in the first community event, [Bill Barty] , [Allan Noble] and myself put our hands up to be founding directors.

Peter Bradd: And I put my hand up to be the initial CEO, but there were tons of people involved, I suppose, [Sally Ann Williams] is probably somebody that was heavily involved more than most people. But again, probably didn’t get credit or a like for it. Stepping away from those people you’ve got all the media that were involved, all the journalists that are writing about startups and what we are doing in communities. You’ve got all the people that are supporting the ecosystem. So people talk about the leaders and feeders in startup ecosystems. So people that have dedicated their entire businesses to supporting startups. So I met [Shar] at startup accounting, people like that. There’s just been too many to count.

Peter Bradd: And I think one of the, not tragic things, but I’ve learned a lot from listening to this series of people that have been along the journey, but they’ve seen it from different perspectives. I think it’s really, really great that you guys, again, are doing this because I’ve certainly learned a lot from hearing different people’s, similar timeline, but what was their view on what was going on? I think it’s really, really important and I could talk for half an hour, just listing people that have been involved in the tech starup ecosystem. And I’ve only really spoken about Sydney. There’s people all over Australia that did the equivalent thing.

Will Tjo: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. Listening to all the stories is absolutely awe-inspiring. It makes you realize that there’s a lot more depth than you initially thought. It’s that iceberg analogy what you thought that you knew a little bit, but then there’s a whole huge part that you didn’t really explore. That was for me anyway, listening to the stories.

Peter Bradd: Yeah. And I think one of the most interesting things is just people have very different perspectives and it’s your view on truth.

Will Tjo: Yeah.

Peter Bradd: Everyone saw what was going on from their own perspective. And even if you were to ask 10 people about the history of Fishburners, they’d probably all give you different stories. Based on what was important to us at the time or what we saw. And I think it’s really important to get those stories so that you can start to understand and again, help accelerate the ecosystems. If we can codify it means it can be replicated or learnt from. And that’s one of the main things I think this podcast is really helping people to learn how communities are created.

Peter Bradd: When I started Fishburners as an initial CEO, I didn’t do a course on how to run a co-working space. I didn’t do a course on community management-

Will Tjo: Mm [affirmative].

Peter Bradd: When I was the initial CEO of the StartupAUS I’d never done any work in running a political lobbying business, I didn’t know any of that. We just had to learn it and it was people around us, the teams that taught us and we worked it out together. But if we can codify it and it can be now, there’s many books have been written on it, many people have studied it and can learn and replicate, which I think will just speed things up again.

Will Tjo: Yeah, definitely. So Peter, as you know, what we’re trying to do in the series is just document as accurately as possible, the history of our ecosystem. And we’re aiming to reach all corners from policy makers, academics, founders, investors. Is there anything that we haven’t spoken about today that you believe that they need to hear?

Peter Bradd: I’m really interested in venture building. So Kim Harris 2015, they’re probably one of the ones in Australia that have tried to do something in venture building. Many people don’t know about it and I think it’s going to be the future of many successful businesses. In 2019 Kim Harris, he was one of the directors at Fishburners with me, but he also was involved in PushStart and now 2015, he wrote an article saying that studios in Australia just aren’t prominent for three reasons: one was lack of experienced founders, which I think we’re really overcoming. Lack of funding, which again, I think we’re really overcoming and then lack of sophisticated exits. He talked about active Tech M&A, which again, I think we’re overcoming. And so I think the time has probably come for studios both from a startup perspective, but even a corporate growth perspective.

Peter Bradd: So where we’re at now is the predicted average tenure in S&P 500 companies, 12 years by 2027. The average age of a unicorn, billion dollar business, privately held business, six years. Traditional growth engines, M&A it’s expensive and it fails 70% to 90% of the time, depending on which reports you read. Only 5% of R&D makes it to market. And so if you look at the VC Index and the Australian VC Index seems to be producing better returns than some of the global indices, but the past 20 years VC has produced the same or lower returns than investing in the S&P 500. And so globally, I’ve been able to identify over 180 ventures, venture builders in over 25 countries and we just don’t have them in Australia.

Peter Bradd: And so I think that’s probably part of the both corporate strategy around corporate growth and Commonwealth banks tried to do that with their x15 and startups. I think more and more founders are going to join venture builders versus trying to build startups by themselves. There’s a really interesting quote from a guy called Alex Chung who founded a company called Giphy, which they sold to Facebook for 400 million. Alex was a founder of a company that was very successful. He sold his first company to Google. He then joined Betaworks as a founder in a startup studio. And one of the quotes I think is really interesting. He said, “The incubator model is old.” He went through YCombinator and he was a founder in one of those programs and exited his business to Google.

Peter Bradd: But he said, “You become so invested in one idea, you put all your energy into recruiting and fundraising for that dream without really knowing if it works.” And when he was at his studio works, he had the freedom to experiment and throw ideas away. And then when he finally found one that was getting traction. The studio model is to help you build teams and get capital, that’s one of the things they sold for. When he was doing that, he had three ideas that he was executing in parallel and Giphy was the one that got up. The other two fell by the wayside. And I think for a lot of founders, they are doing what Alex spoke about. They’re becoming so invested in one idea, they’re putting all of their energy into recruiting and fundraising for that idea, whether it’s the right idea or not.

Peter Bradd: And I think studios give you the freedom to participate and lower the risks. So I think that’s something that I’m certainly putting my attention to in the future. And I think we’ll see if we look in five years time, I would predict that we’ll have a couple of unicorns coming out of AustraliWill Tjo: Hi everyone and welcome back to the Australian Startup Series interviews. Our guest today is Peter Bradd. So good to have you on Peter.

Peter Bradd: Thanks for having me.

Will Tjo: Could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what you’re working on?

Peter Bradd: Yeah, so my name is Peter Bradd. I’m probably best known for my roles in Fishburners and StartupAUS. I was a founding director and the initial CEO of Fishburners from probably 2011 and then StartupAUS we did in 2013, which is now the Australian tech council or has been merged into the Australian tech council. I also am a startup founder, so I founded quite a few companies. My first was a service we did with Qantas, allowing their customers to turn photos into real postcards printed and posted in 24 hours. We did that in 2007, before the iPhone hit Australia. So that was pretty interesting. Right now I’m working on corporate transformation, digital transformation, corporate transformation, growth, venture building. So keen to talk to you about that as well.

Will Tjo: I’d love to take the audience back to when you first got involved in the ecosystem, Peter. Would you say that you’ve always been an entrepreneur even back towards university days?

Peter Bradd: Even before that. I’ve spoken about this a lot in different interviews, but my parents both work for the government. I learned about being an entrepreneur really from jobs that I had when I was a teenager, even from starting my own little car washing business, where you go around and wash your neighbor’s cars or mow their lawns to working in small businesses, like the Video Ezy store or the local milk bar. Did a lot of those jobs [inaudible] seafood, and I learned around the difference between being an employee and the owner of the business, even though they were small and medium size businesses. And that I really liked the vision that the entrepreneurs had when they were founding their business. And I quickly learned that I was, if you wanted to make a difference and have time back, not just be on the wheel all the time, you need to be the owner.

Peter Bradd: So that’s where I got that from and probably around the age of 15, I started working pretty early, so maybe even 13 onwards to 18, I had that. In university, with technology where I got interested in it, was probably 2000 and, I don’t remember the exact year, but say 2002, 2003. I worked for a stock broking company called Shaw Stockbroking. And I worked on their, they’d done a corporate spin out quarter goalie, which was a website that it was an ad funded model where they would publish news about public companies. And so I was a, I wouldn’t say a journalist, but you’d get the reports off the system and you’d rewrite the stories and publish them. And I learned in that business, I had to learn how to code.

Peter Bradd: I did agricultural economics at Uni, so I didn’t learn how to code at Uni. So I learned how to do front end coding in that job. And I think that just gave me the confidence to get into being a technology entrepreneur. In terms of my first business, I launched a company called Scribble Pics in 2007. And we partnered with Qantas. We were Qantas’s first, non-core travel partner. They’d never done anything like this before and I was pretty much straight out of university and hadn’t done anything like this before either. So I learned a lot from that business in 2007, I spent a lot of my time on it, probably until maybe 2011, 2012, and we did Fishburners.

Peter Bradd: So that was my first understanding of the start of ecosystem was as a founder in Scribble Picks. And it was just a lot of change with the iPhone and the advent of apps and all of that and I needed to be around other entrepreneurs. And so when I heard of Pete Davidson and Mike Casey creating this co-working space called Fishburners I did everything to get in there and then also that led me to my passion around helping create Fishburners.

Will Tjo: Mm [affirmative]. Sounds like a very classic entrepreneurial story. You were dissatisfied with the status quo. You didn’t like being an employee, wanted to become founder, and then once you found an opportunity. And for you, it was working in a stock breaking company and technology, you decided to capitalize on it.

Peter Bradd: Yeah, well, that gave me the confidence, just having some exposure to learning how to code gave me the confidence that it wasn’t that difficult. My sales background really helped and so I, again, jobs at university did a couple of sales jobs, actually worked for [Cruel Price] in his previous business. He was selling life insurance over the phone and I had some really great training in how to sell to consumers over the phone from his business. He mainly hired backpackers. I was probably one of the only non-backpackers that worked for him. But I learned a lot around sales and so that helped. Also, in my strategy with Scribble Picks, bringing on channel partners like Qantas, TripAdvisor, Expedia, the Hilton and then Fishburners, and being able to bring on big brands like Optus, News Corp to help fund our goals. So I think the combination of confidence around technology, but also confidence around sales from some of the early jobs I had really helped set me up for success.

Will Tjo: Yeah, absolutely. What was it like starting your first business, Scribble Picks, before creating it? Did you have any notions on what it would be like to run your own business? And after creating it, was it the same?

Peter Bradd: I think probably the biggest moment for me was knowing what kind of business I was running. With Scribble Picks I was the sales, my background had been in sales from an employee perspective, and so I was focused on doing deals and bringing in revenue. And so we did a partnership with Qantas, but we still needed to build the technology. And I was looking at raising funds and partnering with a firm that could help me do that. But their quotes were just through the roof, 200 grand, 300 grand to build an app. And this is going back to say 2007.

Peter Bradd: And I met a very successful Australian entrepreneur, a guy called Greg Johnson. And he said to me, “You’re running a technology company. You can’t outsource your business. You need to do this yourself.” And so we had dinner at his place and then he flew off to Spain. And again, I’ve spoken about this quite a lot, but he created the website with this company, said that they would spend, $200,000 creating. He created, a MVP in today’s language on that plane flight to Spain. And when he landed 24 hours later, he sent me a link to an app that could do exactly what we needed it to do. And that’s the MVP that we gave to Qantas.

Peter Bradd: And so I learned a lot around my business was, and I think a lot of entrepreneurs need to learn that lesson. It’s very hard, coming into a startup up without a lot of experience or you have the experience you have, but as a founder, you need so much experience and finding the team that can help you. And for me, that was, Greg Johnson and another partner, Elliot Cousins that helped me. So that was, I suppose, a really key moment for me. And I still pass that lesson on to many other entrepreneurs that are, you do what you can do with experience. But you really need to know what kind of business you’re in and make sure you’ve got a good team around you who can excel in that business. You can’t outsource your main function.

Will Tjo: Yeah. Did you engage much with the startup ecosystem? So funding or accelerator programs back then?

Peter Bradd: To be honest, and this is interesting because everyone has their version of events and I’ve listened to a couple of your other, in the series. And it’s interesting, I’m probably learning a lot more about their perspective as to what happened as you go back to 2000 and, I got more involved in 2011 onwards, but people that had been around before that. I didn’t think there was anything available-

Will Tjo: Mm [affirmative].

Peter Bradd: And most of the people that came into Fishburners in 2011 also didn’t think there was anything available. And I’m probably in the media quoted for saying that Fishburners was one of Australia’s first co-working spaces. And there were others with hindsight now that you look, but you only know what’s available to you. And a key moment for me became when Stone & Chalk launched and they launched FinTech.

Peter Bradd: I don’t think we had any entrepreneurs at Fishburners that identified as being a FinTech, but quite quickly, Stone & Chalk was filled up with Fintechs. And there’s a lot of entrepreneurs that are out there in the ecosystem that are doing things. And I think Pete Davidson spoke about this in his series. They’re quiet, they don’t need to be a part of the community, or perhaps they don’t know that it exists, but they’re doing great things where they are. For me, that was what I was doing with my business, Scribble Picks at the time, I didn’t know what was available. And because of that, I probably moved a lot slower than I needed to or could have. Because I didn’t have other people around me to learn from, to tap into, to get advice from. All the benefits that you get from being a part of a program, whether it’s a company like Fishburners or accelerator programs or other community based programs. If you are at home, by yourself, your knowledge is limited to what you know, your luck is limited to who you can run into.

Peter Bradd: So I think for me 2007 to 2010 was probably pretty limited in terms of what I actually thought a startup ecosystem was. And I think that probably is fairly similar to other people at the time.

Will Tjo: Yeah. I’m curious to dig into this more, because when you said that you were just in your own corner, building Scribble Picks and not really engaging with the ecosystem, why? Is it because you didn’t know it was out there? Or is it just some other reason you didn’t need to?

Peter Bradd: No, I certainly needed to, which is why I put my heart and soul into Fishburners, but I just didn’t know that it was out there. And I actually don’t think there was a lot, I still would have to go back to finding out. Hamish Hawthorn had ATP Innovations and Pollenizer was around and, Kim Harris with PushStart was getting going and there was a meetup at a hotel and the city that happened and Sydney Angels was around. So there was stuff in Sydney going on. I just wasn’t really aware of it and it wasn’t in the media. And one of the questions-

Will Tjo: Mm [affirmative].

Peter Bradd: You’ve asked other guests is around this 2012 milestone. And for me, I think what happened then, and I can talk a little bit more about, it was just a lot more transparency, a lot more visibility, both in physical working spaces like Fishburners, and then other places like WeWork and there’s Fishburner equivalents all around Australia.

Peter Bradd: So you had that, you also had a lot more media, the media became really interested in it. And so that happened, so before 2011 there just wasn’t a lot of visibility as to what wan based studios in a couple of years time.

Will Tjo: Yeah. Just in layman’s terms, would you be able to explain what venture building or these studios are? And how it differs from the traditional incubator model?

Peter Bradd: Yeah, definitely. So if you want to learn more about it, the best place to learn about it is the Global Startup Studio Network. If you want to Google that GSSN mention builder. They’re also called startup studios, factories, venture or company builders, venture studios, foundries. What they are is they’re company that builds several companies and using systematic well tested methods to do so. And the reason they’re doing that is they want to increase return and they want to reduce risk. Now they reduce risk through venture architects. So there’s a team that operates in the studio. The big consultancy firms, McKinsey Bay, they’re always advertising for them BCG. They’re people are really great at identifying ideas and validating those ideas doing the DD almost before you’ve even started building your founding team. They’re looking at the market size, business model viability, market dynamics.

Peter Bradd: The second part that they sold for is execution excellence, so that’s talent. So these studios have people like me with big networks and others, founders, they’re able to attract really amazing talent. They’ve also got capital. So most studios have, a venture studio will have a venture capital fund associated with it, which backs their businesses. So instead of a founder going out and trying to raise capital and spending a lot of time, money, effort, raising capital that’s what it sold for. The third is the playbook, obviously they’re using a well tested method to do that. And as a business, they’re learning how to do that better themselves. And finally, it’s probably just the investment theory, which is common to VC, but it’s diversified portfolio, incremental funding and the ability to follow on successful ventures.

Peter Bradd: So they’re the key things to a venture builder. And the types of entrepreneurs they attract is generally second time founders, depending on the definition of success, but whether they were, wildly successful or they didn’t have the exit they wanted to have, or perhaps they closed it down. You generally get second time founders that know how difficult it is to found a business, wanting to do it with a group of people around them. Their exit is lower than it might be if they were trying to it themselves. But the probability that they’re going to have, build something impactful and the associated benefits of that significantly increased.

Will Tjo: Yeah. That’s amazing.

Peter Bradd: There are some good examples. So Dollar Shave Club is an example. They sold their business to Unilever for a billion bucks. You’ve also got Snowflake who did an IPO for 1.4 billion, they’re venture builder based businesses who the ideas are founded, backed through these venture studios. So as I said, there’s 180 of the [inaudible] globally. There’s probably more, and they’re creating billion dollar businesses. E-founders recently had a billion dollar business. We talk about billion dollars because that’s the unicorn thing that people want to get to. So there’s so many examples and I just think in Australia, again, it’s the visibility. We just don’t have them here, people aren’t really looking at them. So that’s something I’m, again, focusing on.

Will Tjo: Lastly, Peter, if a brand new entrepreneur or founder came to you and, given all your wins, mistakes and experience, what would you tell them to increase their chances of success?

Peter Bradd: Join a [inaudible] , go into Fishburners or something equivalent and learn from people around you. I think you want to learn how to learn faster and being in a space like a co-working space, not only do they have other people that you can talk to and learn from, they’ve got a whole heap of events, but even lunchtime, they run events all the time. I don’t know how many Fishburners do, but they could be running a thousand events a year, multiple per day. So you get all this amazing education and knowledge that you need to be successful. It’s also serendipity, you’ll run into people that you won’t run into if you’re not in places like that. So getting into the Sydney Startup Hub or Tech Central, or your equivalent, depending where you are in the world, I think it’s the number one tip that I could give is to join one of those spaces with the view on learning how to learn faster and learning faster and just getting more experience and learning from other people.

Will Tjo: It’s been so good to have you on the show today, Peter, thank you so much.

Peter Bradd: Thanks for having me. It’s been a pleasure.

Adam Spencer: I hope you enjoyed that interview. More interviews are on the way. Follow the podcast wherever you’re listening right now. Stay tuned for more interviews with many, many more amazing people from the Australian startup ecosystem. Thanks for listening and see you next time.

Less

Follow on Social

Credits

Production Credits

  • Andy Jones
  • Will Tjo
  • Alex Carpenter
  • Alan Jones
  • Oliver Gaywood
  • Aleshia Spencer

Special Thanks

  • Sorrel Osborne
  • Alan Jones
  • Murray Hurps
  • Maria MacNamara
  • Peter Davison
  • Pete Cooper

Music Credits

Music by Lee Rosevere

Leave a rating or review

Enjoying the show? Head to ratedayone.com to leave a rating on the podcast.

Sponsor the show

Want to become a sponsor? Get in touch. Send us an email

Meet Our Supporters (Become One)

Partners

PARTNER_Startup Daily_01
PARTNER_Fishburners_01a
PARTNER_Sparkfest_01
PARTNER_Spacecubed_01
PARTNER_Stone & Chalk_02
PARTNER_River City Labs ACS_03

Sponsors

SPONSOR_UTS Startups
SPONSORS_Guild of Entrepreneurs
SPONSOR_Western Sydney University - Launch Pad
SPONSOR_Canberra Innovation Network
SPONSOR_Curtin University
SPONSOR_CSIRO
SPONSOR_University of South Australia
SPONSOR_LaunchVic
SPONSOR_The Office of the South Australian Chief Entrepreneur
SPONSOR_ANSTO
SPONSOR_Integrated Innovation Network
SPONSOR_ThincLab
SPONSORS_Flinders_01
SPONSORS_UNSW Founders
SPONSOR_University of Queensland
SPONSOR_JCU_01

Patreon Supporters

Startup Leaders Tier

Thank you to all of our generous supporters. You are helping to make our stories possible

Help us make the series on the 'Australian Startup Leader' tier

PROMO_Maria MacNamara_00a
PROMO_Zrinka Tokic_00ab
PROMO_Cameron Adams_00a

Patreon Supporters

Startup Teams Tier

Thank you to all of our generous supporters. You are helping to make our stories possible

PARTNER_Blackbird_02
PARTNER_Coassemble_02a
PARTNER_Coviu_02
PARTNER_Seven Mile_02
PARTNER_The Only Straw_02

Patreon Supporters

Supporter Tier

Thank you to all of our generous supporters. You are helping to make our stories possible

Help us make the series on the 'Supporter' tier

PROMO_Alan Jones_00a
PROMO_Brian Hill_00a
PROMO_Chad Renando_00a
PROMO_Niki Scevak_00a
PROMO_Dan Smith_01b
PROMO_Greg Twemlow_00a
PROMO_Bonnie Lin_00ab
PROMO_Matt Salier_00ab
PROMO_Glenn Dawson_00aa

Donations

Thank you to all of our generous supporters. You are helping to make our stories possible

Help us continue telling Aussie startup stories with a one-off donation

PROMO_Grant Crene_00a
PROMO_Matthew Ho_00a
PROMO_Lana Weal_00aa
PROMO_Tom Richardson_01
PROMO_Chris Clark_01
PROMO_Dean McEvoy_00a
PROMO_Silvia Pfeiffer_00a

Advertisers

PARTNER_LegalVision_02
Tim Fung

Tim Fung

Tim Fung explains why Australia is a great market to test startup ideas Tim Fung is founder of Airtasker, a local services marketplace connecting people and businesses who need work done with people wanting to work. He is also co-founder and Director of Tank Stream...

Rohit Bhargava

Rohit Bhargava

Rohit Bhargava discusses the benefits of reshaping wholesale investor requirements Rohit Bhargava runs the podcast The Startup Playbook Podcast, where each week he interviews successful entrepreneurs, investors and industry experts. Rohit first entered the startup...