All Posts in startups

October 30, 2012 - Comments Off on The Making Of A Team

The Making Of A Team

In startups, passion is your best friend and your worst enemy. It can drive a team towards a solid future and just as quickly tear them apart. The great news is that passion has such a powerful effect when used in the right way.

We (Kickfolio) are a very passionate team. We all have different viewpoints, understandings and directions and passionately discuss them amongst ourselves. Sometimes the passion unites us. Other times, the passion is so strong that the other founder(s) don't connect with it straight away.

This moment naturally creates a small wedge of opportunity for us all to learn, connect and grow. In that moment, we are challenged to find a way to work together and understand where the others passion is coming from. What is driving that opinion? What are the core values behind that passion?

During that time, we are heated. Professionally heated of course, in a way in which we can see the light at the end of the tunnel but we don't know which steps we will take to walk towards it. Ideas are thrown around, concepts are carved into the path and actionable steps are taken towards a combined direction.

I'm not going to lie, at times it's incredibly tense during those moments. Passion is intense. Quite often, the original passion is funneled into an activity that may only be present for a short amount of time before it can be merged into the bigger vision at a later stage. It can be overwhelming, frustrating and exhausting. But often (even during those moments) I am reminded that it has to be this way. We WANT it to be this way.

Without passion, there is a weak connection in any team. Without passion, the direction of a company can be pushed into a completely obscure path, straying close to immoral directions or fad-like areas. This is not what any of us want. We all want to direct the company towards a place that is held in high moral regard and value. We want something we can be proud of just as much as our customers.

This is why we respect our individual and passionate views. This is why we work everyday to align those various passions to strengthen the company from the ground up.

The alignment of passion - this is what really makes a team.

October 14, 2012 - Comments Off on The Hustle – A 500 Startups Story

The Hustle – A 500 Startups Story

Disclaimer: Your hustle may vary.

"One day..." is a very common phrase amongst entrepreneurs. Dreams, hopes and ambition are boiled into a weird mix of passion and action and funneled into a personal fuel tank. The dedicated few push beyond minimal cash flow, worried family members and strive for something more, something 'better'. The few stress through relationships, take risks and dive head first into unclear opportunities. It's a life that few choose, but for us, it doesn't make sense any other way.

In my world, I work with two incredible entrepreneurs and am connected to many more through our networks. These two co-founders (Ed and Chris) hustle harder and work smarter than many people I know - and I am thankful to live in a world where that connection is possible.

Our story started in the early days of a Melbourne (Australia) based incubator called AngelCube. We had come together by Chris and Eds invitation into the incubator with their previous startup ideas while I was mentoring the different teams on UI & UX design. After working with them on their first design, I decided to join their team (more on how I joined them here) and shortly after we had iterated the product again and headed across to the US to partake in various Demo Days in SF and NY.

We had a very large vision for where we wanted Kickfolio (Now to be in the future. With that vision, we knew we had to secure serious US investment or get into one of the various incubators - our first pick being the powerful 500 Startups.

On September 5th, the day of the first US Demo Day for AngelCube, we were up in the 500 Startups building pitching to a mix of entrepreneurs, investors and mentors from the community and the previous 500 Startups batches respectively. While we had some great feedback, our pitch was met with the most dreaded question ever, "So, what do you actually do?". We were able to answer the question in the end but knew we had a lot of work to do to succinctly explain what we do without physically getting people to use it first.

On that same night, Dave McClure had dropped in to see some of the pitches, missing the first few including ours. We knew we had to get Kickfolio in front of him, at the very least to get his feedback. A few of the other teams decided to stay behind to speak with Dave also. We waited for 3+ hours in the 500 Startups building and managed to secure 5 minutes with Dave - (When you travel halfway around the world, an extra 3 hours wait for Dave McClure is kind of worth it).

In our brief discussion with Dave, he suggested something that stuck with us throughout the remainder of the trip. He mentioned that he would put us in touch with someone in his network, and if Kickfolio found its way back to him through that network we would be talking further. In hindsight it sounds like a simple lesson, but the trust put into network recommendations and connections in the US goes further (and makes a bigger impact) than we thought it ever would. After that, we knew the best way for us to get into 500 Startups would be to hustle our way into that network and have recommendations flying in from every contact along that line. So that's what we did.

We focused on soft intros (and some cold) to anyone who had a connection to 500 - past or present mentors, entrepreneurs and investors. We managed to connect to about 5 or so relevant people who also provided great advice on moving forward. It was clear to us at this point that the various network connections we were building for recommendations (and advice) were similar to the basis of advertising and the repetition of multiple placements, which in turn transforms into trust.

A few days later, applications for 500 Startups opened via Angellist. We knew that adding another point of contact would only benefit our position of being noticed. From what we understand, our Angellist application was the icing on the cake for Dave McClure, which clarified everything Kickfolio was about and the direction we were planning to take it.

Then, Chris and I flew back home to Melbourne, Australia while Ed continued on to New York for another week of demo days and networking. Chris and I continued to define and discuss our next steps over that week, while Ed connected with some amazing people and added a strong and supportive advisor to our team (James Haft).

When Ed arrived back in Melbourne we were all ready for one of the biggest team discussions ever. In that whirlwind trip for the last 2.5 weeks we had met so many people, had multiple opportunities present themselves and learned so much about Kickfolio. Yet, instead of a discussion, what happened next blew us away.

On Tuesday the 2nd of October (the first Melbourne working day for Kickfolio as a team), while sharing a Google Hangout with James Haft, we got the call. Ed confidently walked into the room, casually sorted out his laptop to join the Hangout and shared the news. Kickfolio was accepted into 500 Startups. Below is a shot at the moment Ed told us we were in.

From the left: Chris clapping, Diesel smiling, Ed explaining and James clapping.

Here's the awesome short email that Dave McClure quickly sent through:


quick story...

good news: we're going to make you guys an offer.

bad news: you guys need to get on a plane asap!



We went through every emotion right in that moment. We couldn't (and wouldn't) pass up this incredible offer, but we had to get back over to the US asap - slight freak-out! We pulled together everything we could, sorted out flights straight away and said goodbye to loved ones for a short while (5 months in the US). A week later, Chris and I were on a plane heading back to the US to start this incredible journey (with Ed to arrive on the 15th).

So that brings us to now - a few days into this incredible opportunity and what we believe will be the start of an amazing journey for us and Kickfolio.

I look forward to keeping you updated as the months go by. Now it's time for us to learn, network and push Kickfolio (Now further than it's ever been.

- Diesel Laws

July 9, 2012 - Comments Off on Why I’m Excited To Join Kickfolio

Why I’m Excited To Join Kickfolio

It's been just over a month since Jay and I officially closed Barkles. Throughout that experience I learned some valuable lessons about startups, business and myself. Since then (and even a few months before) I have been involved within the startup scene in and amongst the various entrepreneur hubs around Melbourne.

Just over 3 months ago I started mentoring the teams in the AngelCube program, mainly on Design, UI & UX (more on that here). Ed and Chris (Kickfolio founders) were one of the teams that I helped in the early days of the program. It's interesting to note that they were actually accepted into AngelCube on the strength of their skills and passion - as their original idea was thrown out (they've written about that here).

When they started throwing around random ideas about what they could sink their teeth into I helped them out as best as I could. It wasn't really my place to offer direct feedback on their new ideas but they strongly encouraged the discussion. This way of thinking and being open to raw feedback so early on in the piece (admittedly from someone who had limited experience) instantly got my attention. It wasn't their intention to impress me but their passion and confidence was hard to ignore.

After days of brainstorming new ideas (including the concept of building a hardware product within the 3 months) they locked on to Kickfolio - Kickass Portfolios For Your Apps.

After hearing about the idea (and the great name) I was impressed again. I knew that it was a great solution to the ever growing problem of standing out amongst the other apps in the marketplace. Not to mention the effort and time saved for app developers who don't want to build their own websites from the ground up.

When Ed and Chris asked me to design the first iteration I was excited. We worked together on brainstorming a few concepts yet the majority of the discussion they encouraged me to run with the ideas I already had. They were really open to my concepts and encouraged my creativity by their own passion for the project.

What impressed me the most however, was their speed from concept to development to launch. Within a few weeks Kickfolio's main design was complete and already implemented. As time went on it was clear that Ed and Chris knew exactly what they were doing and were more than capable of rapidly brainstorming a feature, ironing out the kinks and pushing it live within a few days.

This combination of speed and skill is rare - especially with both founders. As such, I made it clear early on that I love the team, product and would love to join Kickfolio if there was a way I could add value.

As it so happens, that day has come. Ed and Chris officially offered me the position of Designer/Co-Founder after many weeks of discussing a potential role. I couldn't be more excited to be part of an already strong team with a brilliant base product. Thanks Ed and Chris!

If you would like to follow our progress, check out, follow us on Facebook or on Twitter.

April 17, 2012 - Comments Off on Why I Love Helping Startups

Why I Love Helping Startups

For the last 6 months I have been surrounding myself with incredibly passionate entrepreneurs. Throughout this time I have come to know many of them (and their startups) intimately.  It's with this constant connection to the startup community that I have been able to grow my own self (and my startup) and really connect with what makes me tick.

One of the big things that has become evident to me is the love I have for helping other startups. Being able to offer advice when applicable, help in design when requested and offer a supporting shoulder when needed has inspired me in so many ways.

Throughout that time I have been fortunate enough to get to know Andrew Birt, Adrian Stone & Nathan Sampimon (the powerhouse team behind AngelCube) and have recently been mentoring their 2012 startup teams in UI/UX design at Inspire9. Although it has only been 1 week with the teams, I can already say that the collection of entrepreneurs in this years program are going to be powerful players in this industry to come.

You see, when you offer advice to someone, you get to know what makes them tick. You hear what drives them forward and watch as they implement their various strategies to do what needs to be done. Witnessing this passion close up is infectious. It forces you to look at yourself and ask the same questions you do them. It's in those moments that you realise they are helping you immensely.

Whether they listen and action your advice or disagree and persevere on their own path is irrelevant - it's all learning.

That's the most important part.

Being able to learn from the people you teach.

And that's why I love helping startups.


November 13, 2011 - Comments Off on Why Startup Weekend Is Almost Essential – #swmelb

Why Startup Weekend Is Almost Essential – #swmelb

Last Friday, the 4th of November I attended Startup Weekend Melbourne (Hosted at York Butter Factory). The day before we had just pushed Barkles live to the public. Now why would any entrepreneur go to an intensive 54 hour weekend event the day after launching his own startup? Well, since you asked:

  • Passion
  • Commitment
  • Trust
  • Experience
  • Networking


I have a passion with the entrepreneurial world. Anyone who can create something from a random idea, get others involved and inspire them to build a business is nothing short of amazing. It is that passion that inspires my mind to keep creating and building everyday. If I have the chance to be around 100+ people doing the exact same thing, I'm going to jump all over it. Startup Weekend brings out the best in entrepreneurs. It forces them to look at their strengths, challenge their weaknesses and work as part of a team. When stress, anxiety, deadlines and pitching plagues the mind, it demands a certain level of focus, something that many of the entrepreneurs were facing for the first time.

To be around other experienced entrepreneurs in that time of need is essential. On the other side they need to be able to see that there is a force of people who want to change things for the better. Who want to challenge the status-quo. Who continually ask why and why not.


A month before Startup Weekend I made a commitment to Tyson Lundbech (a good friend and one of the organisers) that I would be attending. I had no idea Barkles would be launched the day before (or that it would be even be ready by then!). When the time came, we launched Barkles - then it hit me. That whole weekend I would be out of action for most of the day and night. Even so, I wanted to stick to my commitment because I truly believed in the experience that Startup Weekend would bring.


I also knew I could trust Jay Whiting (Barkles Co-Founder and Developer) to hold the fort while I was away. It was a big responsibility, and in hindsight was a brilliant decision. We had very few issues over that weekend, yet we had a lot of activity and an overall great response to the lanch.


The Melbourne Entrepreneur scene is literally growing before my eyes. There are hubs popping up all around, multiple incubators being launched and many more startups are being built every day. Startup Weekend brings all of those together - A hub of activity over the weekend, 100+ entrepreneurs working together in smaller teams, $5000 winning pitch prize and an opportunity to travel to the JFDI–Innov8 2012 Bootcamp in Singapore including $15,000 SGD in seed funding. Startup Weekend truly is an incredible experience that you should do at least once if you are passionate about entrepreneurship.


In addition, the mentors, organisers, judges and other workers in the space bring a great level of experience to the table. If I were to give one piece of advice to any entrepreneur it would be "Be seen and heard, constantly". This doesn't mean you should bug everyone you can while they are eating lunch - it's more about paying attention to the advice they choose to share. Ask all the questions you need answered and get to know them. If you meet some amazing people at these events, get their details and arrange a time (yes, on the spot) to catch up in the future for a casual chat. It's these moments when you are in the same environment that will be the easiest to connect, just by pure proximity and similar interests.

The next time Startup Weekend rolls around I strongly recommend you get on the list. It will be an experience like no other, where you will understand a lot about yourself in a quick timeframe. You will meet many other inspiring people, and the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.

Like Startups? You should follow me on Twitter.

May 5, 2011 - Comments Off on How To Become Influential

How To Become Influential

In the past year I have been able to connect with some pretty influential people. It was as simple as leaving a thankyou on their page and getting a response, or receiving a follow from someone I had Retweeted earlier.

Years before I felt I didn't have the 'chops' to talk to these people as I was at a small level of influence in their network. Thanks to the constant power of the internet, this is no longer the case.

Note: Social Influence scores are indicated by Klout.

It's About Engagement

Engagement. We hear the word often, but only a few actually keep it in focus for long periods of time. Yet, it's the constant engagement with our friends, fans, followers and people we are following that is actually the most important path when building our social network. Talking only about yourself will lose you friends, fans and followers because you are not engaging with anyone.

WHAT TO DO: Share other people's articles, reply to everyone and be personal.

WHAT TO STOP: Buying fans, sharing your posts exclusively and ignoring people.

Gary Vaynerchuk says it perfectly in his book The Thank You Economy (a must read!) with the line "No Interaction Left Behind". Even with his busy schedule of speaking engagements, web videos and more he still takes time to connect with everyone he can. Which is why it is even easier for someone who is relatively unknown to connect with another with higher social influence. It's no wonder Gary's score on Klout is very high:

Show The Real You

Another factor of social influence is to be influential in some way by showing the real you. It sounds self-explanatory, but only a few actually do this well. Being influential is as simple as sharing an article of interest, showing something exclusive to your fans or sharing your opinions about a hot topic. The people who can get this right will have the biggest impact, even if they only have a small amount of fans.

WHAT TO DO: Share interesting articles, show exclusive content and be opinionated.

WHAT TO STOP: Faking your persona, hiding from the world and sitting on the fence.

Jason Calacanis is extremely influential to me. He constantly connects with people by sharing videos through This Week In Startups, in which he works with a small (but growing) team to interview and connect with early to established Startups and also covers topics from founding to failure. He is very opinionated and real, and although I don't agree with everything he says, he stands strong with his views and that allows him to be bold when moving forward.

Be Humble And Confident

Being humble and confident at the same time can often be a challenge. But challenges are worth every second if you can better yourself. By listening to those around you and understanding where they are coming from with their views, it makes it much easier to work out where to go to next with your personal brand, business and attitude. Honesty is the key.

WHAT TO DO: Be confident with your choices, listen to feedback, thank people for helping you.

WHAT TO STOP: Thinking you're better than anyone, ignoring people who are 'smaller' than you, being afraid to say sorry.

Deadmau5 (Joel Zimmerman) is very confident in his approach when dealing with other artists, fans and followers. He is constantly connecting with his fans with live video feeds from his house, studio and on the road through his Ustream channel and Facebook page. Even though he has a massive worldwide following through his incredible music career, he still shows he is only human when chatting to his fans live. He answers live questions from his fans and shows behind the scenes work directly from his computer. Occasionally, he will be opinionated when mentioning another artist stealing samples or not releasing a good record - which he will apologise for later after it causes a massive media frenzy of problems and mixed emotions.

How else can you be influential?