Open the Pod Bay Doors

A weekly deep dive into Australia's tech and startup ecosystem. Brought to you by Innovation Bay

There is a lot of activity in the Australian startup ecosystem. Ideas, talent, and money are all flowing into this sector at an unprecedented rate. This weekly podcast brings in-depth interviews with the best people making the biggest difference. It's brought to you by Ian Gardiner and Phaedon Stough, technology entrepreneurs helping to grow the startup sector in Australia and New Zealand. Ian and Phaedon co-founded Innovation Bay with a clear mission to help technology entrepreneurs succeed.

In the latest Ep of Open The Pod Bay Doors, Phaedon spoke with the brilliant Aussie entrepreneur, Geoff McQueen, co-founder of Accelo, and Executive Director of the Aussie Founder Network based in Silicon Valley. Geoff is one of those founder’s that truly knows how to grow a business. In this episode, Geoff gives us some fantastic insights into capital raising in the US, and what it takes to make it in Silicon Valley.


Born and raised in Wollongong, Geoff dropped out of the University of Wollongong to focus on running his first business in 2000, a full spectrum digital agency called Internetrix. Within in this field, Geoff saw a problem around SMEs and their internal business management, and after performing lots of customer development around an idea, Accelo was born in 2009. In May 2011, Geoff was invited to exhibit at Google IO - Google's annual developers conference, and in July that same year, decided to take the plunge to move and launch Accelo in the US without any capital, and running on a little bit of revenue.


From here, Geoff talked to us about how he managed to raise capital from investors in Silicon Valley and New York, built offices in SF and Denver, and grew their base team in Wollongong, plus manage the team of over 100 globally, with his three other co-founders.


Geoff is also one of the founding members of the Aussie Founder Network, a community of Australian founders, investors and industry advisors, based out of Silicon Valley. Their mission is to support, build and elevate the role and impact of the Aussie tech community, globally.


This is great conversation and we are thrilled to have had Geoff as our guest on the pod!

Geoff McQueen Entrepreneur Startups Silicon Valley Capital Raising Investment


Ben Keighran is an intelligent and down-to-earth founder, advisor and investor, who knows all about growing a great business and what it takes to make it in Silicon Valley. Phaedon Opened the Pod Bay Doors to Ben so we could talk about Caffeine, a social broadcasting platform for gaming, sport and entertainment, which Ben co-founded in 2016.


We also deep-dived into Ben's perennial entrepreneurial career. He moved from Sydney to San Francisco in 2007 where he raised $US6.5 for his social media company, BluePulse, and founded the app discovery/search engine service, Chomp, which became acquired by Apple for $50M. In this Ep, Ben offers valuable advice about raising money in Silicon Valley, having recently closed a huge $146m in VC funding from Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners and Lachlan Murdoch's 21st Century Fox.


Ben epitomises the word entrepreneur and is an overall fantastic guest to learn from.

Ben Keighran Startups Funding Investment Capital Caffeine Brodcast Media Entertainment Silicon Valley Entrepreneur


Have trouble understanding Quantum Physics? Don’t worry - it's hard to get a grasp on the theory. This week on the pod however, we spoke with an incredibly fascinating guest who articulately explained quantum mechanics in layman's terms, and described how his product is disrupting the future of quantum computers.


We #OTPBD to Professor, Michael J. Biercuk: quantum physicist and technologist at the University of Sydney, Chief Investigator in the Australian Research Council and founder & CEO of Q-CTRL. Q-CTRL is an intuitive cloud platform that uses quantum control theory to solve the hardest problems facing quantum technology, improving hardware performance and accelerating pathways to useful quantum computers and other technologies. Utilising professionally developed tools, Q-CTRL puts deep expertise in quantum control into individuals hands.


Michael’s research as a Quantum Physicist has been recognised with accolades including the Eureka Prize for Outstanding Young Researcher (2015), selection as one of the Sydney Morning Herald’s 100 Most influential people and award of the Australian Government’s [National Measurement Institute] NMI Prize for Excellence in Measurement Science. He was part of an international team whose work developing a new quantum-powered technology was described as the #8 “World-changing” experiment by BBC Focus. His team’s achievements have been featured in The Economist, The New York Times, Forbes, Wired, and a host of other major media outlets.


Deep-dive into a great discussion on the future of a new generation of quantum technology, and how it will disrupt industries worldwide.

quantum technology quantum phsyics startups Michael Biercuk Q-CTRL Quantum Mechanics


We're pleased to welcome Kevin Baum and Justin Webb, cofounders of AgriWebb on this week's episode of Open The Pod Bay Doors.


AgriWebb is Australia's market leader of software for livestock farmers, designed to “digitise the notebooks that sat in the top pockets of Australian farmers". The platform digitises record-keeping and takes audit and compliance data to help farmers make better decisions and improve productivity.


Justin Webb and Kevin Baum, along with their other cofounder John Fargher started the business in 2014, with a mission to fundamentally transform global cattle and sheep production with their farm management software that delivers profitability, provenance and sustainability across the supply chain in the face of an impending global food crisis.


Globally, AgriWebb is now used on 2800 farms, 1700 of which are in Australia, and is also expanding rapidly into the UK and Brazil. The company has grown to around 40 employees split between Australia & UK, and they've successfully raised over $21M in funding, most recently raising $14 million from the UK-based agriculture investment company Wheatsheaf Group.


Kevin has extensive experience in entrepreneurship, technical program management and is an expert in technology commercialisation, having worked around the world to develop innovative research into scalable opportunities. Kevin is a winner of numerous entrepreneurship awards including: IEEE President’s Change the World Foundation Prize, The Skoll Venture Award and The GSVC Intel Innovation Prize. Kevin earned a BA from Stanford in Biology and his MBA (Dean’s List), as well as a MA in Environmental Science from Oxford University.


Justin’s family history in livestock production inspired the concept and foundation of AgriWebb. A serial entrepreneur in financial management, Justin has founded, built and sold 3 quantitative Hedge Funds with successful exits to Macquarie Bank, Citadel & Westpac. Justin also founded PacWealth Capital; a $4Bn asset advisory firm in the South Pacific. He also served as a Director and Head of Retail Client Business, Private Banks & Alternative Investments for the ANZ franchise of BlackRock Inc. Justin earned an AB (honours) in Economics and Applied Mathematics from Harvard University and holds an MBA with distinction in asset management from Oxford University where he was on the Dean’s List and the OBA Scholar.


This is a great discussion that touches a number of difficulties startups are likely to face: tackling international expansion and understanding global markets; managing teams on opposite sides of the globe; & allocating funds after raising capital.

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Last week, we hosted a breakfast with Sarah Leary, the phenomenal founder of US-unicorn, Nextdoor, as they launched their social network for neighbourhood communities in Australia. For those not lucky enough to attend, fear not, Ian brought along his recording gear so we could capture Sarah’s amazing story and experience for building great communities and share with you.


Nextdoor was launched in the US in 2011 as a social network for people to interact with others who live in their physical neighborhoods. Neighbourhoods across the US rely on the platform to engage with their community, and in the past year, the service became available in several countries across Europe.


What many people don’t know, is that before Nextdoor’s success, Sarah and her co-founders Nirav Tolia, Prakash Janakiraman and David Wiesen had already tried building a startup. It was called ‘Fanbase,’ a platform for sports fans to congregate and share information, and it was live for 2 years before Sarah realised that it didn’t have real potential for growth. Having raised money from investors already, they had to decide whether they would return the money or put it towards a new idea.


In 2010, Sarah & her co-founders decided it was time to come up with new ideas. One of these ideas started with a pothole problem. Cofounder Nirav, had a pothole on his street, and he didn’t know how to get it fixed or where to start. This small problem, sparked an idea around creating more connectivity in communities, so the team created Nextdoor to tackle this problem in neighbourhoods.


They dedicated time to validating the idea in San Francisco neighbourhoods and found that people really seemed to crave connection to other people & community, with the data showing that 21% of Americans couldn’t name their neighbours, and 27% didn’t know who actually lives next door. Since its launch, Nextdoor is now used by 84% of neighbourhoods across the US, over a range of 170k communities, and has recently launched in new markets in the Netherlands, UK, Germany and now Australia!


Sarah emphasises that patience is required when building communities and how important constant customer validation is as you build a product that people want to use. She also stresses how vital it is to have investors aligned with your long term vision. This is a fascinating conversation with a truly exceptional leader building a global business with a purpose.


If you haven't already signed up to Nextdoor do it now - https://au.nextdoor.com




Nextdoor Sarah Leary community unicorn San francisco