InnovaBuzz Episode #46 – Jonathan Lui: Airtasker

Jonathan Lui: Airtasker

Jonathan Lui: Airtasker

In this episode number 46 of the InnovaBuzz podcast, Jonathan Lui, one of the founders of Airtasker, speaks about the challenges of a new startup, disruptive business models and the importance of customer feedback.  Listen to the podcast to find out more.

Listen to the Podcast

speak to customers as often as possible, gather their feedback, post events with them and just chat because sometimes you build a lot of features, but people use it in completely different ways that you didn’t expect. Those are little gems and opportunities that you can harness and take a lot further than where you initially thought you need to go.

Jonathan Lui

Show Highlights

Some of the highlights of this episode include:

  • Creating added value is critical to get repeat business.
  • In building a new business and growing a team, it’s critical to understand the culture you want in the business and then pick the people who are a fit for that culture.
  • Focus on the problem you are solving, ideally a problem you have personal experience with, and ask how you can make that better
  • Keeping in touch with customers, getting their input and also educating them about developments, but most importantly listening to customer to learn and improve, is critical.
  • Getting involved in a community of entrepreneurs to share experiences, resources and even funding, can rapidly accelerate growth.

whenever we make an investment – be as helpful as possible.

Jonathan Lui

The Buzz – Our Innovation Round

Here are Jonathan’s answers to the questions of our Innovation round.

  • #1 thing to be more innovative – Be open, honest and humble and appreciate the help, at the same time assertive in keeping on track
  • Best thing for new ideas – Stepping into the shoes of the customer – listening.
  • Favourite tool for innovation – Looker
  • Keep project / client on track – Frequent communication and transparency
  • Differentiate – Be yourself, don’t force yourself for the sake of being different to be something else.

To Be a Leader

Lead by example.

Reach Out

You can reach out and thank Jonathan at LinkedIn.

Suggested Guest

Jonathan suggested I interview Ben Richardson and David Greiner founders of Campaign Monitor, on a future InnovaBuzz podcast.  So,Ben and David, keep an eye on your Inbox for an invitation from me, for the InnovaBuzz Podcast, courtesy of Jonathan Lui.

 

Links

Full Transcript

Click to Read…
Intro:
Hi, I’m Jürgen Strauss from Innovabiz. Welcome to Episode No 46 of the InnovaBuzz Podcast – designed to help smart businesses with an interest in innovation become even more innovative.

In this episode, my guest is Jonathan Lui one of the founders of Airtasker, a market place for local services.  Jonathan spoke to me about the challenges of a new startup and disruptive business models and his experience in getting Airtasker to the point it is today.

This is another fascinating interview, that highlights how innovation combined with action can deliver an outstanding business, so let’s head into the Hive and get the Buzz from Jonathan Lui.

Interview

Hi, I’m Jürgen Strauss from Innovabiz, and I’m really excited to have here with me this afternoon on today’s episode of the Innovabuzz Podcast, all the way from Sydney, in Australia, so really just up the road, the cofounder of Airtasker, Jonathan Lui. Jonathan, welcome to the podcast.

Jonathan:
Thanks, Jürgen.

Jürgen:
Now, tell us a little bit about Airtasker. I heard you speak a couple of weeks ago here in Geelong, when you were a guest of the Geelong Chamber of Commerce, and I thought this is a really great story and would be good to feature on my podcast, so that’s why you’re here. So, tell us a little bit about Airtasker.

Jonathan:
Airtasker has been around just a little over four years now, and we’re a two-sided marketplace for local services where you can post up things that you need done, like getting some painting done or getting some cleaning done in the house, and people on the other side, the Airtasker workers, would be able to offer to do your job for a certain price, and then basically you can pick the person you think is the best person for the job. You pay through the platform, you communicate through the platform, you leave your reviews, and then you can use us for pretty much anything, Jürgen.

Jürgen:
Okay, so a little bit like an Airbnb, but matching up workers and tasks.

Jonathan:
Yeah, that’s right. We’re really going for, I guess, all of the industries at once in a way. We’re not really trying to focus on a specific industry in general. We think that’s … across an infinite level of verticals there are many opportunities, and we just want to build the best platform for that.

Jürgen:
Okay, so before we talk about startups and great ideas and innovation, let’s go back and find out a little bit more about you as a person. So when you were a young kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Jonathan:
I think when I was a young kid, it was definitely to be an engineer, or an architect. I seemed to have a good affinity for rigor and techniques to wrap that up, and I think my mom kind of recognized that. She was like “you’re going to be a good engineer when you grow up,” so that was … I think it turned out to be true. That was when I kind of I guess eventually started studying in uni.

Jürgen:
So did you go down that path?

Jonathan:
I went through the standard, go to high school, get some marks, went to university, and I did telecommunications engineering, which is about a four-year course. Which was good. The first two years were pretty lackluster, to be honest. It was like more electrical engineering, but then moving into telecommunications, we learned a lot more about things like the internet, how it moves arounds, data networks, and sort of all these kind of stuff using internet connection. But that was what really kind of got me interested in the online world.

Jürgen:
And did you then …. I think you worked in the telecommunications industry?

Jonathan:
Well, when I left uni, I took a pretty stock standard route. So, I went to work with a large corporate. Stayed for a couple of years, about three or four years. And throughout a bit of my uni life and my early career, I was trying to start businesses on site, and I think basically a couple of years into IBM, having a chat, kept in touch with my mate, Tim, and we kind of started speaking to this group of entrepreneurs who were about to start a telco business in Australia called Amaysim. And we thought that was a good, I guess, entry into both the technology scene and the startup scene. So, we both took that leap, first two employees of the company and that put us on the path for where we are today.

Jürgen:
Okay, so you were involved in the startup of Amaysim?

Jonathan:
That’s right. So, it was a great venture. Four German entrepreneurs who had launched very similar businesses overseas in foreign countries and an Australian entrepreneur who was one of the founding directors of Optus, when they first deregulated the industry.

Jürgen:
Okay. I’m interested, did you have a background in entrepreneurship, I mean, were your parents in business or is this just something you just kind of discovered and thought that’s for you?

Jonathan:
No, I definitely didn’t have … you know, I wasn’t really brought up to think of entrepreneurship as a career goal. I was very much taught to study hard, work hard at school, did a lot of off-school tutoring as well. I think it was really only in university when one of our lecturers was actually part of a startup when he was younger, and he told us his story about how his business startup had grew globally during the dotcom. I think their business was in relation to optic fibers, which was what a lot of the technology was about back in that day, but as the dotcom happened, they kind of – they lay down all these optic fibers, but there was no application that actually needed that amount of bandwidth, what was referred to back then as the killer wrap you know what was the killer wrap when it wasn’t known yet. So, that company kind of crumbled I think, and he went back into education. And it wasn’t until apps like YouTube that kind of demonstrated that actually there is a big demand for consumption of data, and that’s kind of the beginning of the second wave of the internet boom.

Jürgen:
So you mentioned that Airtasker, five years it’s been underway?

Jonathan:
Yeah, almost five years now.

Jürgen:
And did you start, did you have the typical start on a shoestring or did you go for capital raising very early?

Jonathan:
Yeah, so Amaysim … when we were at Amaysim, we were working with the founders quite closely, and that business was very unique. It was very well funded, very well capitalized. You know, $36 million of private venture funding. We decided that it would be great if we could raise that money, but what we were trying was not something as obvious as running a telco business was. So, we decided we wanted to take a bit of a different approach and kind of bootstrap it a bit from the beginning. So, we actually left our jobs to just start it, and we were going to pay for it ourselves. But very quickly, when we spoke to a lot of investors who had invested in Amaysim just to find out what we were doing, they kind of all put their hand up and said look we’re happy to throw a bit of cash if you’re interested. We can help you guys not only build a business, but accelerate it a little bit faster. And we decided at that point that hey maybe this idea isn’t so crazy after all. Maybe we could build a team faster, take in some capital, and take that route. So, that’s what we decided to do.

Jürgen:
Okay. And you’ve just secured another round of funding back in June, haven’t you?

Jonathan:
Correct. We just did our largest capital raise to date; it was just over $22 million. And the leading investor of that round was Sun West Media Group (Channel 7 owners), who is a really, really good strategic investor because … You know, we have … I think we’ve been fortunate to have a technical presence in the technology and the startup scene in Australia, but our product is a mass market product. And we really wanted to I guess leap frog and get ourselves in front of the mainstream media, and so Channel 7 is a great partner for that, and we are really looking forward to what we can do with it.

Jürgen:
Yeah, that’s right. It gives you a lot of exposure through all kinds of media, doesn’t it?

Jonathan:
That’s right.

Jürgen:
Now, I’m interested in learning a bit more about sustainability of the business model because I know when you presented, you were talking about how you matched up the worker and the job. And is it the person who does the work that pays a fee to you?

Jonathan:
Correct. Yes.

Jürgen:
And so what happens the second time? Let’s say I hire somebody through Airtasker and the person is really good, and I get their number and then build an ongoing relationship so that I hire them direct from thereon?

Jonathan:
Yeah, that’s right. So, on the first question, so basically our model … we’re fortunate that it is, you know, it’s about an electronic transaction between two people. So for us to basically take a fee on that transaction, on a successful completion transaction, it’s pretty straightforward and the customers don’t really mind that at all because they feel like there is value that we’re creating there. Which is good because we’ve looked at a lot of other styles and a lot of other models where they have to actually go through a lot of revenue exploration to actually find the model, a way to monetize the business that actually works. So, I think we’re lucky there, and that’s our model. The monetization stream is pretty straightforward. I think in terms of getting recurring jobs through the platform, that’s what we refer to as task leakage, basically where you get a job done and perhaps you just think it might be easier to just call them them next time. The way we tackle that is two points. The first point is by getting you through the door, I guess using Airtasker the first time, we don’t just kind of, just get that job. We actually changed your view on this. It actually gets five more jobs typically, as finding other service providers is more difficult than using Airtasker. It kind of changes people’s world. They might just get it for laundry, but then they realize wow, I can do this for cleaning, or taking the dog out, or picking up the kid, and so we don’t really have to depend on keeping just one task going, or a relationship. That being said, in order to ensure that we are obviously providing value for them to keep doing the same jobs over and over, we provide all of the payment facilities, all of the messaging facilities, really good reminders to make sure that they know, hey, you had your house cleaned a month ago, do you need it cleaned again? On top of that, we also have the world’s first task insurance where the jobs that are completed through the platform actually …. Sometimes things happen, accidents happen where maybe something falls over and breaks. That’s all covered by the Airtasker insurance. So we provide a lot of value there, which I guess motivates them to keep the transaction on the platform, because it’s a much better experience than just SMSing someone and asking them to come over at some point in the week.
Jurgen:
So that’s critical to have some additional added value. Give people a reason to keep using you. Alright, so what do you see as some of the biggest challenges in managing a startup, and particularly one that’s undergoing such rapid growth?

Jonathan:
Yeah, I think we are in a good position, but we are obviously growing quickly, and I think with growing quickly, you know, you kind of have growing pains. When you’re a small team, it’s very easy to kind of focus the team on the next challenge it has, you know, the lowest hanging fruits. But we’re touching about 40 people now in our organization, and obviously with 40 people, it’s a little bit tougher to kind of make sure that the organization is focused on a few key goals. But I think that’s probably been some of the growing pains we’ve had, you know. People making a big process without hindering our speed and our execution quality. I think for me, it’s about focusing on building a really good team, understanding what culture you want in the business and who are the people who you need, and just making sure that you do as much as possible to get those people and also retain them as well.

Jürgen:
So, good people is really critical. What do you see as the biggest trap that innovators might encounter when they’re trying to sell ideas like you’ve got there as an innovation?

Jonathan:
I think innovation obviously is a full term. I have found that the best ideas that I have generally seen, this is not all of them, but most of them, are those that have come from personal experience or personal pain points whether it’s been in their private life or in their professional career. For me it’s about solving a problem. It’s always about a problem that exists somewhere, and someone identifies that and says you know what, this could be better. And so I think those are the businesses that do quite well. I think in terms of innovation, sometimes people might to try force it, you know, they might be trying to seek out problems that they’re not really in tune with because they’re not really experiencing it themselves, first hand. They’re kind of thinking is there a problem over here or here, but I feel like sometimes these moments come to you and you’re not actually looking, you’re just experiencing it, and that moment comes to you where you think hang on, this must be experienced by everyone in this industry. What if someone could come up with something that’s a little bit better. And I think that’s kind of the the deceit of entrepreneurship where you’re about not accepting the way things are and trying to do things a better way.

Jürgen:
That’s great advice, and we’ve all had lots of discussions over the last few weeks with various podcast guests around innovation. And I think the general view, and I say this in some of the presentations I do about innovation, is innovation can be …. first of all, innovation is a change that adds value, and it can be incremental or it could be transformational. So, it doesn’t need to be landing a rocket on Mars, it could be just a little change that adds huge value to an organization. To me, that’s still innovation, so that’s good advice to focus on what’s the problem you’re solving and how to best solve that.

Jonathan:
Yeah, that’s right. I think it’s always about solving that problem. And that problem generally will continue for the rest of your business as well. It’s very hard to kind of completely solve the problem as well. So, it’s something that you should always kind of, I don’t know, print it out, stick it on the wall, and make sure that everyone knows that this is the problem that needs solving, they’re not staying as a problem anymore, you know, we’re going to keep going in this direction.

Jürgen:
Yeah, that’s a good strategy; have a big post-it note on the wall, this is the problem we’re solving. So, is there something that keeps you awake at night about Airtasker?

Jonathan:
I think for me, maybe it’s about the growth of the company. The important thing for me is that every day we come into work and everyone comes into work and we do what we need to do, but I always try to make sure that we always keep connecting with what’s actually happening on the other side. So, trying to speak to customers as often as possible, gather their feedback, post events with them and just chat because sometimes you build a lot of features and you build a platform out, but people use it in completely different ways that you didn’t really actually expect. And those are like little gems and opportunities that you can kind of harness and actually take a lot further than where you initially thought you need to go. And I think on the flip side as well, you know, making sure that people who use the platform actually understand what we’re trying to do as well, because I think in the same respect, people forget that there is a team working behind the website trying as hard as possible to build the best experience for them. I guess what they feel from the company is pretty much just they see on the website or in the apps. And it is important that, yes, we’re a tech business, but we are people behind it as well, and we’re on a mission to try and make a great product and great experience for them as well. So, I think it’s always good to keep in touch with the customers and see how do we do that effectively and in a way that’s, you know, make sure that we always connect with them.

Jürgen:
So, how do you generate leads, then, for the business? Do you do advertising?

Jonathan:
Yeah, I think in today’s day and age, technology businesses have a lot of marketing faults. I think in the olden days, maybe in the early 2000s, the online presence of businesses … you know, if you had an online presence, you were already 100 steps ahead of your competitor because there weren’t that many people focusing on that area. So, businesses were able to kind of sell themselves. In a way, it just started growing that way. But today, obviously, it’s very competitive. There are many businesses doing the same thing that you’re trying to do most likely, and in order to compete,we have to spend a lot on advertising. But I think what we’ve found is marketing is very scientific these days; it’s moved much more away from maybe large branding campaigns and big bang campaigns, moving more towards efficient marketing, online digital channels, that’s where you can kind of measure your outcome directly. So, we do a lot of that. But we also have a lot of word-of-mouth. Obviously, our concept is pro design concept, showing the scope that it has. So, a lot of word-of-mouth referrals is also happening.

Jürgen:
Yeah, and you’ve got a lot of testimonials posted on your website, which is really good I see.

Jonathan:
That’s right. I think that’s for keeping close to customers as well. You know, we are a technology people, we built a platform, but we’re not doing the work. It’s the workers who are doing the work and we want to showcase them and say look how amazing these people are and the quality of the jobs they are doing in a very, very accessible way.

Jürgen:
Well, that raises another question then in terms of the workers that are registered with Airtasker. So, what do you do to ensure that they meet a certain level of quality that you want to achieve and that they’re maintaining your brand image, if you like?

Jonathan:
Yeah, I think this one is a real important for us. You know, ever since we started, even to where we are today, you may notice that our business hasn’t really changed much at all; our business model has remained very similar to what we started with four or five years ago. And one of those principles that we have really tried to uphold as much as possible is that we only really ever want to be a platform. We want to be the interface that helps you connect with other people. And what that means is we have to be quite disciplined in terms of we want to show you how good someone can be or what they’re ratings are, and we want to bring that transparency. But we also kind of shy away from saying whether one person is better than another because we think that doesn’t really align with our mantra of just being a platform. We’re actually kind of staking our reputation on someone else’s reputation if we did that. We think that’s …. that’s a mantra that we’ve kind of kept quite close to the business in terms of we won’t really ever say that one person is better than another, but we will show you if one person has a five-star rating and the other person has a four-star rating. And those reviews and the reputation they’re building is qualified by customers that they have interacted with. So, it’s not even us saying we’re going to rate this guy a five star or a four star. It really is a conceptually peer-to-peer platform, and the marketplace is basically, effectively rating itself.

Jürgen:
That’s actually a really good model. It’s a bit like eBay, isn’t it, you buy stuff on eBay and you look at the ratings that the seller has and likewise the sellers look at the rating of the buyers if it’s a big purchase.

Jonathan:
That’s right. I mean, eBay has done a fantastic job in the product space, and it was very revolutionary. It started kind of small, but it has obviously kept growing to a massive size. We’re trying to do something very similar in the services space. We think the principles are pretty much the same. It’s not as if we’re creating new services … well, in fact, we are actually creating a lot of new ones, but there are obviously a lot of existing services, but we just think they can be connected and transacted in a much better and seamless way that’s relevant to today in the world of technology.

Jürgen:
And like you say, there’s probably an opportunity to create your services because I could well imagine … I can’t think of something right now, but perhaps dog walking or something that isn’t a mainstream trade or that people don’t necessarily immediately think of outsourcing, and yet there is probably an opportunity for that if there is a platform to connect people.

Jonathan:
Correct. Definitely. I mean, it’s what we actually refer to as the long tail of these verticals; jobs that you wouldn’t ever consider as a job or even a profession. Maybe we’re a bit early for people in the professional dog walkers, however, we’ve definitely seen, because of our openness in the platform that people actually make a really good living out of some of these jobs. And also they like it because it’s flexible, you know, they can do what they want, they can do it at a price they want to do it, so we don’t tell them what price they want to do it, you know. If they want to do it for $20 or $100, that’s purely up to you; you operate as an independent contractor effectively and you set your own price.

Jürgen:
That’s really a neat model. Alright, you’re also a venture partner at Tank Stream Ventures, right. What’s that about?

Jonathan:
So in the early days of Airtasker, we had an interesting opportunity. We were basically squatting in an empty floor of one of our investors who happened to have just a free floor that was up for lease. And we basically asked him could we just crash there for a bit; there was only about three of us or four of us at a time, until we found an office that we could afford. And as we went on the journey in the first couple of weeks, we started meeting a lot of startups who came around to have a chat and there were investors, and they all kind of started talking to us, like, hey this is a really great location, could we potentially …. you know, maybe I know someone who might want to rent a desk, could they just rent a desk in your office? And that kind of gave us a bit of a spark as well, and we realized, well why don’t we actually do that, maybe we could stay in this location, but we could get a lot of other startups and small businesses to join us and we could kind of lease the floor to them and actually it created a bit of a community. But that eventually became co-working space including labs, which is now actually one of the largest co-working spaces in Australia, we’ve got five floors, 400 entrepreneurs, tens of millions of dollars being raised by these startups. And is amazing for us because now we could work next to, you know, alongside really, really talented entrepreneurs. We were all learning together, you know, going through the same struggles of raising capital, building products and so on, hiring, etc., and that was a really great experience for us. And then on top of that what we found was, as is, I guess, very parallel to a lot of these tech startups, is the funding portion, where do we get funding and who’s going to fund our crazy ideas. And as we kind of connected with a lot of businesses and our own investors, we realized now investors are actually looking for more opportunities like ours, you know, to get involved in the technology scene. But there is nowhere really for them to go. So, what we decided is what if we could actually help the next batch of investors by being a vehicle of funds to allow them to invest and not would we obviously connect them with startups that we are working across the aisle from, but we can also connect them with startups in the entire industry. We’re really opening up that door for the investors, for them getting involved in our businesses. So we set up a fund Tank Stream Ventures, it’s a $20 million fund that invests into Australian startups that not only have a local story, but an aspiration to international markets.

Jürgen:
So, you’re busy then.

Jonathan:
Yeah, I guess it’s good. It gives us a lot of different perspectives, not only at the entrepreneur level, but at the investor level. And I guess that allows us to kind of add value back into those investments as well where we might have seen the same problems they’ve had, and we might have a solution. At the same time, they might have a problem that we’ve never seen before, but we can help them through that given just our instincts of what we think might be the right way to do.

Jürgen:
That’s a little bit like having your own mastermind group, isn’t it, that’s there all the time.

Jonathan:
That’s right. I mean, we all buy into the vision whenever we make an investment to be as helpful as possible.

Jürgen:
Well, that’s really great, Jonathan. I really appreciate your sharing all of that information with us. I think it’s time we moved onto the Buzz, our innovation round. So, it’s designed to help our audiences who are primarily innovators and leaders in their field with some tips from your experience. You’ve got quite a bit there to draw on. So, I’m going to ask you a series of five questions, and hopefully you’ll give us some really insightful answers that’s going to inspire the audience to go out and do something awesome. So, what’s the #1 thing you think anyone needs to do to be more innovative?

Jonathan:
To be more innovative …. I guess you’ve got to be open, to be honest. You will have an idea of what you want to achieve, but it’s important not to be blind-sided by that. Don’t have your blinkers on and just think it’s my way or the highway. The top entrepreneurs that you read about and hear about, a lot of them have a lot of help. Most of the time it’s the help that’s doing most of the work, but they are there to really guide the team and then keep the vision aligned to what the business is doing. So, you need to be quite open. I think that’s the important thing, be humble when you need to be, but also be assertive when you know that you are on the right track of that gut instinct.

Jürgen:
Okay, that’s good advice. So, really …. It’s about cooperation, isn’t it, and then taking onboard feedback.

Jonathan:
That’s right. Ask as many questions as possible. It’s better to find out what not to do early than to kind of, I guess, figure it out yourself and spend a lot of time.

Jürgen:
Okay. Great. So what do you think is the best thing you’ve done to develop new ideas?

Jonathan:
The best thing I’ve done …. I think it’s maybe …. What I try to practice as much as possible is actually stepping out of my shoes and into the shoes of the customer. It can be quite difficult, I can tell you. It’s basically listening, to be honest, to train yourself to see the problem again with a different mindset. Even simple things like the way that you might describe your business. You might describe it with lingo that you’re very, very comfortable with because that’s the way you talk every day, but when you speak to a customer and use all of this language that they’ve never been exposed to, they kind of look at you with questions, going I have no idea what you’re talking about. It’s really important to practice looking at it from a completely new user perspective and see what are they actually reading, what is this page or this email actually telling the customer and does it actually make sense at this point in time. So, I think that’s a good skill to develop also.

Jürgen:
Yeah, that’s great advice. And you’re right. It’s easier said than done, and a lot of people ignore it, the stepping into the shoes of the customer. And I was in a presentation today, and it finished off with a quote from … the quote was from Bill Gates, and it said your most unhappy customer is your best source of … I’m not sure if it was the best source of new ideas or the best source of improvement, but something along those lines. And that’s kind of the philosophy you’re talking about, isn’t it?

Jonathan:
Yeah, for me, I mean, the way I kind of follow a bit of the customer mentality is customer service … I actually put that very much at the front line of the business. But I think traditionally the paradigm is that customer service is seen as like a back office thing. You know, this thing where you just hire as many people as possible to just take care of customers to solve their problems. But the way I use it is very different. For me it’s the pinnacle of what we do. That’s the only actual channel where we are speaking to our customers. You know, we don’t have stores and we don’t have staff members manning those stores. And even our social channels, like Facebook and Twitter, they’re not really conversations; they’re more branding and marketing channels. The only real communication channel where you’re engaging with the customer is actually customer service, so it’s really important to keep that close to your business. Get as much information as possible and actually do something with it as well.

Jürgen:
Yes,take the feedback onboard and really make some improvements based on that. That’s great advice. So, do you have a favorite tool or a system for improving productivity and allowing you therefore to be more innovative?

Jonathan:
Yeah, right now for me, at the scale we’re at, a tool called Looker. It’s a reporting tool. Basically, I’ve always been pretty focused on data and reporting and really measuring results. And so I’ve always had reporting tools to rely on. But last year we started using this software, Looker, which basically is a drag-and-drop reporting tool. So, it basically sits on top of your database and pulls up all of the information about all of your customers and everything, and if you want to build a report, you could build it in 10 seconds, 20 seconds, to give you that insight about …. you know, that gut instinct you had, you can now back it up with a chart showing that yes, your user growth is growing 10% month by month, and being able to easily visualize that. So, that’s one tool that I brought into the business, and I’ve given almost everyone in the business access to so they can improve their productivity tenfold just by knowing the numbers.

Jürgen:
Okay. Alright, I wasn’t familiar with that, but we’ll have a link to that in the show notes so people can take a look at that as well. And certainly, I think for any business, I mean there’s a lot of businesses out there that don’t pay that much attention to their numbers or only very infrequently look at it, or if they do, they don’t necessarily dig into it and say what does that actually mean and what can we do with the information. So, that’s an important message as well. Alright. So, what’s the best way to keep a project or a client on track?

Jonathan:
I think frequent communication. No customer, no services, customized in some way. You don’t want to be kind of sitting there twiddling your thumbs thinking about I don’t know whether this person is actually working for me or where they are. So, I guess using that knowledge when you’re actually keeping in touch just make sure that you have frequent touch points with him. Keep him in the loop. I guess I’m always on the side of being more transparent than less transparent. I think if you are transparent with your customers, then you’ll get more buy-in from them as well; they’ll really understand why you’re doing the things the way you are doing them rather than kind of just second guessing you every time you tell them something.

Jürgen:
Yeah, that’s great advice, keeping that communication channel open and keeping it transparent so they know what’s going on. Alright, and what’s the #1 thing anyone can do to differentiate themselves?

Jonathan:
I think maybe don’t try to be something that you’re not, you know. Focus on your strengths. No one individual is the same as another person, so if you’re doing things the way you feel you need to do it and you’re comfortable, you know you’re going to be happy doing what you’re doing, and your productivity and your output is going to reflect that I think. I guess if you’re forcing yourself to do things in a way that you’re not comfortable, the output is going to reflect that as well. I think, you know, that’s a way to differentiate yourself. In terms of business, it’s always great, you could have a differentiating advantage. It’s not as easy as it sounds; you’ve got to put a lot of work into that. So, you know, I guess just keep working hard. And if there is a business differentiation, that’s great. Obviously, leverage that as much as you can, but don’t kill yourself trying to find that one thing that’s going to make you very, very different. It could just be about doing the same thing, but just doing it better than anyone else.

Jürgen:
So, there’s a couple of really good points there. As you said, be yourself and do something better than anybody else. Great stuff. So, alright, what’s the future then for … what do you see as the future for Airtasker?

Jonathan:
I think the future for us is, you know, we’ve grown, there’s a lot of behaviors and needs also grown, I’ve seen the rise of mobile usage, and we see that reflects in our numbers itself as well with the dominating use of Airtasker originating from mobile devices. So, we feel that that’s great, because our product is really all about being on the go, both on the worker’s side when you’re trying to find work in your area, wherever you are, or on the other side where you might be taking your kids out to the soccer game and then you’re there and you realize I’ve got to do some grocery shopping but I don’t have the time; you can find someone to do that for you. So, I think for us it’s really having that, I guess, endless services available as soon as you need it. And I think the other area we’re looking at is basically not just consumer focused, but also business focused. The kind of business from small to medium enterprises to large corporate enterprises as well, we think that they just need … I guess their need of Airtasker is exactly the same except they might need them at scale, so managing 100 people at a time rather than one person on the job doing your grocery pickups and others..

Jürgen:
Alright, so in conclusion then, what’s the #1 piece of advice you’d give to any business owner who wants to be a leader in their field?

Jonathan:
I think to be a leader, I think my advice would probably be I’ve found the most reward when I worked mostly with a team and lead by example. I’ve always felt that is a better way, both for your team and for yourself. You actually understand how to solve problems and work with them solving that problem, rather than kind of just delegating it 100% and saying you go solve this problem and come back to me when it’s solved right away. I think, you know, in the world we live in, I think business is becoming a lot more agile and move very quickly, and in order for you to make good decisions, you need to be close to the ground and need to know how people are solving their problems. So, if you distance yourself too much, you’re actually going to be making bad decisions, and you won’t be a great leader. I think it’s important to kind of lead by example. It doesn’t mean insert yourself into everything and doing …. not releasing control or not delegating authority to other people. It just means don’t just give away everything, because then you’ll be too far away from the business.

Jürgen:
That’s great advice. So, it’s kind of like the delegate but not abdicate model, isn’t it?

Jonathan:
Yeah, correct. I think it’s …. maybe, it’s a differentiator between being a leader and being a boss. No one likes kind of just being told what to do, where to go, and when they need to have it ready by. People like to work together. And I think you’ll earn a lot of respect that way as well.

Jürgen:
Alright, thanks for that. This has been really interesting. Fascinating to hear a new startup that’s still very much on the steep sort of up journey, and the challenges and the learnings that you’ve had out of that. So, where can people reach out and say thank you for all that you’ve shared with us today?

Jonathan:
I think the best way probably is LinkedIn, send me a connect and just describe what you might be looking for, and maybe we can connect and go from there.

Jürgen:
Okay, we’ll post a link to your LinkedIn profile on the show notes for this episode. And finally, who would you like to hear me interview on a future Innovabuzz podcast and why?

Jonathan:
Initially, I was kind of thinking politicians, and maybe that’s a little dry. There’s one company that I have found quite impressive. It’s a company called Campaign Monitor. It’s a company that started a long time ago, they bootstrapped it, and they started out at Corinella. They’ve recently had some amazing funding rounds. They kind of just came out of nowhere and blew everyone out of the water. And I think it’s quite interesting to look at those stories as well, the ones that aren’t, I guess, funded purely by venture capital. You hear a lot about them from the early days, they just kind of like come into the lights, it’s like wow, this company’s huge and they’re doing amazing things, so…. Yeah, I think that maybe the founders of Campaign Monitor would be quite interesting.

Jürgen:
Okay. Do you have a name or do you know anybody there?

Jonathan:
I could try and do a connect, if possible.

Jürgen:
Okay. Appreciate that. Thanks. Well, alright, this has been fabulous, Jonathan. I really appreciate the time you’ve spent with us today. So, thank you so much for sharing your time and your insights with us on the Innovabuzz podcast. And I’ve certainly learned a lot today. I hope the audience picks up a lot of good information from this as well. So, I wish you all the best for the future of Airtasker and also for the other ventures that you’re involved in, and let’s keep in touch.

Jonathan:
Great. Thanks for having me.

Jürgen:
Thank you.
Wrap Up:

I hope you enjoyed meeting Jonathan as much as I enjoyed talking to him and finding out about the success of Airtasker and the challenges of growing a new business so quickly and how Jonathan’s team is dealing with those.

All the show notes for this episode will be at innovabiz.com.au/airtasker, that is A-I-R-T-A-S-K-E-R, all lowercase, all one word, innovabiz.com.au/airtasker, for all of the links and everything we spoke about in this episode .

Jonathan suggested I interview Ben Richardson and David Greiner, founders of Campaign Monitor, on a future InnovaBuzz podcast.  So, Ben and David, keep an eye on your Inbox for an invitation from me, for the InnovaBuzz Podcast, courtesy of Jonathan Lui.

Thank you for listening.  Pop over to iTunes or Stitcher or Pocket Casts and subscribe so you’ll never miss a future episode.  While you’re there, you might leave us a review, because reviews help us get found and your feedback helps us improve.  If there is anything you’d like us to cover, guests you’d like us to interview, or questions you want answered on a future podcast, please send them to us.

Until next time, I’m Jürgen Strauss from Innovabiz.

Remember, if you don’t innovate, you stagnate, so think big, be adventurous and keep innovating!

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Jürgen

Jürgen is the chief innovator and founder of Innovabiz who partner with innovative, exceptional business coaches to enable you to acquire more leads and more business by reaching your ideal target prospects with your message, so that you will achieve growth and be able to make a difference to more ideal clients. You can find Jürgen on LinkedIn, as well as on Innovabiz' Twitter, Facebook and Google+ Pages.

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