As part of our summer series looking back on an extraordinary year and towards 2021, we asked Carbar founder Des Hang about the good, the bad and what he learnt from 2020, his summer plans and for suggestions on what to read when he gets a chance to catch his breath.
Here’s what he said:
Out of 10 (that figure being totally awesome) what mark would you give 2020 and why?
6 out of 10. It’s been a hard but rewarding year. Let’s all hope 2021 is better.
What were your personal highlights?Despite the turmoil facing the auto industry, we made a lot of headway this year. We expanded our Sydney offering and launched in Brisbane just before COVID-19 hit. We kept churn low, and also launched our loyalty program for car subscribers.
I also fielded more calls with VCs this year than ever before, which I guess is a highlight.
And the lowlights?
The repetition of lockdown in Melbourne and doing way too many video calls.
What was the hardest thing you had to do in 2020?Reassuring my employees when COVID first hit to trust in the management team. We had a plan to ensure we kept on as many team members as possible, but for it to work, we needed the support of the team.
And what brought you the greatest joy?
Executing our plan, and keeping the vast majority of my team in a job during the pandemic.
What did you learn from the year and in hindsight, is there anything you’d do differently?
I wish I was better at video calls; there’s plenty of those I’d like to do over. I also have a greater appreciation for the flexibility and freedom of our lifestyle in Australia. Restrictions took away a lot of those luxuries that we often take for granted.
What company do you most admire for its achievements in 2020 and why?
I’ve been truly impressed with the management of Airbnb this year. During COVID-19 they raised at a depressed valuation and managed to come out the other side of business-defining crisis with a successful IPO.
DoorDash is also really impressive. I just read through their SEC filing, their revenue growth this year is remarkable.
Also, I’m in full admiration of the industries doing it tough during this pandemic. Namely, healthcare, tourism and hospitality. We owe the relative normality of this Christmas to the efforts of our frontline workers.
How do you view the current technology climate in Australia?
COVID-19 has more or less become a billboard for the Australian lifestyle and culture. While many countries grapple with restrictions this Christmas, we’re all able to catch up without too many hitches.
That will translate into talent for our tech sector, and that creates opportunities for future startups or other innovations to be led by our country.
What tech companies/startup will you be watching in 2021?
I’ll be watching the fintech sector. I think COVID-19 is the hard reset the sector needed to shake people out of old banking practices. The tricky bit is each region is different, some of the more interesting stories regarding the growth of this trend is actually abroad in South America or Africa.
What are you expecting to see in tech in 2021 and what are you hoping to see?
I think we’re going to end up looking a bit like China next year, and over the next decade.
In China, QR Codes are used in abundance and you can do just about everything on WeChat. Order food, order clothes, everything. It’s super convenient and I think that’s the future as it’s so easy for consumers.
I’m hoping the economy will recover as anticipated. I think a combination of the vaccine rollout, low-interest rates and lots of cash floating around will stimulate us back into steady economic growth — perhaps faster than a lot of other countries.
What are your goals for the year ahead?
I want to polish up my leadership skills. That’s everything from decision making through to management. It’s something that I’ve improved on over the years, but it always feels like it’s something I can get better at as Carbar grows.
What’s keeping you awake at night, business-wise?
This year? Reduced car supply leading less choice for customers. But I also learned to compartmentalise this year. You should only worry about the factors you can control, and focus on those.
3 books to read over summer?
Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler
Great foundational reading for any entrepreneur. It’s really shaped how I think about Carbar’s growth and trajectory.
The JD.com story by Li Zhigang
A fascinating read about ecommerce in China, and growing a global business. JD.com is one of China’s quieter success stories, and well worth reading up on.
Catch Of The Decade by Gabby Leibovich