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Advice

10 startup execs share their advice for the next generation of entrepreneurs as they leave school

- January 19, 2022 6 MIN READ
Photo: AdobeStock

With the long-awaited results of the NSW HSC out this week, many young Australians, after 12 years of schooling, are facing big decisions about their future during one of the most turbulent times in history. 

So we asked 10 startup founders and tech CEOs to weigh in with the advice and insights that they wish they had received when they were fresh out of high school. 

Here’s what they said.

 

James Fielding

James Fielding

James Fielding

MD & CEO, Audeara

Soak it up this time and enjoy meeting people and learning about life.

Whether you’re working on starting university or trade, people will be blown away if you show up with passion and an intention to be where you are.

No one expects you to know anything and everyone is jealous of where you are in life! 

 

Dario Valenza

Dario Valenza

Dario Valenza

Founder & CTO, Carbonix

Differentiate yourself. Be proactive in seeking knowledge and experiences outside the usual structured courses and institutions. Identify the industries you want to learn about and experiences you want to sample.

Do research on the key role models you want to learn from and knock on their doors.

As long as you approach them with enthusiasm, humility, and the willingness to make yourself useful, they will appreciate your initiative and gladly give you a chance to learn and be mentored.

Those first wins and connections will feel great and give you confidence that you can rise to the challenges of the life you are pursuing. But be mindful that there is always more to learn, so cultivate hunger and humility.

 

Annemarie Rolls

Annemarie Rolls

Annemarie Rolls

CEO, General Sir John Monash Foundation 

A tertiary education gives a young person a lot of choice in what their career path might be.

I do think it is important to include both university and tech training or apprenticeships when we are taught about tertiary education – academics/university are not for everyone and developing the skills for alternative careers such as trades is perfect for some who can have a very successful professional life and earn a very good living.

If academics are the path it is important to follow your passion and remember the subject area you begin with might not be the one you end up finishing with.

It is important to be curious and open because as you begin tertiary learning you will discover all the things you knew nothing about and might find a different avenue.

Tertiary education keeps you on the journey of learning to learn, discovering things you know nothing about and uncovering your potential and talents.

 

Wes Hall

Wes Hall

Wes Hall

CEO & founder, TOMORROW Super

Firstly, congratulations on making it through such an interesting final year of school! Something I’d encourage you to remember as you start this new chapter is that you are your most important asset.

Continuing to learn and investing in yourself is sure to reward you in the years to come. Don’t be afraid to have a crack, it’s more important to try than to not try at all.

As legend Michael Jordan once said, “Why think negative when it hasn’t happened yet?”

Remember, to fail is ok, sometimes failure will be inevitable, just make sure you’re prepared to learn from it.

Also paying yourself first is a great money hack that suggests contributing money into your savings or investment account each pay cycle before paying bills or spending money on a night at the pub.

You don’t need to save it all but putting a bit away first each month is important.

 

Carl Gough

Carl Gough

Carl Gough

CEO & founder, Meetmagic

  1. Spend time working out what you really enjoy, then find a way to monetise that. It’s not healthy working 8 hours a day doing something you are not happy with. If you align your values with a purpose, you stand a much better chance of success.
  2. Blame no one, Expect nothing, and do something. This means that the cavalry are not coming to save you!!. You need to make your own luck. Start by taking some action, start something.
  3. Dream very big goals.. don’t sell your brain short. Your reticular activating system is the mechanism in your brain that helps make goals happen. With conscious direction (such as writing down goals and focusing on what you want) you begin to attract people, things, places, situations and opportunities into your life. Start to learn what it feels like to already have achieved your dreams. Feel it, Believe it, See it..in that order. Emotion drives everything.

Finally, remember these three things.

  1. I’m independent of the good or bad opinions of others
  2. I’m above no one, beneath no one
  3. Im fearless in the face of any and all challenges

 

Carl Hartmann

Carl Hartmann

Carl Hartmann

Chairman & co-founder, Compono 

Firstly, it’s great to see all the senior high school students who have completed their HSC whilst navigating a difficult learning environment over the past two years. From here, people may tell you to do what makes you happy and success will follow. So how do you do that? 

One thing I really like is the Japanese concept of “Ikigai”. It’s a Japanese word that roughly translates to your reason for being, but ultimately it’s finding something at the intersection of do what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs and what you can get paid for.

A good example might be if you love solving problems, you are good at coding and as the world NEEDS more software engineers, you will absolutely be paid well for it – meaning this can be great, fulfilling career. Then to start this journey, perhaps study Computer Science, learn all the modern coding frameworks and you’ll have a better chance of having a fulfilling career in front of you. 

 

Brad Bennett

Brad Bennett

Brad Bennett

Founder, EPiC Agile

Building a business which has expanded to 4 countries and has experienced 100% year on year growth for 5 years has been ridiculously awesome. Going into business I thought it was all about having a professional veneer, an almost humanless exterior.

My “aha moment” was when I realised that great businesses need personality which is built from being your true and honest self.

This, by the way, is bloody scary as you need to turn up as you, warts and all.

Don’t hide, own your good stuff, own your ugly stuff, own it all. Don’t copy how others did, do it your way, in your style. The more you are your authentic you, the more clients , staff and the world are attracted to you, and your sense of purpose.

As the great man Oscar Wilde wrote, “Be yourself; everybody else is already taken”. 

 

Scott Middleton

Scott Middleton

Scott Middleton

CEO & founder, Terem Technologies

Be patiently persistent because it’s by applying yourself daily to something over a long period of time that real results come.

Yes, you can get lucky and succeed fast but you can guarantee you’ll get where you want to be and get exposed to more luck if you stick with it.

A helpful place to start here is to assume you will succeed. And it doesn’t matter what it is – I’ve come across people from all walks of life – teaching, cooking, sailing, technology, business – that have focused on improving each day and done outstandingly well.

The idea matters less than you think.

 

Kate Morgan

Kate Morgan

Kate Morgan

Founder & Co-CEO, Eggy

After doing a PhD on how universities prepare graduates for the workforce in Australia, I found that there was a discrepancy between preparation and preparedness. There are so many opportunities that exist for graduates which aren’t covered in the curriculum.

The graduates who take the initiative to get additional experience outside of their standard programs are usually the ones who are the best.

Since leading the team at Eggy alongside my husband, I’ve seen first-hand how knowledge and skills are not the be-all and end-all of getting into the workforce.

We’ve put on two graduates at Eggy in the last 12 months and the main reason we gave them a shot was because they have this insatiable hunger. They’re so driven to understand what makes a successful business and to help make Eggy a success.

At the end of the day, it comes down to being purpose-driven. In my experience, if you just start working on a solution, you’re going to make life a lot harder for yourself. Whereas, if you’re in love with solving a problem, it’s that purpose that drives you to get out of bed and find a way to win.

While there is a huge demand for workers in the tech space right now, it pays to be resilient.

It’s a pretty awesome time to be kicking off your career. The startup landscape is on fire at the moment, especially in tech.

But getting an app into the market is by no means a quick and easy road.

 

Milan Cooper

Milan Cooper

Milan Cooper

CEO, First AML

If you’re just entering the workforce, try to seek out opportunities in companies that are growing fast, where there are frequent new opportunities to pursue.

You can make very quick career progress if you jump into a fast growing technology company, versus joining a slow moving mature organisation.

I’ve seen this first hand – we have employees, just a few years into their careers, who are leading teams of 30 people. That just wouldn’t happen in larger organisations.

Some advice I’ve received in the past: “if you get offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t worry what seat it is, just strap in!”