Textbook Ventures is a student-run organisation dedicated to inspiring students to embrace entrepreneurship and be catalysts of change. We have started Launch Codes to shine a light on the stories of leaders in the tech, startup and VC industry. Our goal is to inspire young people to learn from these conversations as they build and develop their own personal success stories.
Episode #20: Evan Wong- founding a no-code workflow and automation platform, de-risking entrepreneurship and building great team culture
Evan Wong is the co-founder of Checkbox.ai, a no-code solution that digitises complex regulations into automated cloud software. Through its no-code platform, Checkbox’s AI technology allows legal, human resources, and risk and compliance teams to better focus on higher value and strategic work. It’s used by the likes of Allianz, PwC, Air NZ, Telstra as well as government agencies in Australia, New Zealand, Asia and US. Prior to founding Checkbox, Evan started Hero Education, a tutoring business that has mentored 1000+ high school students. This was all done during his time studying a Bachelor of Commerce/Law at UNSW.
[1:13] How Evan defines success and his vision for Checkbox
[3:00] Evan’s personal mission in leading and inspiring others
[4:00 ] Evan’s journey building Hero Education
[ 7:27] The first two years of building Checkbox and Hero Education during uni
[10:48] Comparing Evan’s corporate stint with his entrepreneurial pursuits
[11:55] De-risking entrepreneurship before going all-in to building Checkbox
[14:21] The early days of building Checkbox
[ 17:55] Choosing to build legacy technology & improve the enterprise software space
[19:30] Raising $6.3 pre-series A: Tidal Ventures and Sequoia India’s Surge
[21:55] Go-to-market strategy: Enterprise top-down sales and product-led growth
[25:18] No-code revolution and the enterprise software space
[27:10] Evan’s vision for Checkbox
[28:38] How to identify a compatible co-founder
[33:20] Being a hyper-generalist and validating the problem
[40:22] Wizard-of- Oz effect: Sales process in the B2B space
[44:56] Navigating the dark days as a founder
[48:10] Hiring and building great teams
[50:48 ] Culture at Checkbox
[56:43] Success and Failures at Checkbox
[1:01:11] Evan’s favourite Australian Startup Success Story
[1:02:53] Books, podcasts and resources that have shaped the way Evan thinks
[1:04:00] What’s next for Evan?
TEDx talk: How to Fail at Life Successfully
The Hard Thing about Hard Things
Episode #19: Dan Brockwell- building the home for young people creating the careers of tomorrow, campus culture in Australia vs US and on creating more and consuming less
Dan Brockwell is the Co-founder & Chief Meme Officer of Earlywork, the home for 4000+ young people in Australia & New Zealand creating the careers of tomorrow in tech, startups & social impact. Dan launched Earlyhome earlier this year and shares early-career roles, career resources & industry analysis weekly at earlywork.substack.com.
As a Computer Science/Marketing graduate from UNSW, Dan is a hyper-generalist with experience across product, operations, project management, sales, marketing, consulting and design in both startups and leading tech companies like Atlassian, Amazon, Uber, Deloitte Digital & IBM. Hear Dan’s formative experiences at university, his journey creating community-powered career development with Earlywork and his vision for the community.
[0:45]- How the name Earlywork originated
[2:00]- Dan’s favourite newsletter
[2:50]- Dan’s formative experiences at university
[4:40]- Exploring corporate vs startup career paths
[6:50]- How Dan’s experience leading BusinessOne cultivated his founder and community-building skills
[9:20]- The impact of participating in ASES Stanford
[12:25]- How going on exchange changed Dan’s definition of success
[14:18]- Campus culture in Australia vs USA
[19:40]- The problem Earlywork is solving
[21:40]- Communal mindset with community-powered job search and career development
[24:07]- The future of Earlywork: doubling down on sub-communities
[25:54]- The vision for Earlyhome in Wollongong
[27:50]- Co-founder dynamics with Jono and Marina
[31:22]- Discerning signal vs. noise as a community-based business
[33:08]- Process of raising a pre-seed round
[35:09]- Future of work trends Dan is observing with careers
[38:25]- What other problems would Dan be solving
[39:38]- Books and podcasts that have shaped Dan
[41:15]- Advice Dan would give to his younger self- a fresh grad and aspiring founder
[44:16]- Adages Dan lives by: ‘create more, consume less’
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
1984 by George Orwell
Episode #18: Caleb Maru- building cohort-based programs at EntryLevel, founding a social enterprise and increasing your surface area of luck
Caleb Maru is the Head of Programs at EntryLevel- an edtech startup up-skilling students and young professionals through cohort-based courses. Caleb also invests in early-stage startups as the General Partner at Proximity Ventures.
Caleb studied a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws at the University of Adelaide. During his time at university, Caleb co-founded a social enterprise Humanitee that works with marginalised communities to co-design T-shirts. Hear Caleb's experience building EntryLevel, funding startups through Proximity Ventures and how you can expand your surface area of luck.
[1:01]- Who Caleb wanted to be when he grew up
[1:48]- Founding a social enterprise in university
[5:50]- Caleb's career journey
[7:39]- How Caleb builds programs at EntryLevel
[10:45]- The importance of cohort-based learning
[12:35]- Having skin in the game as an investor
[14:30]- Barriers to entry to raising capital as a fund vs. startup
[16:50]- Industries Caleb is interested in investing in
[19:13]- How investing in Africa motivated Caleb to create impact at scale
[25:07]- Investing in teams vs. Investing in products
[26:10]- Diversity & Inclusion in startups
[28:27]- The benefits of taking the leap by joining or building a startup
[30:18]- Caleb's experience working as both an operator and investor
[32:37]- How Caleb manages his time and prioritises deep work
[34:45]- Books and podcasts that have shaped Caleb's thought process
[37:35]- Caleb's experiences with failure and the power of saying 'no'
[38:55]- Expanding your surface area of luck by understanding systems and questioning conventional wisdom
My First Million Podcast
Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets
The Black Swan: The Impact Of The Highly Improbable
Episode #17: James Alexander- backing emerging founders at Galileo Ventures, founding a startup incubator fresh out of uni and how to make Australia a tech leader
James Alexander is the co-founder and Partner at Galileo Ventures– an Aussie VC firm backing emerging founders looking to change the world.
James studied Computer Science at Usyd, before starting the Incubate Startup Program in 2012, where he helped over 100 startups launch and grow. In 2020, he closed a $10 million tranche of Galileo’s first fund with co-founder Hugh. I chatted with James about starting Incubate, why and how he’s backing emerging founders at Galileo and why Australia can become a global leader in technology.
[1:08]- Who James wanted to be when he grew up
[2:41]- How James learned about business through his dad
[4:19]- James’ career journey
[8:50]- Working at Atlassian in the early days
[12:30]- The process of starting Incubate
[16:26]- Do founders have common backgrounds?
[18:39]-Why the name Galileo?
[21:19]- The Galileo model
[24:05]- How do you develop the conviction to invest in early-stage startups?
[26:32]- Why do traditional VCs overlook emerging founders?
[27:48]- What does the accelerator look like?
[29:20]- What support do coaches provide?
[31:42]- Galileo’s unique investment process
[33:23]- What’s the long term vision for Galileo?
[34:35]- Can Australia become a global tech powerhouse?
[36:51]- Government regulation that is holding Australia back
[38:15]- Is technology a bipartisan issue overseas?
[39:36]- Exciting tech trends
[41:35]- Discussing Galileo’s portfolio
[44:04]- James’ perspective on failure
[47:06]- Advice for students looking to start a company
Huey the Bookbot
Special Episode: The Best In Angel Investing
This is a special episode of Launch Codes from one of Textbook Ventures' events earlier this year.
In this episode, Max Marchione interviews Kylie Frazer from Flying Fox Ventures, Rayn Ong from Ong Heng Investments and Marvin Liao from GAMEGROOVE capital on their experiences as angel investors.
Episode #16: Deepesh Banerji - building great products, launching Beem It and the importance of talking to your customers
Deepesh Banerji is Senior Vice President of Technology at Deputy – a workforce management software for shift-based businesses.
Deepesh has worked across many firms and industries, starting as a product manager at Everyday Health Group in New York and rising to VP Product as the business scaled from startup to IPO. He also worked in senior product roles at ViacomCBS and Beem It before joining Deputy in 2019. I chatted with Deepesh about launching Beem It, dealing with the pandemic at Deputy and what skills you need to work in product management. Enjoy!
[1:06]- Who Deepesh wanted to be when he grew up
[1:36]- Deepesh’s founder journey in college
[2:48]-Deepesh’s career journey
[5:22]- Was it a challenge jumping between industries?
[7:28]- What skills are needed in any industry you are in?
[9:26]- Deepesh’s experience launching Beem It
[13:20]- Was there ever a conflict between the banks behind Beem It?
[14:02]-Handling the pandemic at Deputy
[17:10]- What does product at a startup involve?
[21:01]-Traits that good junior PMs display
[22:45]- How to learn these traits
[24:24]-How to align people to a unified mission in a large company
[27:10]- Is it more difficult to talk to your customers in a larger company?
[30:40]- What’s the best investment Deepesh has made in his personal life?
[32:15]- Deepesh’s perspective on failure
[33:45]- Advice for students
Deepesh's LinkedIn and Twitter
Everyday Health Group
The Hard Thing About Hard Things
Inspired: How to Build Tech Products Customers Love