August 9, 2017
Australia is known for it’s Koala Bears, Outbacks and Opera house. Aside from that, no part of Australia is more than 1000 km from the ocean and a beach, Tasmania has the cleanest air in the world and the The Great Barrier Reef actually has a mailbox.
What you may not know is Australia has a vibrant tech ecosystem. I caught up with one of the entrepreneurial icons Matt Dyer, founder of EatNow (acquired by Just Eats in 2015) and Bookwell, based in Melbourne, Australia to talk about building a business, coding, advice for young entrepreneurs and what he’s up to now.
Dyer’s first major venture was Eatnow, a service which offers convenient online ordering from local restaurants for delivery and takeaway. Matt’s latest venture is Bookwell, an online booking portal for the beauty services industry, nationwide in Australia.
How did you come up with your first big idea, and how important do you think ‘the big idea’ is to success?
Rather than waiting for a big idea I think its better to start building useful things. Through the process of building something and trying things I think its an easier way for ideas to develop and come through. This is what I did when I decided I wanted to start a business.
A good business is developed from a good idea, the right timing and good execution. No matter how well you execute you can’t make something from a bad idea so the idea is very important. Although even with a good idea you still have to do everything right and beat everyone else working on the same good idea to make it work.
Could you tell us a bit about your latest project, Bookwell?
BookWell.com.au is a platform where local businesses in the health, beauty and wellbeing industry can list their venue and customers can book online. From the customer side they can view and compare venues, see real time what appointments are available and book and pay online. From the venue side they are given a calendar to manage their bookings and get access to new customers to grow their business.
I think it is very obvious that customers do not want to talk on the phone if they can avoid it. The growth of EatNow showed this.
Did you know from an early age that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I wanted to start a business from about the time I was in high school. It didn’t eventuate until my late 20’s though as I was travlling and doing a lot of other things.
What was your first ever business?
While I was at University I setup a business called MJM with a few guys which was an IT support type business. Ie we would setup email servers and manage networks for clients. As you’d guess, entering a very competitive sector like that, it didn’t get very far.
Which is your favorite coding language? What was the first coding language you ever learned?
My first coding language was C at University. I can’t say I have a favorite coding language, whatever is best fit for the job at hand is my favorite I guess.
Do you think programmers often make good entrepreneurs?
The huge advantage a programmer has in starting a business is the fact that they can build a product using only their time and this greatly reduces the risk in the early stages. As far as programmers making good entrepreneurs once a product starts getting traction, I think there are advantages. Finding technical solutions to problems, automating as much of the business as possible and being very close to the product are all big advantages. The disadvantage can be that a programmer spends too much time coding when they should be doing other things.
If you had to recommend one key skill that a young person should dedicate themselves to, in order to build a good business, what would that skill be?
I would find it hard to recommend one key skill. What I would recommend though is to have a skill and be very good at it. Something practical like programming, design or even sales. I think generalists are not very useful in the early days of a startup. If they then find themselves in a business that is growing then other skills can be learn’t along the way.
How many hours per day did you work getting Eatnow off the ground?
I would work around ten hours a day but never really switch off after that.
How has your life changed since the sale of Eatnow?
Within a month of the sale of EatNow my wife had a baby so my life has changed a lot. We have been on a lot of holidays and took a few months out last year for a trip to Europe.
Which entrepreneurs/business leaders do you look up to, or find inspiration in?
I’m inspired by so many people. I have read the stories of most of the famous US tech entrepreneurs and companies and am blown away every time I read a new one. I love hearing any story of someone creating a successful business and how they went about it.
Do you think optimal diet and exercise are important to finding success in the tech world?
In the short term can probably get away with being a bit less healthy. Keeping energy levels up through exercise and a good diet is definitely an advantage over the long run though.
Lastly, is there a common theme to be found with your projects? I notice both Bookwell and Eatnow operate as the middleman between service businesses, does that hit on a passion of yours?
Operating as a middleman is definitely not a passion of mine. In both instances I saw an opportunity and went after it. I enjoy building products and businesses where there is a genuine need and think in both instances there has been a real need for the services. Having said that its great to work on a business where you are partnering with local small businesses and helping them in areas they perhaps don’t have strength such as technology.
Read more about the Australian ecosystem at TechCo
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