Shendon Ewans wants to make your bill payments a breeze. The Gobbill Co-Founder shares his management insights and lessons learned
Have you ever missed paying an email bill? Shendon Ewans (Master of Enterprise, 2014) was discussing the common gripe with friend Quentin Marsh in early 2015 when they decided to do something about it. “We found that we were wasting time and forgetting to pay bills that we received via email. We wanted ‘something’ to take our email bills, store them digitally, and pay them before their due date,” he recalls. From this initial conversation, Gobbill was born.
While being confident in your idea for a business is one thing, being confident in your skills to launch and maintain a successful organisation is another. Ewans had already had over 15 years’ experience working in management consulting and startups but was looking to further hone his skills base when he decided to complete a Masters qualification. Looking to challenge his thinking with industry experienced academics, completing assignments he could apply to his workplace, and most importantly, maintain flexibility in his schedule, Ewans found that Melbourne Business School (MBS)’s Master of Enterprise was the best fit.
“The flexibility turned out to be really important for me,” says Ewans from his Gobbill office in Melbourne’s CBD. “
Within a year of starting the Masters, I was working full-time, studying and became a first-time father. Balancing all these commitments was hard work, but the flexibility of the degree, doing the classes intensively in one-week blocks spread out over the year, meant I could shuffle some of my subjects around while working Shendon Ewans
We chat with the Gobbill Managing Director about graduate study, his business, and his top three management tips:
In 2013, you already had a lot of industry experience – why was completing graduate study important for you?
I think the degree has had a major impact on my career development. The Master of Enterprise has helped position me to further grow in my career, giving me the confidence to take on directorships and Board positions. Having studied IT as an undergrad, the Master of Enterprise gave me a wider scope of understanding and the opportunity to scrutinise a range of subject areas including strategy, finance, marketing and organisational performance. Without studying the degree, I would be less prepared for new roles and responsibilities.
I also wanted to learn from the best. I think a Masters is only as good as the academics and experts who teach it. With the Master of Enterprise, the academics understood the limitation of theory, were always looking to show real-world application, and encouraged industry engagement. We also had experts like an ex-Premier of Victoria deliver a lecture comparing the academic concepts we’d learned with the real workings of State Government. Having industry leaders willing to deliver their perspectives in the classroom is a huge benefit of being an MBS student. Class sizes were only 30 students or smaller, which meant we were able to really engage in learning, drawing from sharing experiences around the room. My classmates ranged from CxOs, AFL leaders, entrepreneurs, small business owners and senior managers. Working on group exercises together helped me see how each one approached problems and created solutions.
Tell us about your business, Gobbill, and how it can benefit Australian consumers.
Gobbill is an Australian fintech startup company that focuses on bill payment automation using artificial intelligence. Users of the service simply forward their email bills to their own @gobbill.com account.
Australians are victims of over $229 million in scams each year – a huge amount. Gobbill protects users from fake email bill scams. Our technology checks for fraudulent and suspicious email bills and ensures that payments are made on time, helping users avoid late fees, receive their pay on-time discounts, and help protect their consumer credit rating score.
Three years after graduating, are you still using your Enterprise skills?
Absolutely. I use many of the skills & concepts gained from the Master of Enterprise on a day-to-day basis, in examining our own startup strategy, business model, financial management, and marketing approaches. These skills from the Master of Enterprise continue to act as a frame of reference that I use to tackle challenges and in making both strategic and tactical decisions. I also appreciated that the lessons gained can easily be applied to both startups like Gobbill, which is a small team, and also when consulting to larger organisations such as ANZ Bank and Australia Post, which I had previously undertaken while studying – attributes of a truly well-designed program.
Gobbill is still a relatively new company. Can you tell us about your future plans?
The Gobbill team is very excited to have launched our digital service and are making great progress. After years of research, development and testing, we’ve just launched a free-to-use product! New users simply sign up at gobbill.com.au
We also have plans to expand overseas in the coming year, subject to the right conditions. Gobbill is sponsored by Microsoft, and we are proud to be a partner of a Commonwealth Government initiative to protect Australians from cyber-related crimes.
What are the three key management lessons you’ve learnt as a startup founder?
In addition to Gobbill, I’ve been involved with several other startups. Three significant things that I have learnt are:
- Select the right business and investment partners. Make sure they are aligned with your values, vision and risk appetite. This gives you a higher chance of being successful with the right people to experience the ups & downs of a business venture.
- Form a team that shares in the vision and give them the encouragement and support to take calculated risks; conduct controlled experiments and quickly adapt from learnings. At Gobbill, we quickly found out that we made several incorrect assumptions when we first started in 2015. By asking a lot of questions and listening to our early users, we were able to quickly correct and adapt the service to what customers really wanted.
- Have a go. You won’t know until you do. You’d be surprised at how many people are supportive and keen to help. Many Master of Enterprise alumni have offered to assist Gobbill or myself in different ways and I’m very grateful for their generosity. You never know who is sitting next to you at the Master of Enterprise – Melbourne Business School.