“Fail fast, fail often”, it’s a line that’s bandied around in entrepreneurship circles a lot. It’s become a tagline for a discipline that requires its students to put themselves out there, to try and try again, because they want to make something new and have an impact on the world. We spoke with Master of Entrepreneurship alumnus Jaxon Hickey, about what entrepreneurship means to him.
“I’d say one of the biggest things we struggle with in Australia is that we focus a lot on the problems we have to solve, and there’s a loss of faith that comes from trying to tackle the biggest problems, things like climate change, where you might shoot for the sky then fall short. I think if you reframe it to look at the opportunities out there, as opposed to the challenges, what are the things we can create, as opposed to what are the things we have to fix, there’s a shift in thinking that takes place that leads to some really amazing startups.”
Jaxon Hickey is definitely one such thinker. An afternoon coffee and a chat with Jaxon is enough to leave you feeling supercharged, a rush of inspiration that’s equal parts caffeine and contagious enthusiasm. But it’s not just an elevator pitch from an experienced entrepreneur, Jaxon is one who practices what he preaches.
“I did my undergrad at UWA, a Bachelor of Commerce in Finance and Management. After that I went on to work at an accounting firm, I was there for a year before I decided it wasn’t for me. I couldn’t see myself there long term, and at the same time I had all of these clients who working on their own projects and businesses, which I just found so exciting! I was looking at other options, and an ad came up of my Facebook feed for a University of Melbourne info session. I went along, and when they presented on the Master of Entrepreneurship, I was hooked.”
Jaxon packed up his life in Perth and came to Melbourne and the Wade Institute. He found work at Ormond College, and was fortunate enough to receive a $25,000 scholarship from MYOB, both of which allowed him to focus on his studies. While studying at Wade, Jaxon was part of the team that developed Codello, an app that allows nurses and healthcare workers to manage and swap their shifts. It was Jaxon’s first taste of picking up a project and bringing it into the world.
“I think everyone has that spreadsheet of 50 half-baked business ideas that you think would be cool, but never really get out of the drawer. Codello was kind of the opposite of that, Lisa and Paul, my co-founders, invited me onto the project as part of the Create Your Own Enterprise project at Wade. We presented it at the pitch night, and later got into the Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP). It was gruelling, but it was also an incredible experience.”
Now, having moved on from Codello, Jaxon, and new co-founder Paul Lockwood, are working on a new project.
“Paul and I decided we wanted to pursue a project together, so he called some friends in Cambodia, I called some friends in Singapore, and from that we’ve started to build an import export business. Going through a startup you end up developing a lot of really broad, generalised skills. You also get very good at doing things on the cheap, which often means doing them yourself, and learning how to do things on the fly. With this import business, we’re currently looking at bringing in pre-roasted coffee beans from Indonesia, what we learnt, however, is that most places in Melbourne want to roast on site, so now we’re exploring other markets. We’re starting small, and then can add more products, like cashews and pepper from Cambodia,” he says. “It’s a little bit exhausting, but I think a big part of the entrepreneurial mindset is realising there’s always a better way to do things. You can look around a space, whether it’s this coffee shop or walking down the street, and realise there are processes in action that can be improved.”
Jaxon is also a subscriber of the “fail fast, fail often” philosophy. For him, it’s a fundamental part of finding those opportunities to do things better.
“Paul and I were speaking yesterday, and we were saying how it seems like everyone has this grand ambition of building a billion dollar company. Truthfully, I’d rather be the guy who starts a thousand million-dollar companies. Even if most of them fail, you might have 10 that make a real start, and that’s enough to make an impact. We had an idea the other day, created a website, advertised on Facebook, then realised it wasn’t going to work and pulled it down 2 days later. Another business tested, that just leaves 9,998 to go!” he laughs. “It’s a very different way of living, it’s not stable, but it’s rewarding. I love to tinker, give things a go, and build things.”