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The Digital Village Show

Ep-17 Go1 co-founder, Vu Tran

Vu Tran shares he and his co-founders’ 17 year, 7 year, overnight success story of building Australian double unicorn, Go1.

Ep17 – Vu Tran

An economist, a lawyer, an engineer and a doctor… they may or may not walk into a bar but 17 years later are the co-founders of a double unicorn, Go1.

Having raised US$100m in their second major capital raise in the space of 12 months earlier this year, the Edutech company is now valued at over $2billion.

On Episode 17 of The Digital Village Show, Vu Tran shares the incredible 17-year entrepreneurial story he, Andrew Barnes, Chris Eigeland and Chris Hood have been on together. 

The path of a founder is often marred with struggle, sacrifice, doubt and usually loneliness, and Vu certainly isn’t reserved about how the camaraderie between himself and his co-founders was pivotal in coming this far.

In an inspirational episode for all founders, he discusses their journey from selling websites door to door to delivering education to one billion people across the globe.

Topics

0:00 – 6:14: Intro

6:15 – 8:03: A 17 year, 7 year, overnight success story.

8:03 – 13:43: Building the foundations of a 17 year partnership.

13:44 – 15:27: What advice would (or wouldn’t) Vu give his 18-year old self.

15:28 – 21:15: Overcoming adversity, weather vs climate.

21:16 – 27:05: Restarting from scratch to enter the learning space.

27:06 – 31:01: The pursuit to impact 1 billion people.

31:02 – 33:06: The benefits of Y Combinator.

33:07 – 36:25: “Can you sell it?” and finding product market fit.

36:26 – : The importance of skills vs education

Transcript

5:52 – 5:56
Paul
Well, Vu Tran, co-founder of Go One, great to have you with us.

5:57 – 6:01
Vu
Thank you very much to both of you for having me today. I’m really excited to join you on today’s call.

6:02 – 6:15
Paul
Great stuff. Now, so let’s get started with a bit of background on you and the extraordinary story of Go1 from building websites, knocking on doors to build websites, to global tech unicorn. How did you do that?

6:17 – 6:38
Vu
I mean, I think it’s really… to give you a kind of, you know, almost two decades of history would be really hard to be able to condense into a single episode. But what I bring it back down to is that if you look in the papers, if you look at, you know, the duration which Go1 has been running, you know, as it’s been shown publicly, it’d say we’ve been around for seven years since 2015.

6:38 – 06:54
Vu
We went through Y Combinator as an accelerator. We cut our teeth initially as a learning management system, and I hate to bring that keyword up and say, pivot. But we pivoted multiple times. We went from understanding we didn’t want to be a learning management system to what we wanted to do is to be an aggregator of training content because we saw the opportunity.

6:55 – 7:25
Vu
But as you mentioned before, Paul, for us as a founding team, we’ve been hustling, we’ve been running a business of some sort together as founders for almost 17 years. So I’m 33 this year. We’ve been doing it for more than half our lives, the entirety of our adult lives. So for me, I’m really privileged to be able to have some great co-founders who we’ve been able to go on this incredibly long journey with, you know, where we’re a 17 year, seven year overnight success story.

7:25 – 7:51
Vu
So that’s the other thing I like to point out is that we’re still incredibly early on our journey. And, you know, I don’t say that for the sake of saying that. I say that in terms of the fact that as you pointed out just before in your introduction, the amount of opportunity that exists out there in the space of professional development, in this space of employee professional development and in the space of, I guess, just what the future of work looks like for companies not just in Australia but all over the world as well.

7:52 – 8:03
Vu
And you know, so as the world becomes a smaller and smaller place the opportunity for us to be able to capture those global trends and be able to build great businesses around them is something that I’m incredibly excited about.

8:04 – 8:32
Paul
Yes. And look, I mean, it is an extraordinary story and I’m really fascinated to understand what is it about the combination of the four of you that has seen you kind of sustain that  team together for such a long period of time with the number of changes that you’ve had to go through, you know, the pivots that you talked about, what’s the secret sauce for maintaining the integrity of that team?

8:32 – 8:53
Vu
So, you know, you’ll hear me bring up a whole bunch of clichés as we have this conversation today. But people talk about luck and timing playing a really important role in the success of a business or a venture. And for me, I think all our luck and timing has not been our choice to dive into learning or to build a technology company at the time we’re doing it.

8:54 – 9:10
Vu
The real luck I feel I’ve experienced, is actually meeting my co-founders and my friends at the time I did to be able to build the business that we have. And so I think when it comes down to luck at the timing, it’s actually that serendipitous moment where we meet each other, we decide to run a business and we go through this journey together.

9:11 – 9:27
Vu
It’s like a bad joke, Paul. You know, Andrew is an economist, Chris is a lawyer, the other Chris is an engineer and I’m a doctor. So a an economist, a lawyer, an engineer and a doctor get together and start an EduTech company. And the answer is that, you know, that’s not actually how it started.

9:28 – 9:54
Vu
The way it started is, you know, myself and Andrew, we’re best mates. Chris is a good mate as well and Chris would join us a bit later. Chris was in the year below us, Chris Eigeland in the year below at high school and Andrew and I, when we were in grade 11, midway through a great 11, everyone was getting, you know, remember think back to when you were 16 you know you’re probably getting a job at Maccas, Woolies or Coles and Andrew and I decided, no we’re going to start a business building websites for people.

9:54 – 10:14
Vu
So we were the weird kids who decided to go out and register an ABN. Now you got to go back to go this is 2005, 2006, where you know, Facebook wasn’t really a thing then. The iPhone was still years away from being invented. And in fact, YouTube had only just gotten its investment from Sequoia, let alone being bought by Google.

10:14 – 10:45
Vu
So the idea of starting a technology company and a startup is something that was crazy, particularly given we were only five or six years away from the dotcom bubble crashing. The reason why we did it is I think, you know, if I go back in time and ask myself again and go, ‘well, why did we do it?’ But I think the reason why we did it is because we wanted to be able to do something where we were the drivers, we were in control and we were building equity in something that we actually could contribute to over time, as opposed to an, you know, an hourly job

10:45 – 11:08
Vu
Where you get paid an hourly rate but you’re not building equity and by equity, I don’t mean percentage ownership. I mean equity in terms of a better understanding of something that you don’t have an understanding of. We have nothing to lose in high school, right? We didn’t have a mortgage to pay or kids to raise at the time. So at the end of the day, for us to be able to learn those skills early on, you know, we also knew nothing better.

11:08 – 11:28
Vu
I’m the child of Vietnamese migrants. Mum and Dad were refugees when they came here to Australia. I’m lucky I was born here. I challenge you to find anyone out of my parents generation who hasn’t owned a convenience store or restaurant or a bakery or something along those lines, right?  Migrants are entrepreneurs. So I grew up in a household where it was normal to run your own business of some sort.

11:29 – 11:47
Vu
So we started off building websites and while we did it, one of the things that we always think about when we are encountering problems, challenges or opportunities, and I love this and I hate this about Andrew, who is my best mate. Whenever we run into something, he never asks me, can we do something? He always asks me, How do we do it?

11:47 – 12:02
Vu
And I think for me that’s something that’s been incredibly valuable that has sustained us for the past 16 to 17 years. When we got to the end of high school, we built a business where, you know, we had a few B2B customers, we used to go, as you mentioned, go door to door selling websites to businesses.

12:02 – 12:22
Vu
And, you know, we’d get told to go away. We’d get told, you know what, all these things of why we want and people wouldn’t want to buy off us. The great thing for us is you learn so much in those early days which set us up for what we do today. And when we finished high school, we said, look, you know, do we keep doing this or do we go to university and do our respective degrees?

12:22 – 12:39
Vu
And again, that first question is not can we do both? It’s how can we do both? And so, you know, it’s  been to our great benefit, but also to our detriment, is that we love to have our cake and eat it, too. And that’s really put us on the journey that we’re on now. And you mentioned before longevity with founders is something that’s quite rare.

12:39 – 13:08
Vu
It’s not to say that everything has been fine and dandy and perfect throughout the last 16 or 17 years. But as we’ve grown Go1, particularly in the last seven years, we have probably been one of the most unified founding teams and I say this truly and honestly to you, that you could probably find. Why? Because we spent ten years before that sorting our stuff out, getting the ego out of the way, and really building some solid foundations so that, you know, when the bets were big or when the opportunities were large or risks were large, we had each other’s backs.

13:08- 13:31
Vu
So, you know, the analogy I use is to think of it like a skyscraper. You look at it and you say that it’s 17 stories tall, but what you don’t realise is below the surface, there are dozens of stories of basement and foundation that’s been put together, that’s been put together before that building got built that is actually holding it in place and allowing it to do what it does.

13:31 – 13:43
Vu
So as I said, what I feel really lucky about is a timing where we actually got together and we actually started working together, not necessarily the timing that we’ve had in terms of the opportunities we’ve come across in Go1.

13:44 – 14:02
Paul
That’s amazing. It really is. Just looking back over the last sort of 17 years, you know, if you were to give advice to your, you know, 15, 18 year old self, given the experience that you’ve had,  what would that be?

14:03 – 14:28
Vu
So, I’m going to say this to both of you, and it may seem terrible, but I  I know the 18 year old Andrew and I know the 18 year old Vu and Chris. I can guarantee you we would have been very disappointed with where we are now. And I say that seriously, because  I remember that we were just incredibly ambitious.

14:28 – 14:58
Vu
Like, you know, you remember when you’re a kid, the world’s your oyster, right? And so at the end of the day, I wouldn’t really say too much if I can be honest with you. I was thinking about this and I was thinking to myself, you know, maybe there’s some advice that I can give to persist and persevere or, you know, that idea of, you know, keep hustling and grinding harder, but the way I look at it is going all that internal urgency that you create as a really ambitious, significantly younger person.

14:58 – 15:19
Vu
That’s what drives you through all the challenging times, which is what drives you to opportunities. So I kind of just kind of wouldn’t give myself any advice other than going, you’ll be fine, right? And then I kind of feel that if I did say that, I might ruin it all by saying it would be fine. Because not knowing that I’ll be fine probably allowed us to be able to fight our way out of a lot of fights.

15:19 – 15:40
Vu
So it’s a really crappy answer to give you, Paul. But in all honesty, I don’t think I’d give myself advice because of the fact that I probably wouldn’t get to where we are. If I was to give anyone else advice, Paul, I’d have to say, look, it’s better to be as ambitious as you can as early as you can, not because of the risk, but because of the nature of compounding.

15:41 – 16:04
Vu
Right. And I think people forget about the beautiful, the magic of what compounding is. If you learn as an 18 year old how to sell and build a bit of resilience, that’s going to put you in much greater stead as a 28 year old and a 38 year old. And so for me, I think about it is going get that experience as early as you can so that you can compound it continuously.

16:04 – 16:30
Jason
Yeah, that’s great. Yeah, I like that. And for those entrepreneurs still on that journey who may, you know, it’s and I can relate to this, I suppose, of starting out very ambitiously and like yourself, I, you know, had very, I guess, big plans very early on. And I guess that, you know, it turns out that it’s a lot harder to get to that than meets the eye.

16:30 – 16:44
Jason
And so how does someone maintain, I guess, the motivation to get back up when things are knocked down to, you know, to go on that journey through the valley of death and come out the other side.

16:45 – 17:09
Vu
So I think you raise a really good point. And I feel like we’ve been in the valley of death continuously in some circumstances. I always think we still are. And that provides you the motivation in some sense. But, you know, I think of it really on two fronts. Number one is that I feel incredibly privileged. I said at the start to be part of the founding team, you know, to solo founders.

17:09 – 17:30
Vu
I take my hat off to you because, you know, with solo founders, you’re doing it four times harder than I’ve done it to be able to get to where I am and to get to where we are in Go1. And so the way I look at it is I see solo founders as a rare breed who I admire significantly, because it’s something that I don’t think I’d be able to do, I’d have burnt out very early.

17:31 – 17:54
Vu
So I can’t give you what perspective, what it would be like to be a solo founder, because I’ve never experienced that. But I am incredibly thankful to be able to have co-founders who I love spending time with, who I love being in the trenches with and who I enjoy building something with. On the flipside of that, for me, I also think about the fact that, you know, that ability to reevaluate at  a macro level or at a higher level is really important.

17:55 – 18:11
Vu
So some of the analogies I use when I’m talking to patients, because I still treat patients as a general practitioner, I deal a lot with mental health, anxiety, depression, those sorts of things with my patients. And sometimes I like to talk to them about the difference between, you know, this is a bit of an odd analogy, but the difference between weather and climate.

18:12 – 18:34
Vu
Okay, so if I’m here in Brisbane, our climate is actually quite nice here, you know, rain sometimes, but generally it’s quite sunny. But every now and then we can get really crappy weather. We get really bad thunderstorms and all those sorts of things that occur, we get flooding, etc.. So I always think to myself, when you are in, when you’re down and out, when you’re feeling, you thinking, why the hell am I doing this?

18:34 – 18:52
Vu
You’ve got to think to yourself, is this the climate or is this the weather? Right? Is the climate changing to the point where it’s not sunny and it’s actually quite terrible climate? Or is it the fact that this is just a few rainy days that I’m hitting? And in general, if I zoom out, the climate is pretty damn good and I’m just going through a bit of a period.

18:52 – 19:13
Vu
Now, it’s a bit of a weird analogy to use, but it’s incredibly important to have that perspective of why are you doing it? And therefore, what should you be looking at, sort of the long term trend or the short term trend? And so for me, I look at that as going, you know, when you’re experiencing those challenging times is it the climate or is it the weather in which you’re going through and that’s making you feel this way?

19:14 – 19:38
Vu
And then the second part to think about is that, just as people fullstop and, you know, I’ve got two kids now, a three and a half year old and a nine month old. You know, my perspective has changed significantly over the last four years, and I now think to myself that time is my most precious commodity. Every minute I spend on something has to be what is actually worth four times that much.

19:38 – 20:08
Vu
It’s not just my time anymore. It’s my wife’s time and my two kids’ time. So, you know, a day is actually worth four days, right? So the way I look at it is I go, if I’m doing something, it damn well better be worth it. Either its building towards something that’s going to be worth it or it’s worth it right now because the opportunity of cost of that time, whether it’s about spending that time with three people who I love or whether it’s actually time I could be spending building $1,000,000,000 company or $1,000,000,000,000 company elsewhere.

20:08 – 20:33
Vu
That’s what you got to think about. So it’s a combination of opportunity costs, understanding whether or not it’s the climate or the weather, and also working out whether or not there’s other people you’re going through this journey with that share that help share that load. Like I’ve had the opportunity to do with my co-founders. So actually, Paul, I’ve said this to you before, we view ourselves as friends first and founders second, and I think that’s allowed us to be able to do what we do and we just went and all played poker the other night.

20:33 – 20:40
Vu
I luckily won, so I got to clean out the other guys. And what that means is that I’m incredibly happy to have such great friends.

20:41 – 20:45
Paul
Alright. So you’ve opened up a whole avenue for us there. So was this a high stakes game?

20:45 – 20:48
Vu
No, not at all. Not at all

20:48 – 20:50
Paul
What did you walk away with?

20:50 – 20:52
Vu
Depends how high stakes 20 bucks is.

20:52 – 21:15
Jason
So I just want to go back because I’m quite interested in your journey and all of you guys. So if we go back to the time, you know, so an accountant, an economist and a doctor walk into a bar. And so they’ve obviously met before because they went to school together.

21:15 – 21:34
Jason
But at what point do they decide that a learning management system as a starting point is going to be the thing that they’re interested in. So I’m just interested in the evolution of how you progressed from a web development business to a learning management system into a training and development platform.

21:35 – 21:51
Vu
So I think, like anything, I’d love to be able to say, we woke up one morning, we said, Aha, eureka, we’ve got it, we’re going to do this. And that would be really great if we write a book one day and we said yes, it was just linear, it was a straight line, right? The answer is that it’s loops and roundabouts.

21:51- 22:14
Vu
And so, you know, I think about sort of the challenges that we may or may not be going through with, you know, pending potential US recession and all this sort of stuff. I think back to COVID in March 2020, and I think about the fact that as a teen we’ve gone through the GFC. Sure, the stakes weren’t as high as when the GFC occurred, but we were running a business at the time GFC that impacted us as a business.

22:14 – 22:32
Vu
We had to make decisions around staffing, hiring, sales, all that sort of stuff. So in terms of that journey on how we ended up in learning and how we end up doing what we do today, it was very much an organic journey of trial and error and seeing opportunity. We started off building things in technology so we know that we wanted to work in the technology space.

22:32 – 22:49
Vu
We knew that that was not just a core competency of ours, but he also knew that it was a land of opportunity. So pillar number one, we want to work in technology. Pillar number two is all four of us have completely different backgrounds. Right. As I said, an economist, a lawyer, an engineer and a doctor.

22:50 – 23:11
Vu
The one thing that brings us all together is a genuine love of learning. If you look at our WhatsApp group, if you look at our conversations between us, we’re not talking about what the future of learning looks like necessarily. We’re talking about interesting things that we’ve learned, interesting things we’ve come across, right? And so for us, you know, the idea of going, okay, we want to be in technology and we love learning, now I wish it was that easy to say.

23:11 – 23:28
Vu
And then we woke up one day and said, ‘Let’s do education technology’. It wasn’t. We were running a business that was a professional services business and we were incredibly ambitious. But in order to scale a professional services business, I’m not sure if you guys have been involved in them before you need to scale headcount.

23:30 – 23:31
Paul & Jason
Sound familiar? It does sound familiar.

23:31 – 23:52
Vu
Yep and when you’re running professional services it’s terrible to be able to scale but also it’s you just can’t grow because you are going paycheque to paycheque. There’s no compounding skill set, there’s no compound revenue. All of those things just don’t make sense. And so for us, when we looked at what we did, we built all of these great things for different people.

23:52 – 24:13
Vu
But at the end of the day, we didn’t own any of the products. There was no equity, as I said, we were creating for ourselves. But also at the same time, there’s nothing there that we’re happy to hang our hat on to say, look, we did this, this is something that we did. And there was one thing that we built, which was a financial literacy learning platform for one of the Big Four banks.

24:13 – 24:30
Vu
Nobody knew that we did it. But I remember, you know, Andrew, and Andrew is our leader and CEO. Remember, just talking about and going out of all the things that we’ve done, this is the one thing that gets us the greatest amount of joy and satisfaction. And I think satisfaction and enjoying what you do is incredibly important.

24:31 – 24:54
Vu
And that thing made us no money. We probably lost money doing it, right, as you do it in professional services, right? So then at the end of the day, there came a point where I remember Andrew saying this and he said we should focus on learning, right. And we should focus on the LMS and building a system that powers this financial literacy platform.

24:55: – 25:09
Vu
And I said, you’re crazy. We spent years building up this business. We’ve got a book of customers. We’ve got a few million bucks in revenue and you want to jettison it all off, this thing that’s losing us money and this is where I will always respect and love Andrew because he said yes, and this is where we turned around and said, okay, well, let’s do it.

25:09 – 25:28
Vu
And so literally what we did was, and this is post GFC, if you remember, the GFC didn’t really hit us here in Australia til sort of 2011, 12 and 13 like it was really when people started to tighten their wallets after that and then so as a result of that we then turned around and we said, okay, we’re going to, we’re going to go into this learning space.

25:28 – 25:52
Vu
And we literally jettisoned our entire business, which up until that point we had spent six or seven years building. Right. And, and to restart from scratch and go through an accelerator called Y Combinator in 2015. You know, we had no money. By that time I was a doctor as an intern. So I had a doctor in front of my name, which meant I could get as many credit cards as you could want.

25:52 – 26:14
Vu
I would be going in and getting a cash advance of 30 grand on a credit card and instantly paying 20% interest and walking down to Westpac and depositing that money for us to bank payroll that week or that fortnight. And so, you know, we collected credit cards like you would collect Pokemon cards. We actually had these sleeves where you’d put them in and go this is no longer usable.

26:14 – 26:43
Vu
Because you’ve got to remember this is before all of the different investment rules that came in that allowed, you know, investors in Australia to actually invest in a I guess financially favorable way into start ups. Very few startups were getting invested in in 2014, 15 and even 16. So for us we went through Y Combinator in the US we got accepted, we went through that three month process and we were accepted as a business that was building learning management systems.

26:43 – 27:04
Vu
And that was a really painful pivot, if you will. Right. We sort of bet the house and beyond. As a doctor, I lived up until almost the age of 30. Maybe not 30 but I lived up to my late twenties at home with mum and dad because we couldn’t afford a house. Right. Like this is what we don’t talk about is the less glamorous sides of being a founder.

27:04 – 27:30
Vu
And for me there are plenty of less glamorous moments of being a founder. And that’s one of them, you know, you’ve got that conviction that there’s a space there, an opportunity. And for me, it was both a combination of push and pull factors, the pull factors towards the grand opportunity. But the push factors away from the status quo and how the status quo wasn’t satisfying, fulfilling or enjoying, genuinely, in any way or form.

27:30 – 27:49
Vu
So, you know, again, that’s where the luck of timing came in. But I think a lot of it comes down to that sort of willingness to take the plunge. And that’s the “why”, you know, the thing that drives you to do what you do. So if it was just me and not with the other three I’d have thrown in the towel and I’d be working 9 to 5 as a doctor right now, I’m being 100% honest with you.

27:49 – 27:55
Vu
It’s just, as I said, my luck of being able to have three great mates to go through this with was really important.

27:55 – 28:20
Paul
That’s incredible, and well done for getting it to this point, it’s clearly got phenomenal reach as a  proposition and as a company. But to what extent now do you see the purpose of of Go1? I mean, you’ve got to this sort of iconic status, I would describe it. What do you see as being the overall business challenges now facing you to take it to the next level?

28:22 – 28:42
Vu
Look, I don’t want to sound like a crypto person and say, guys, we’re still incredibly early, but we are, right. We’re incredibly early in terms of the journey of where Go1 is and where we want Go1 to be. Our mission is to help unlock positive potential in people through a love of learning, and our vision is to be able to reach a billion people globally.

28:42 – 28:58
Vu
Right now, we reach about 10 to 15 million employees around the world. So we are somewhere between one and 1.5% along the way of our journey. I reminded our team of that at our recent Christmas party here in Queensland. And so for me, at the end of the day we have so much work left to do. It’s not funny, right?

29:00 – 29:12
Vu
Tip of the iceberg, you know, I’m throwing all these cliches at you but we have so much work left to do. I don’t think we’ll be satisfied until we reach a billion people because we’re generally doing this for impact, which is really important to us.

29:12 – 29:16
Jason
And when you talk about impact, what is that? What does that look like?

29:17 – 29:41
Vu
Impact is on many different fronts. So for us, when it comes to learning it’s sitting here going, you know, if I give you an example, during the lockdowns in Malaysia last year and Singapore last year, I reached out to the Singaporean government and we delivered free training to over a quarter of a million Singaporeans. I didn’t set foot in Singapore, but we did that, we reached out to them and said, ‘Look, we will partner with you to deliver training to Singaporeans’.

29:41 – 29:59
Vu
So we upskilled 250,000 people in the course of a few months. Then whatever Singapore does, Malaysia wants to do as well because they are a fantastic country. And so I guess what, we did it in Malaysia where we trained another 280,000 people, so we helped upskill half a million people in South Asia in the space of a few months.

30:00 – 30:22
Vu
And that was just off the back of going, you know, this is what I love about being an entrepreneur. Hey look, I wonder if this will work, what have I got to lose by reaching out and just saying, this is what we want to do? Right. But I’ll give you another front. As a doctor and as a general practitioner, I deal with areas including domestic violence.

30:22 – 30:47
Vu
It’s a really big topic that I guess is getting more prominence now, but it’s an incredibly important topic that needs to be tackled. And one of the things is that we, you know, as a general practitioner could probably work with 20 to 30 people a day, which is pretty cool. But we partnered with Challenge DV, which is an organization here in Queensland to write domestic violence awareness training to businesses and organizations, including the government, the State Government in Queensland.

30:47 – 31:00
Vu
So we rolled that training out to 200,000 public servants. I can guarantee you that that’s made a difference. And so for me it was the ability to make a difference at scale. So whether it be just around upskilling or targeting really specific areas.

31:01 – 31:15
Jason
Okay, I’m just conscious of time. We do have to wrap it up shortly. I was interested to know about when you knew that you found product market fit and what the experience was like with Y Combinator. But maybe we prioritize some questions. What do you think?

31:16 – 31:20
Paul
Yeah, that’s fine.

31:20 – 31:49
Jason
I’m really interested to know about your journey… Yeah. Maybe those two things, because I think it would have been really good to learn more about the, you know, I guess the future of upskilling and future of work, future of education and everything as well. But I think, you know, from an entrepreneur’s lens, what can you share with other listeners in the engineering space around finding product market fit and how you came to meet Y Combinator and get involved in their program?

31:49 – 31:50
Jason
And what was that like?

31:51 – 32:07
Vu
Yeah. So I might start off and just say, look, YC is a great program to be involved in. When we went through in 2016, it was very different to what it is now. I think there were 60 or 70 people in a cohort. Now it’s much, much larger. Secret sauce to YC, there is nothing spectacular

32:07 – 32:27
Vu
they teach you or train you. It is purely the fact that you’re you are part of a cohort that the bar is incredibly high. You went YC see knowing that the likes of Dropbox and Airbnb are alumni, you enter it knowing that the people around you, some of those will become decacorns or centacorns.

32:27 – 32:30
Vu
Right? And therefore the opportunities are there.

32:31 – 32:52
Vu
And so as a result of that, for us, it just creates a really high bar and really lifts your eyeline around ambition. That’s all Y Combinator does. It gives you access to some people you have office hours with, sure. But ultimately it’s about being in a really great cohort of companies that you know are going to make it.

32:52 – 33:13
Vu
There will be some that will make it and accelerate. And you want to be one of those companies. So that’s what I would comment about YC, it’s about lifting the eyeline and lifting your ambition. And I think that was really important for us, particularly coming from Australia, where at the time the startup scene was quite nascent. In relation to I guess, you know, that the question of product market fit, I’ve got a really strong bias.

33:14 – 33:31
Vu
I’m a sales-led founder, right? So I’m on the sales front. So as a result of that, you know, I’m sure product-led founders can talk to you about product led notions and those sorts of things. But I’ll tell you, my two cents, nothing happens until a sale is made. And that is a quote from Tom Watson, who’s the founder of IBM.

33:32 – 33:51
Vu
That quote was shared with me by one of the people who wanted my most misquoted gentleman named David Shane, who’s down in Sydney, founder of Comtech. I look at him as the godfather of Australian Tech and David shared that quote with me and I definitely buy into the idea. It’s like you don’t have anything unless someone’s going to part with their hard earned cash to buy your product.

33:52 – 34:09
Vu
So for me, product market fit is can you go out there and sell? It doesn’t mean you need to sell it en masse at scale, but can you convince someone to pay you for it? And does that provide value back to the customer? Will that come back or will they refer you depending on what sort of product you offer?

34:09 – 34:17
Vu
So for me, it’s all about just getting out there and selling it. And until you sell it, you don’t have a product, you don’t have a business.

34:17 – 34:40
Jason
Yeah. And so what if you’re I mean, they often describe product market fit as people, you know, from a sales perspective that is taking your money, you know, and there’s a difference between them just saying yes or it really having to be sold like really being, you know, having to be kind of sold on what it is rather than.

34:40 – 34:46
Jason
And so is there a distinction there? Did you find that from a sales perspective, life became very easy?

34:47 – 35:12
Vu
Not at all, I think so. I think it’s the opposite. I think it’s you got to keep working, because the one thing is it’s not occurring in a vacuum. Right. Competitors come into play, markets change, all of those sorts of things. So this is where the hustle and grind is really, really important. So I would say that at the end of the day, selling shouldn’t become easier because in that circumstance it means you’re not thinking outside the square to an extent, right?

35:12 – 35:31
Vu
So if selling becomes really easy for us, then it comes down to the fact that we should be pushing harder to innovate and better products and try to introduce people, new things. You know, I’ve always spoken before, the fact is, do boards understand the importance of learning when it comes to investment and buying? And my answer to you in our previous discussions was, I don’t think they do.

35:31 – 35:42
Vu
I don’t mind that because it means the market is there to be opened up, cracked open and sold to. Right the ability to educate people around the importance of learning and the importance of learning to an organization because that is not something that comes naturally, means that there’s an opportunity to go out and sell to it.

35:48 – 36:03
Paul
And you’re in a very competitive market. Let’s face it, I mean, how many products are there that describe themselves as an LMS or something that’s selling in that space? I think Gartner says there are well over 65 propositions in your space alone.

36:04- 36:15
Vu
And that’s why we shifted from learning management systems to aggregating content into partnering with learning management systems and providers so that we could actually look at more of a blue ocean strategy than being stuck there in the red ocean

36:15 – 36:20
Paul
Yes. And thank you for that, because that’s given LMS365 an opportunity to work with you

36:20 – 36:27
Vu
Go for gold. We love working with our partners like LMS365.

36:27 – 36:42
Jason
Can you just quickly, it’s a bit of a closing comment for me ignorantly describe the difference between education and learning and development and what is the future for upskilling and preparing people for the future of work, especially in the tech space?

36:43 – 37:15
Vu
Yeah. So I might start off with the upskilling people for the future of work. I think one of the things, it’s like, what does the future look like? And one thing I’ll always think about is like, we’ve got no idea, right? But the one thing that we do know is that skills will play an important role. Howard Marx is one of my favourite people that I listen to and read his memos.

37:01 – 37:18
Vu
He heads up Oaktree Capital and he always talks about the fact that you don’t know what the future is going to look like, so you just have to be prepared to be able to deal with it. And learning and skills plays an incredibly important role. So you’re talking about the difference between sort of learning and I think was it, sorry Jason, education?

37:18 – 37:22
Jason
Education and then learning and development.

37:22 – 37:46
Vu
So it depends how you want to be able to look at it. Education for me comes around to skills and qualifications, qualifications more so than skills. So it’s I’ve got an education, I’ve graduated high school, I’ve got a medical degree that is my education that sends a signal to people as to what I potentially am proficient in. But between the three of us and anyone else who’s listening, you probably all know that you’ve learned more skills on the job than whatever qualifications you may have.

37:47 – 38:05
Vu
And that’s where I think the role of what workplaces is. It’s not going to get you more educated as an employee. It’s to get you more skilled as an employee and to get more skilled, not just to be better at the job you’re doing today, but whatever that job may be tomorrow, whether it’s within the business or outside of it. So that’s my sort of short, short clip on that topic.

38:05 – 38:15
Paul
Thank you very much indeed. We’re very tight for time. Thank you so much for being on the podcast. We love talking to you. You must come back again. Have a great day and thank you very much indeed for your time.

38:16 – 38:18
Vu
Thanks, guys anytime, have a good day!

38:18 – 38:22
Jason
Thanks a lot, Vu

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