The art of asking for an introduction

MAP’s Director Rohan Workman has given (and asked for) his fair share of introductions. Happy to oblige and connect, he shares his advice below on the art of the warm introduction, or as he calls it…


One of the reasons why I love the startup ecosystem is because it is one of the most proactive industries in terms of people willing to help each other out. The reason is pretty simple:  no entrepreneur has ever succeeded without the help of many others. As a founder, it is impossible to know everything you’ll need to know about how to make your business successful. Every entrepreneur who has succeeded over the years will have received help from others without the expectation of anything being provided in return. It’s a simple pay it forward philosophy. It’s awesome.

One of the key components of this philosophy is that of the introduction. If you need help you may need an introduction to the person who can help you. Yet, for the most part, I’m left underwhelmed about how people (especially those entering the ecosystem and who have very little to offer but their manners) go about doing this.

Due to the sheer volume of poor introduction requests I receive I’ve decided to write this blog post to help explain how to put a good introduction request together.

Here are the key things that you need to consider regarding introductions.


Introductions are personal validation.

If somebody is going to introduce you to somebody else they are staking their reputation that you will not jeopardize their existing relationship. It is important to keep this in mind when framing an introduction request.

How do you keep this in mind?

  • If you hardly know the person that you’re asking for an introduction you need to determine if that person is best placed to intro you. If they are the right person you need to be very careful with how you frame the intro.
  • Have you thought about whether it is appropriate for the introduction to be made?

Always be courteous of the existing relationship.


Just because somebody knows somebody / is connected to them, it doesn’t mean they can make the introduction.

There are two issues here:

  1. Social media is misleading in regards to quality of relationships. How many people are you connected with on LinkedIn or Facebook that you hardly know?  Instead of asking somebody for an introduction to somebody else that you can see they’re connected with, ask them if it would be appropriate for them to make an intro.
  2. A person may know somebody but is unable to provide an introduction without an appropriate reason (this relates to more senior stakeholders). It is difficult to make introductions to some people (more likely to be senior people) unless it is worth their while. Have you thought about why they would want to meet with you? The more senior the stakeholder the better reason you need (above and beyond them providing you with charity / pity) as to why is in their interests to meet you.

When asking for an introduction, you must do the groundwork.

Do you know the person you’d like to speak with? I.e. Do you need an introduction to somebody at a specific company but you’re not exactly sure who it is? If so, do some googling to find out who at that company you’d like to speak with, or at the very least what department they are in. Don’t just say “I need to speak with somebody at Australia Post, can you introduce me?” LinkedIn can be very helpful here.


A simple two step process.

  1. If you don’t know the introducer that well / know if the introducer is able to make the intro, then email something like this:


“Hi Rohan,

I noticed that you’re connected with ABC at XYZ company.  I’m hoping to speak with them and was wondering if you could intro me?  The reason for the intro is [insert a well thought out reason].

If able, let me know and I’ll send through an email which you can forward on to them with bio, dates, details, etc.”


That email is lovely – I wished I received more of them.

2. If you know the introducer relatively well / believe the intro shouldn’t be an issue / the person has already offered the intro, then you can jump straight to the second step:


“Hi Rohan,

I’m traveling to the Bay Area in the week beginning Monday 23 January and would welcome the opportunity to connect with ABC.

By way of background, I’m [insert who you / company background are in one or two sentences].  The reason why I’m keen to connect is [insert why you want to meet them and if possible why it is in their interests to meet you].

I noticed that they are located in San Francisco and I’ll be there the week beginning Monday 23 January.  At this stage either of the below options would work well but I should have some further flexibility if neither suit:
– 2pm on Tuesday 24 January
– 10am Thursday 26 January

I can meet at a location convenient to them and please let me know if you’d like any further information.”


The key thing about this email is that it allows the introducer to forward it straight on.  They don’t need to describe who you are and why you want to meet somebody they know.


Some additional tips.

  • Be specific with dates and times. Sometimes people early on in their entrepreneurial careers don’t want to impose and are therefore more vague under the false pretense that it is more courteous.  This is not true.

Don’t say “If you have time for a coffee in the next few weeks that would be fantastic”.  Say, “How are you placed for a chat at either 2pm on Thursday 26 January, or 10am on Friday 26 January?”

This makes it very easy for people who have busy schedules to see if they have a gap.  If they can’t make those times work but are happy to meet with you they will offer an alternative.

  • Keep meetings short. 20 minutes is ideal for busy people and forces you to get straight into the specifics. It takes a lot more preparation to be concise, so do your homework first (see above).
  • Be flexible. Giving someone the option of a phone call rather than a face-to-face meeting might be the difference between making a connection and not… and if you impress on the phone, there’s always the chance of a follow up meeting.
  • Prepare in advance. If you’re traveling make sure you provide the dates and send the intro request email well in advance. Prepare your pitch, refine your questions and do your homework. Meetings should not be about information that’s already readily available on the company website.
  • NEVER be late for the meeting. This is so important, it needs repeating. Never be late for the meeting! Being late for a meeting shows that you are:
    1. Disorganised
    2. Don’t value their time

Neither of the above are desirable for a first impression.



Follow up.

  • Follow up with the person you met with to provide any information you agreed to provide. A lot, dare I say, most people don’t do this.
  • Follow up with the person that made the introduction thanking them again and letting them know how it went. Very few people do this and if you do it will buy you serious brownie points and help establish greater trust with the person who introduced you that you are worthy of their introductions.

That’s probably enough for now.

Happy hunting.

Rohan Workman
Director, MAP.


Meet the judges of our Social Impact Showcase

We’re very excited for the upcoming MAP & Compass Social Impact Showcase.

This event marks the culmination of our first ever social impact pre-accelerator, Social Velocity. Join us on Monday 27 February to see our founders compete for the chance to win trips to the UK and Italy to advance their social impact startup dreams. We’ve put together a panel of esteemed judges from across the startup, business and social impact space, who will share their wisdom with the teams and announce the winners on the night.


Anna Ross, Founder & CEO, Kester Black

2Anna is a New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based creative and entrepreneur, and the founder and CEO of Kester Black – the ethical, sustainable nail polish and skincare company she launched in 2012 and quickly built into one of the fastest-growing and most innovative beauty brands.

Proudly Australian made, Kester Black now sells to Asia, America, Europe and also the Middle East, where its water-permeable products appeal to Muslim women.

A rule breaker by nature, Anna’s on a mission to initiate global change in the beauty industry by setting new standards for cosmetics with a positive social and environmental impact. Anna’s products are certified vegan, sustainable and cruelty-free. These accreditations have attracted a cult-like following from customers across the world who love her beautiful products with an ethical edge.

Being values-led is central, but Anna’s also a commercial powerhouse, a self-made success, and the prestigious Telstra Young Business Woman of the Year. Anna is passing on her success and knowledge. Kester Black donates 15% of its revenue to charities, Anna is an engaging public speaker and is establishing a financial literacy program, ‘More Cents’, to help schoolgirls become money-smart.

Fashion designer, jewellery maker, yoga fiend, cosmetics queen; Anna’s proving that ethically, socially and environmentally-minded businesses can also be ground-breaking and highly successful.


John Cameron, Founder & Director, The Cameron Foundation


John is one of the pioneers of electronic trading. He was a member of the team (of 6) that wrote one of the world’s first fully automated trading systems (SEATS) for the Australian Stock Exchange (replacing the trading floor). It went live in 1987 and ran continuously for almost 20 years (it was finally replaced in 2006). On the broker side, John wrote a pioneering market data distribution system which was used to distribute real time price data to virtually the entire broking community in Australia.

After an illustrious career in Europe, in 2013 founded FromTheProducer, an Australian organisation that supports local food producers. As the name implies, FromTheProducer removes the middle man to help customers purchase produce directly. Cultivating a thriving community of local businesses, FromTheProducer makes it possible for even the smallest producer to distribute their goods online.

John is also the Founder and a Director of the Cameron Foundation. The Cameron Foundation supports initiatives in the areas of health, education, human rights and disaster relief. Established using the proceeds of the sale of Cameron Systems to Orc Software in 2006, the Foundation is closely associated with Cameron Edge – a computer software and services company also run by John. Cameron Edge has a dual for-profit and for-purpose mission, as it generates income for the Cameron Foundation and uses technology to support worthwhile causes in society.


Fiona Wynn, Head of Innovation and Intrapreneurship, Australia Post

4Fiona is passionate about creating opportunities for talented people to create value. At Australia Post, Fiona and the team are drawing in insights from the startup world to create programs and platforms that support innovation for the benefit of customers and workforce alike.

Fiona has worked across a range of industries and companies in Australia and London. Her experience is predominantly across HR and organisational development, in companies such as Curve Group, Bosch Australia and OPM, the UK’s first employee-owned public interest company. These diverse experiences introduced Fiona to life in a startup, the application of Lean Thinking in manufacturing, and delivering social impact, all of which contribute to Fiona’s passion for creating new opportunities for the people of Australia Post to innovate from within.

Fiona is a psychologist and holds a Masters in Organisational Psychology from Monash University and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Melbourne.

Rohan Workman, Director, MAP

8Rohan’s passion is exploring the intersection of creativity and business to
create new and sustainable ventures. Rohan is the Director of Melbourne Accelerator Program and Director of Entrepreneurial Programs at the University of Melbourne’s LAB-14, The Carlton Connect Initiative.
Prior to MAP Rohan co-founded RosterCloud, whichprovides HR management software to events companies in Australia. Rohan was a Director of RosterCloud until 2016 when it was acquired by Rision Limited (ASX:RNL).

Rohan began his career at a boutique corporate advisory firm where he gained experience across many sectors including communications, agriculture, transport, logistics and property. He is a graduate of the University of Melbourne, the Australian American Young Leadership Dialogue, is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia and was nominated for the US Visitors Program.

Rohan has contributed guest columns to the Australian Financial Review, the Australian and The Age, and has appeared on the BBC World Service, Business Matters segment and Bloomberg Technology for Bloomberg TV.

SOCIAL IMPACT SHOWCASE, MON 27 FEB: This will be a night not to be missed. Register now to save your spot and be inspired!

MAP Silicon Valley 2016

In November 2016 MAP returned to Silicon Valley for its annual trade mission. Over the course of the trip, we spent time with some of the best minds and biggest names across the startup and corporate sectors seeking to uncover insights and lessons they have learned from their own journeys.

Stanford University, California

Each session delivered a wealth of information and a richness of detail that merits its own post, but for the purpose of review, we have provided a summary of the lessons covered each day.

Day 4: Investing in people

The MAP16 Silicon Valley trip wrapped up with a wonderful schedule for the final day.

Dr Aenor Sawyer leads the charge in digital health innovation at UCSF.

In the morning the group travelled to the UC San Francisco to meet Dr Aenor Sawyer who is the Associate Director of Strategic Relations for the Center for Digital Health Innovation at UCSF. Dr Sawyer is nothing short of extraordinary. Following a tour of the impressive facilities at the UCSF Medical Center, Dr Sawyer gave the group a wonderful summary of key trends in healthcare, carefully weaving in useful anecdotes that highlighted the similarities and differences between the U.S and Australian contexts.

From a rich and detailed introduction to digital health innovation, there were two clear standouts amongst numerable fascinating insights:

An informed healthcare model is desirable but hard to create.

In an era where we have more information than ever before and customer expectations have never been higher, healthcare is in drastic need of innovation to improve patient outcomes. An informed healthcare model where we have the right information at the right time to make the right decision is critical, and although this sounds simple, it is unfortunately not that easy.

Legacy issues such as the way healthcare organisations are designed to communicate with each other prevent easy access to data systems from other organisations. This makes it harder for one central flow of information (coupled with privacy concerns) to be obtained on a particular patient.

We don’t make it easy for innovators in healthcare

Many problems in healthcare may seem simple from the outside but become increasingly complex when the context and other issues are taken into account. This has resulted in many entrepreneurs working on problems in a very simple manner that aren’t feasible in practice.

Yet how are the entrepreneurs to know?  Hospitals and healthcare systems are not places where one can easily walk in to conduct customer interviews and nor should they be. UCSF has instigated an “office hours” type program whereby any entrepreneur can reach out to them and speak with the right people to obtain feedback on their idea, and if appropriate, they can meet with other people (and potentially patients) to fully apprentice the problem.

In healthcare there still remains too large a barrier in communication preventing problem solvers from fully understanding the problem.  (Shameless self-promotion here, but this is why the Melbourne BioDesign Program which pairs doctors, engineers and business students at the University of Melbourne has been so successful: it pairs the right types of people to understand and solve the problems in healthcare).


Andrew Braccia shares what he looks for in a startup investment.

In the afternoon we travelled back to Palo Alto where we were joined by Andrew Braccia, a partner at Accel and one of the top tech investors in the Bay Area. Accel is one of the best venture firms in the world and has invested in companies such as Slack, Spotify, Facebook, 99designs, Dropbox, Atlassian and Xero. Accel has also been one of the most active Bay Area VCs investing in Australian companies (Atlassian, 99 designs, Invoice2Go, OzForex, Campaign Monitor).

Andrew provided a summary of his background, the rise of Silicon Valley and Accel’s perspective when it comes to investment. The two key pieces of advice from Andrew’s wealth of experience were as follows:

Invest in the entrepreneur, not the startup

While Andrew was working at Yahoo (prior to his time at Accel), Yahoo acquired Flickr, which had been founded by Stewart Butterfield. Following the acquisition of Flickr, Stewart went on to found another company called Tiny Speck, which was then backed by Accel and Andrew, who was now a venture partner there. Tiny Speck failed but Andrew had backed Stewart, who went on to found Slack, a real startup success story. This is an example where the VC backed the entrepreneur and their ability to build a business – which has ultimately paid a gargantuan dividend.

Silicon Valley is not as casual as it seems

Many people entering the Bay Area mistake the t-shirts and hoodies for a lack of professionalism. This is compounded by the fact that many entrepreneurs are surprised by how easy it is to get an initial meeting with somebody. What they don’t realise is that Silicon Valley is based on a pay-it-forward culture, and so although many people will provide you with one opportunity, if you waste that you’ll be done. Make sure you prepare for any meetings you have, ensure that you’re ready to perform, turn up on time and that you can make the meeting as mutually beneficial as possible.



Both founders and delegates returned to Australia with new perspectives and fresh ideas. We could write a full-blown essay with advice shared by each of the speakers across the four days, but to really be immersed in the learning and excitement of our trip, you’ll just have to apply to MAP and come with us to Silicon Valley next year!


Day 3: Creating culture

Wednesday in Palo Alto was a day of provocative juxtapositions that got us thinking about culture – in teams, in organisations, and in societies. How can startups build strong cultures that ensure everyone pulls in the same direction and works in sync, and yet also embrace diversity and unexpected perspectives that shake up assumptions?

Get (way) out of the building

The day started with a talk by Professor George Foster, Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Management at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. His theme was how to assess new venture risks and opportunities. He cautioned entrepreneurs about insularity, underlining how common it is for founders not to know how many others are working on the same idea. He advised not just to get out of the building, but to get out of the country, and to take a global perspective on how your startup is positioned relative to international competition.

Back to school: MAP delegates learn from Prof. George Foster at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Building a culture for success

The theme of how to challenge insularity was picked up at other points throughout the day. For us, the juxtaposition of two speakers that afternoon was especially interesting. Jonathon Baer, a long-time Valley resident, entrepreneur, investor and adviser, gave us an overview of his book ‘Decoding Silicon Valley’. He spoke about the powerful culture and norms in the Valley business community, and noted that Australian entrepreneurs are often under-prepared for the size of the U.S. market and the intensity of the competition. Jon touched on themes that we hear every time we visit – to succeed in America, you have to be bigger, louder, more confident.

Craig Barratt, previously CEO of Google, Access.

When we met Craig Barratt, recently retired CEO of Access, Google, we encountered an immensely experienced and successful founder and Valley insider, who IPO’d two tech companies before moving to Google. Craig is also a quintessentially understated and unassuming Australian. He emphasised the importance of building great teams and culture that lets them thrive. “Financial results,” he observed, “are a backwards-looking indicator – team dynamics are a forward-looking indicator.” Greg Sutherland (CIO at Australia Post and delegation member) noted in his gracious thanks that Craig was clearly an ego-less leader. It was refreshing for us all to see that the humble outsider can prevail, and that while you do have to be ready for intense competition, you don’t have to conform to stereotype (bigger! louder! more aggressive!) to win in the Valley.

The influence of environment

Elliot Costello kicks back at Google.

Two other visits on Wednesday raised yet more interesting questions about culture. At Google, we learned about the strange dilemma posed by powerful company cultures: the more successful the spread of culture, the harder you have to work to overcome groupthink. Google has colonised land (buildings beyond the horizon!) and language (employees are Googlers, new ones are Nooglers, dog-loving ones are Dooglers) – but they also prize diversity, and go so far as to design their on-site cafes to be slightly too small. Why? Because in queues, people talk, they meet new people, they learn new things.

At the at Stanford, Executive Director Sarah Stein Greenberg shared some fascinating stories about how they are teaching students and staff to build the outsider perspective into the very fabric of problem-solving. Using the design thinking techniques developed at the, Sarah and her team are helping people to think differently, to think creatively, and to work together effectively while doing so.


Sarah Stein Greenberg walked us through the incredible creative spaces at

In the most heart-warming story of the day, we heard about a team of students who tackled the problem of the post-operative care of children with club feet, the leading cause of disability in the developing world. The team travelled extensively, worked with doctors on the ground, and stayed with families of affected children. A team with not a medic among them, they redefined what had always been considered a medical challenge as a parenting challenge: and designed a revolutionary brace that provides post-operative support and is actually used by families. The team has built a successful business around their insight.

Challenging assumptions

The MAP delegation flew into a city deeply surprised and shaken by the recent election of Trump. All around us, people were asking – how did we miss this? At MAP, this made us think… Putting in place mechanisms that help reveal our biases and challenge our assumptions has never been more important. Whether it’s adopting lean startup approaches to understanding the customer, forming truly diverse teams that challenge group think, or consciously introducing behavioural practices that shake up the status quo, one thing remains… The ability to understand things from the perspective of others matters — and not only for startups.

Day 2: International reach & social impact

After a fantastic welcome bringing together the founders and the rest of our delegation, we prepared for a huge day at the NASDAQ Entrepreneurial Center in the heart of San Francisco.

A Straight-Talking Zuckerberg

The morning began with a conversation between MAP Director Rohan Workman and Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers Partner, Arielle Zuckerberg. Opting for a more dynamic and

Arielle Zuckerberg handles Q&A with ease.

conversational format, Rohan began by fielding questions from the delegation. After listening intently, Arielle framed a rich discussion on the fly. Satisfying the delegation’s burning questions, she candidly shared what it takes to gain the attention of a VC firm in a crowded market.


Arielle stressed the importance for KPCB to find mission driven entrepreneurs, who are working on meaningful problems; the solutions created should incorporate cutting edge technology such as machine learning and artificial intelligence; and the importance of a founding team to remain diverse and have the systems in place to attract and keep the best talent.


Building International Linkages from Melbourne to San Francisco

Two important presentations followed that stressed the importance of deepening the relationship between Melbourne and San Francisco. From Melbourne’s point of view, the CEO of Innovation and Science Australia Charlie Day introduced Vice Principal of Enterprise at the University of Melbourne, Doron Ben-Meir. Doron outlined the University of Melbourne’s exceptional asset base which has driven its growing interest in innovation and entrepreneurship at the intersection of research and industry. He shared the growing initiatives around campus, including the well-established MAP (us, woo!) and the university’s partnership with the NASDAQ Entrepreneurial Center, just one example of exceptional partners that will support the endeavours of MAP and our founders into the future.

Doron Ben-Meir discusses the University of Melbourne’s approach to innovation.

Doron transitioned the discussion to San Francisco’s point of view, introducing Vice Chairman of NASDAQ and President of the NASDAQ Entrepreneurial Center Mr Bruce Aust.

Bruce Aust shares his experiences taking some of the worlds most famous startups public.

Bruce outlined the colourful history of the NASDAQ and the inspiration for the Entrepreneurial Centre which serves as an important linkage to Silicon Valley and the world’s startup community. Questions flowed quickly after the overview, as the delegation was curious to hear more about Bruce’s background, factors for his incredible professional success, and stories of interactions with some of the world’s most enigmatic startup founders.




Searching for Social Impact in the Bay Area

The entire delegation was particularly taken by Tumml Director, May Samali. Tumml is a San Francisco-based accelerator for startups that focus on the social issues cities face. May gave us a detailed overview of the types of social enterprises capturing market share in the Bay Area – which incidentally are various transport innovations or ride share solutions like their startup Chariot.

May Samali, Director of Tumml, provides a comprehensive introduction to the social ecosystem in SF.

May took time to go over unique experiences impact entrepreneurs encounter as they scale, detailing the active investment landscape available to them from either side of the spectrum: from foundations and family offices through to venture capital funds. She finished with some words of advice for the MAP founders; to remain creative, seek out partnerships and focus, focus, focus on execution! Stellar advice from an inspiring agent of change.


An Afternoon of Alternative Marketing, Atlassian Style

MAP’s Entrepreneur in Residence, Jeremy Kraybill was excited to introduce his college buddy and high flyer Spencer Frasher who heads up Marketing at Atlassian.

Spencer retold the legend that now surrounds founders (and college buddies) Mike

Spencer Frasher, Head of Marketing, emphasises the importance of culture in Atlassian’s success.

Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar – how they radically rethought entry of their enterprise software into international markets from Australia. Spencer also shared how Atlassian’s viral-like, word of mouth marketing techniques generated organic uptake of their product and in-built feedback mechanisms helped them focus on quality. He also briefly touched on Atlassian’s unique culture, and the fact that it’s quirkiness has only just been captured into companywide values explains the visionary approach Cannon-Brookes and Farquhar have taken to their startup.


The session captured the imagination of the MAP founders and generated an animated discussion that included invaluable practical advice, especially for founders building Business-to-Business companies.

Mixing Things Up with Mentors

Mark Chakin advises Allume Energy.

After these 5 incredible sessions, things were just getting started for the MAP16 founders!
They were treated to a mentoring session with a stellar selection of mentors from our wider networks in Silicon Valley and our incredibly talented delegation.


Over the next hour each of the mentors provided specialised knowledge to each founder and generously opened up their networks to help our founders on their journeys. The mentoring session allowed each of our founders to walk away with a more nuanced understanding of where to take their businesses after the Silicon Valley experience.

Demo Day Silicon Valley

As night fell, the founders practiced their pitches while the NASDAQ Entrepreneurial Center opened its doors to the wider Silicon Valley community: our delegation; speakers who returned to watch the startups in action; local founders; friends of MAP and the University of Melbourne joined to support the MAP startups as they pitched for the final time as part of the MAP16 startup accelerator.

MAP16 founders pitched at the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center.

Perhaps it was the adrenalin and atmosphere of the night, the words of wisdom or the knowledge shared that afternoon, but as each of the founders confidently took to the stage and delivered their pitches with everything they had, we couldn’t have been prouder!

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Day 1: What does it take to build a startup in Silicon Valley?

The first day of the delegation provided a series of briefings for the MAP founders. We met with a number of successful entrepreneurs, investors and mentors who revealed the lay of the land in the Valley. The common themes throughout the presentations included startup successes, the importance of scale, capital raising and entrepreneurial traits.

“Product-market fit is important, but no longer sufficient” – with Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson has a wealth of startup experience in the Valley. Having worked in the venture capital community with many successful founders (as well as Fortune 500 companies), he brings unique insights from both sides of the table.

Mark B. Johnson provides frank advice to the MAP16 founders.

Mark discussed the importance of global ambition within a startup and the process of optimising systems for scale. The saturated U.S market offers a population size of 322 million, exponentially larger than the 23.5 million inhabitant back on Australian shores. Whilst the size of the U.S market is enticing, a highly competitive landscape means that the speed of execution matters and founders must develop creative ways to capture the market.


We were cautioned not to focus on products or technology in isolation, a common and dangerous position to which founders often fall prey. Products don’t exist without markets; founders who overlook market sentiment and feedback are working on invalidated assumptions. In order to progress, external feedback needs to be incorporated to build something of value.

When asked about entrepreneurial traits, Mark spoke of the importance of persistence, highlighting a story about a Norwegian founder who pitched his startup to at least 72 venture capitalists before reaching an agreement! 

“Resources to scale” – with Brian Carnahan

As Trade Director to the Victorian Government of Australia in San Francisco, Brian Carnahan delivers business opportunities in the US, Canada and Latin America for Victorian companies.

Brian has seen hundreds of Australian entrepreneurs who are looking to expand into the U.S. Detailing the various types of government support and resources available to Australian entrepreneurs seeking to make the jump to the U.S, Brian urged us to remember that ultimately, the best founders will recognise early on that success ultimately rests on their own shoulders.

With years of experience dealing with both Australian and American entrepreneurs, Brian spoke about notable cultural

Brian Carnahan listens intently to practice pitches.

differences in personality and work ethic. While founders in the U.S are thought to be more confident in pitching and their general approach to business, many Australian founders seem to undersell or underestimate various aspects of their venture. In order to break through this perceived tall-poppy syndrome, Australian entrepreneurs must capitalise on their ability to quickly build rapport and strategic relationships where it counts.


Manners matter in the Valley. Due to the perceived shared Western culture, many founders make the mistake of assuming that things in the U.S work the same way they do back home. Take for example the simple act of post-meeting follow up. When an entrepreneur has taken a meeting (say, with an investor), a follow up email on the same day signals that they are on top of things. It also shows that they have respected the investor’s time. The chances of someone wanting to be involved with your startup (and support you) beyond the first meeting are significantly higher once you’ve closed that loop. Remember: Silicon Valley is concentrated and word gets around very quickly. The same goes for the Melbourne startup scene for that matter – good manners and a professional business demeanour are essential!

“Silicon Valley should inspire you, not sway you” – with John Papandriopoulos (aka. JPap)

JPap founded SnappyCam, the world’s fastest smart-phone (burst-mode) camera app that reached #1 in paid app rankings across 16 countries. He shared with us his entrepreneurial journey which started at University in Melbourne and eventually led to an acquisition by a multinational company. His entrepreneurial pathway wasn’t without barriers, which he shared frankly with the group.

After completing a PhD in Electrical Engineering at the University of Melbourne, JPap won

JPap shares his journey from Melbourne PhD student to Silicon Valley success story.

the green card lottery (literally), packed up his belongings and moved to the U.S. For two years he worked as a solo founder while bootstrapping SnappyCam. While the experience was very challenging (especially from a morale perspective), he persisted in developing a product that he knew was superior in the market.


JPap has a unique sensitivity to design and a level of attention to detail that is only seen rarely and in a handful of founders. He is hyper-aware of the value he was creating, passionate about his users and worked extremely hard to get things moving.

Two years working full-time on the startup would seem like a long time – especially when the opportunity costs for alternative pathways become even more substantial. When asked about whether he had set specific milestones to reflect and make a decision about whether the venture was still worth pursuing, JPap mentioned that there were no hard-set rules or timelines. Without a doubt in his mind, the only way he was able to reach an outcome was to take on the uncertain risk and invest 100% of his energy into SnappyCam over that time period. Blown away by his journey to success (and down-to-earth demeanour), it was made clear to us very early on that JPap had made full use of every opportunity available to him.

While pursuing a venture as a solo founder can be daunting, the lesson we took away here was to stop looking for certainty – startups are incredibly tumultuous and you’re better off committing fully and embracing the unknown.