Time to Win

What a strange kind of game this “business thing” is where you can only win by pursuing excellence in the service of others. And what kind of voodoo magic this is where everybody wins. Not just you and your customer, but society as a whole benefits from the flow on effects of your trade. It’s like a magic trick, with all parties walking away from the deal with more than they started with. It’s the kind of thing that sounds like it should be impossible, and yet it is also the thing that allows our society to function.   

So how does it work? Where does the value come from, and what is the secret to a business’s success?

These are the kinds of questions I have spent the past five weeks trying to find the answers to as part of UQ Ventures’ ilab accelerator program. I’ve found that success for businesses isn’t a momentary thing. Instead, success is a continual process of providing value to customers, it is a game where provided that you are continually pursuing excellence, the only way to lose is to not play. 

If that’s the case, then what’s the secret to the game?

As it turns out, there are three magic ingredients to make this thing we call a business.

  1. Desirability

A business doesn’t exist without its customers. You can make the most amazing product you can think of, but if no one will buy it you don’t have a business. The most important starting point for any business is the problem the business is trying to solve, and the customers that are willing to pay to solve that problem. The magic of this ingredient is that when you and your customer both voluntarily agree to the deal, you both benefit and end up in a better situation than where you started. 

  1. Feasibility

Once you have your customers, and a problem to solve, you need a product – something that can solve their problem. This is the second ingredient, and ensuring that the product you have both is functional, and actually solves your user’s problem, is no simple task. It requires a constant cycle of design, testing, feedback and redesign, a cycle that is as neverending as the business itself.

  1. Viability

So you have a product, you have someone who wants to buy it, what else could there be? Remember that the magic of business is that both parties walk away with more value than they started with, and the only way that can happen is if the product you have is at the right price for the customer to be willing to buy it. This is where viability comes in, ensuring that your product can be made at a price that your customer is willing to pay for, and makes up another aspect of the never ending cycle of business.

My Dad always likes to say, “Business is the pursuit of excellence in the service of others.”. The key thing about that is that business is not achieving excellence, because there is always room for improvement, there is always another feature to add and another milestone to reach. Instead, business is the pursuit of that excellence, it is playing the game that is the never ending cycle of constant feedback and improvement so that you can provide ever-increasing value to your customers.

Time for ilab


It has been three years now since this business idea of mine hijacked my life, and what a ride it has been. Not that I am complaining. Yes it has been hard work, but I have been lucky to have met some wonderful and supportive people along the way, and the steady stream of successes have been very rewarding. So yes, it has been hard work, but it’s been worth it. Now, it is time for the next stage in IntelVest’s journey, one even more exciting and demanding than the last. For this new stage, we set off with some serious resources at our disposal thanks to the wonderful Ventures team at the University of Queensland, and the brilliant folks running their ilab accelerator program. IntelVest can truly flourish thanks to the resources and wide-reaching support network ilab offers. I expect that we are going to see some very serious runs on the board. We need to, there are lives depending on it. 

Day 1

After having the pleasure of meeting the other 2023 ilab founders at a welcome event two weeks ago, the program officially kicked off on Tuesday with a jam-packed day of introductions, planning and valuable sessions that gave insights into the life of a startup. 

One of the sessions I found most interesting was the reflection session where we shared a highlight and lowlight from our business for the week, and put out an ‘ask’ – something that you would like someone else to do for you. This was valuable from the perspective of goal setting and reflecting on what is working and what isn’t, but was also beneficial to see the different stages of business that everyone is at, and how no matter the stage there are good days and bad days. It was also great to hear from ilab alumni Chris Pymble and Siobhan Coster about their experiences and advice for the program. 


It is my hope during ilab that we can use the guidance and resources provided by the program to build the second stage of IntelVest’s prototype, as described in our patent, and to connect with more fire departments to keep our customer focus and continue to get feedback on the design.

Ultimately, the goal is to make IntelVest widely available within the industry, so we can dramatically reduce the risk of overexertion, and save the lives of the people that work every day to save ours.

Two days before the day after tomorrow

So now it’s three – IntelVest and I, and ilab.  It is a fantastic feeling to know that these guys have my back, yet at the same time, I know that the pressure is on, and yes, I must admit some degree of trepidation – what have I gotten myself into this time? Seriously though, I am feeling confident.  This is possibly the most risky undertaking I have committed to, but am excited, the adrenaline is pumping, and that is exactly how it should be. 

Gen[in] Experience

Dangerous Business

Like Fire Fighting, Entrepreneurship is a specialized activity with specialised needs.  You wouldn’t run into a fire without the right gear and the know-how required to use it.  You wouldn’t go in without a plan, and perhaps even an exit strategy.  The riskier the activity the more effort needs to go into preparation and training, and few things are riskier than starting your first business.      

Introducing gen[in]

I was first introduced to the gen[in] program through my school, Megan Short – the Project Manager from gen[in] came and ran a workshop with us, I thought it sounded absolutely awesome! My dad tells me to be selective – not to volunteer for everything, but my business teacher, Mr Boardman, was very persuasive. It was mid term, and I had multiple assignments due, but on my 15th birthday mum arranged for me to present my idea to actual firemen which completely reordered my priorities.  Did you know that 48% of firefighters die from overexertion?  I didn’t.

It’s about the people

All of a sudden business was about lives – it transitioned from theory to practice,  from a training exercise to a rescue mission.  

What made the difference?  It was the people.  Knowing your customer makes it real, especially when lives are in the balance.

It’s about the connections, the mentors, the relationships

Firefighters were no longer theoretical customers, they were real people with real needs.  They welcomed me in.  I presented my idea and they listened. They explained what they really needed, and I listened. The crew commander even gave me a turnout coat so that I could use it to build a mockup of something along the lines of what they actually needed.

So with all this new information and my new turnout coat, I set about rewriting my presentation.  My mentor from gen[in] was there to help. As were some friends of my parents that supply fire fighting equipment to industry. Finally, another friend of my parents – Stephen Pronk who happens to be an Angel investor helped me refine my pitch, and specifically flesh out my pricing model. 

It’s a systematic approach to business

Stephen also told me that you need to take a systematic approach to business – if you just run in, then you’re going to get burnt.  My mentors, my potential customers, and prospective distributors were all telling me the same thing. You need a robust plan…. and you need money.    

Mum and dad lent me a couple of hundred and I cooked a couple of pies.  Inside joke, sorry, but here is a photo of what I am referring to as a pi.

This is a Raspberry Pi Zero W. You can attach sensors to it, and it can send the data up to the cloud.  They are a great little computer, but apparently, it is quite easy to cook them.    

It’s fun, it’s challenging, it’s competitive

So that was fun, and it is quite a challenge to get this “Internet of Things (IoT)” technology to work, not to mention the coding side of it, but fortunately I had google, and my dad.

It’s about winning

My dad tells me that – “Competition in markets is the pursuit of excellence in the service of others”.  When you win, your customers win, and business is all about serving your customer’s needs.  It is about understanding their requirements, and solving their problems.  

It’s about the money

It is business.  Of course it is about the money.  Money is how customers tell you whether you are winning or not. Customers use their money to value what you do.   The money not only allows you to keep doing it, but it directs your efforts into what is of most value to your customer. 

It’s a great start

Apparently, there’s an old joke where a tourist is lost and asks a local how to get somewhere. The local replies, “Well, if I were going there, then I wouldn’t start from here.”  Gen[in] gets you where you need to be to make the best start.  It helps you develop a plan, to refine your product, and to know your market, and then connects you with experienced mentors to guide you.   It is like being fire-hosed with success, you’re just a lot less likely to crash and burn when you are awash with good advice, direction and support, and a systematic approach to the risky business that is entrepreneurship.