– EY Judging Panel, Eastern Region Entrepreneur Of The Year™
In the beginning…
I don't think I was a good student. I was always a rebel and pushed the limits wherever I could. At the same time, I played in a few competitive sports, particularly chess and tennis. Some teachers saw my strategic side while others saw me as the rebellious kid who didn’t like rules.
My parents worked extremely hard and were worried about my lack of motivation and purpose. I was lost. I didn’t like to do things how everyone expected me to do them, and I had a burning desire to prove everyone wrong. That I could be successful by doing things differently.
My obsession with the internet.
After finishing school, I went to university but I was more interested in playing around on the internet than actuarial studies. I switched courses to a finance degree while building websites for free for friends and family. I showed my friend what I was doing and he said, “Wow that’s the future!”.
In 2001 was the first time I was paid to build a website. It was for my neighbour’s business. This is how my first business, Freestyle Media, was born. It was a digital marketing agency, which I started with Frank Restuccia, and we sold it a few years later before launching Finder.
Whilst everyone was partying, I was in my dorm room building a business. I didn’t attend most lectures and almost failed. But there was one key principle that I learnt back then and still hold to this day:
it’s okay to make mistakes.
When you’re starting out, you need to focus on mastering your craft. My craft was the internet. How do you get traffic to a website? How do you build a website? How do you convert traffic? These were some of the questions going through my head at the time and I became obsessed.
When I found myself
Selling our first business gave me the confidence to build something even greater. And I realised I no longer needed to prove myself to the world.
I always felt uncomfortable in a suit and tie, and hated conforming to how society expected me to look. There was this pivotal moment when I was walking down Bondi Road and saw this dude on a skateboard wearing a suit and Converse sneakers. I thought that was the coolest getup I’ve ever seen. The next day, I walked into the office and into a client meeting wearing a black leather jacket. It was the first time I felt comfortable. I promised myself that I would never wear anything I wasn’t comfortable in again.
The birth of Finder
I love the story of how Finder started because it launched with a clear focus, it was a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) and slowly grew into a self-sustaining global business that’s now worth $300 million.
Even though it started in one of the most highly competitive internet categories, our learnings from our last business meant that we could compete in a more agile way.
Finder was born out of a simple concept: to educate Australians and help them save money by comparing credit cards.
Over the years, it expanded and evolved to compare thousands of products across different industries. Finder now compares virtually everything from cryptocurrency exchanges and wallets, loans and insurance to savings, travel, technology and electronics. We want to build “the Amazon of comparison” and it’s only the beginning.
When Finder outgrew me
As the Australian business grew, I felt less in control and became destructive. I wasn’t developing fast enough as a manager and became the company’s limiting factor for growth. I was in a dark place as my responsibilities were reduced.
I was lost and struggled with a purpose. I spoke to Frank and he suggested that I lead our global expansion. I realised my superpower: I love the early stages of starting businesses. Growing from nothing to going live setting the foundations for success.
This is how I found my purpose and Finder expanded globally.
Once the global business was established, it was time for me to take the next step and build out an innovation arm where we can invest in business and build new ones. Finder Ventures launched in 2018 and as a serial entrepreneur, this is where I really found my spark.
The first business to launch in Finder Ventures was a cryptocurrency brokerage HiveEx.com in 2018, which traded over $100 million in its first year.
Shortly after, we started working on the Finder app. 18 months and $5 million later, the Finder app launched and it’s the most innovative and comprehensive money app in Australia. It combines personal financial management and automated comparison into one sleek app. It connects your bank accounts, analyses your information and suggests potential savings across your banking products.
My purpose is to empower people to reach unimaginable success!
I am a futurist and love to study trends and set the vision for where we are heading. I believe vision comes before strategy. The vision sets the purpose and aligns everyone on a strategy. It’s liberating and gives your team autonomy to go live and feel safe to make mistakes.
This leads me to having a bias to putting things on the internet. I believe if something isn’t on the internet it doesn't exist. This bias forms the foundation of my belief in the ‘fail fast’ mentality.
A key example of this is when we walked into our first New York office in Chinatown, Manhattan in 2016. I said to the crew it’s okay to make mistakes. Go make mistakes. Try new things. Go bigger. Go for something that's scary. Push it. Be extraordinary. Be uncomfortable. This gives people the freedom to fail and grow.