JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

The road to Silicon Valley: why tech start-up Curicon is leaving Australia to chase the dream

Date

Kerrie O'Callaghan of Curicon

Kerrie O'Callaghan of start-up Curicon gives us a first hand account on the travails of creating the start-up, which aims to be an online space for people to geek out on about the latest comic book or action figure.

L-R: Curicon's John Fitzgerald (CTO), Kerrie O'Callaghan (head of communications), Matt Byrne (CEO), Aimee Palk (product manager), Glenn O'Sullivan (COO).

L-R: Curicon's John Fitzgerald (CTO), Kerrie O'Callaghan (head of communications), Matt Byrne (CEO), Aimee Palk (product manager), Glenn O'Sullivan (COO).

You're in your mid-twenties, you have a good job, earn decent money, you're (relatively) intelligent and you have a good social circle. What then would possess you to put your house on the line, your livelihood at risk, and your social life on the back burner for an indefinite period of time? What would make you risk it all for a slim shot at the big time?

Working in a start-up?

Curi team are off to the Valley.

Curi team are off to the Valley.

If you're a fan of job security, pension funds, health plans and all the other benefits that go along with working for a big corporation, then working for a start-up probably isn't your bag.

If you like that feeling of standing on the edge of a cliff with nothing but air between you and that drop, or you can imagine the rush of adrenalin when somebody tells you your creation has brought tears of joy to their eyes; when you know that you're creating an experience that people love and want, then just maybe working for a company that's in the foetal stages of development might be where you want to be.

Nothing can compare to that adrenalin rush of hearing people tell you how awesome a community Curicon is and how they have been waiting for something like this for so long. Or hearing from somebody in the industry that Curicon has just filled a space that was missing in the world of pop culture collectibles; a space for people to be social across myriad shared interests.

The long days and nights pale in comparison to getting that feedback. They make it worth it because you're working with a team of people who share the same vision as you; who see Curicon as a potential juggernaut. A place where collectors of all geek and pop culture can come together and geek out on the latest comic book or action figure knowing that the others around you just 'get it'.

Who are we?

Curicon was dreamt up, nameless and full of “how cool would that be” features in 2010 by Matt Byrne & John FitzGerald. Matt gave it life in 2011 by rising from his desk one day and saying it was so – such is his nature. The quick addition of Glenn O'Sullivan, as co-founder, and Aimee Palk, gave the team a real opportunity for success. The only thing they needed was the technical skills of John – so John joined his dream, as it now was – a real start-up.

Matt may as well have been born as a computer: he has dreamt of start-ups since his childhood and holds a BSc from University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). Previously with an unlikely mane of blonde-ish dreadlocks, a piercing or two, a never-ending smile and an addiction to salt-water, he is your typical high-school underachiever. Matt and John's first start-up – a determined push to revolutionise the education system (why not start big!) was thwarted by the GFC. They have run an IT management business since 2009, started a charity, and counted the days until their next start-up would rise.

John shares Matt's technical passion, his skillset (as well as a BSc from UTS) and comes with his own unlikely personality. John turned his back on the corporate world to live the entrepreneur's life – a life where nothing is certain. You wouldn't know these two were nerds, programmers, designers and business owners. And that's how they like it.

Glenn brings a touch of class and refinement. His charm and intelligence will have you intrigued and enthralled. His BIT from UTS was a scholarship well earned. Calm and composed – he ensures that Matt's sometimes 'large' vision is delivered to the team in a clear and actionable plan. As John did, he left the corporate world to seek something more, something different, something crazy.

Aimee always wanted to put her natural gift for the creative - a BA from Macquarie and a, somewhat contradictory, “iron” work ethic - to good use. Possessing a very unique ability to process content and the ability to implement creative solutions keeps Curicon's library growing.

There is a general perception that working for a start-up involves sipping chai lattes while sitting on beanbags and using iPads to change the world. People think it's all about attending South by Southwest (SXSW), Y Combinator and Blog World, mooching around wearing the obligatory hoody and Converse trainers (thanks Zuckerberg) while chatting to venture capitalists (VCs).

That's certainly a part of it - without the chai lattes in our case. But the reality of working for a start-up is very different. It's probably the furthest thing from a 9-5 job you can ever experience. And I've worked in the airline industry – not known for it's sociable hours - and that's a holiday camp compared to working in a start-up.

In the run up to our first launch, the guys were programming for 36 hours straight, in an effort to make everything completely functional and aesthetically attractive. We slept in the office. We ate at our desks. We didn't speak to anybody except each other and all that we thought about, dreamt about, and did anything about was Curicon.

I have a BSc in government and have become woefully ignorant of the day-to-day happenings in the world. Shameful though it may be to admit, I don't know what's happening with the US presidential election (it could have taken place for all I know), nor do I have anything but the vaguest notion of what's happening in Europe. Anything I do know is thanks only to my parents who see it as their duty to ensure their eldest daughter doesn't have a knowledge of current affairs that could be rivaled by Snookie.

Instead, my news sources comprise Techmeme, Venture Beat, Tech Crunch, Hacker News, The Atlantic, Forbes and WSJ to name but a few.

Is it a form of madness? Possibly. But there's literally nothing like it. I always knew that I didn't want a 9-5 office routine and some would say it's a case of 'be careful what you wish for', but I've never been happier. And I know I can say that for the rest of Team Curicon as well.

In short, it's awesome.

I don't think it's misplaced arrogance. We're simply confident that it's the right time for a social network that caters to the needs of collectors of pop culture. So many people collect comics, action figures, trading cards, and play role-playing games and miniatures. This is about creating a community of people like us where we can connect with other geeks through the discussion section or tap into the expertise of other collectors from around the world in the Q&A sections. We know this community has potential.

We believe it has so much potential that we're moving to Silicon Valley.

Move to Silicon Valley? Yes, just as those before us left, we leave too. Australia is our home, we love it here and we will return one day. Until then, however, we must call California home. Unfortunately, Australia does not lend itself to the needs of the start-up. Investors prefer resources; our IT industry and university system have not developed the lust for risk, innovation and passion that lives in the Valley.

This month will see us start our trans-pacific journey. We'll be meeting with VCs, enjoying a tour of the best collectables shops in 6 cities, and visiting the nerd Mecca that is Comic Con to touch base with some of the industry's finest.

We'll be keeping you updated with articles, pictures and videos over the next couple of months. You'll see the good, the bad, and the ugly of all that being involved in a start-up entails.

We're not taking anything for granted. We're racing, not to the finish line, but to the start line. We're cognizant that all of this hard work is just leading up to more hard work. And that's fine. We've got a great team who are dedicated and good at what they do and have created a site that people love, based on the feedback so far.

No, it's not perfect. And we're certainly not claiming that it is. Curicon has a long way to go and we have a lot to learn. The road to the Valley will shape us, test us, and unlock our potential. Our failures along the way will shape our eventual success.

Walt Disney said, “if you can dream it, you can do it”.

Matt Byrne, CEO of Curicon said “the only way we're going to make this a success is if we make Curicon something special, a platform that embodies what we as collectors dream of. We will do this, we will build something that truly kicks arse, something we can be proud of”.

Wish us luck.

Kerrie O'Callaghan is the head of communications at Curicon

You can follow Curicon on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest

7 comments

  • Good luck guys, and good PR Kerrie...why didn't I think of writing an article? ;) hehe

    Commenter
    jmachoff
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    July 09, 2012, 5:45PM
    • I wish these guys the best, but what is it with all the C-level titles being bandied about these days?

      Commenter
      Richard
      Date and time
      July 09, 2012, 10:51PM
      • Guys, admirable..BUT..when you talk about Aussie investors preferring the resources space, that's because it's clear that there is currently a market underpinning the forecasts. In short, a chance to INVEST and MAKE MONEY. Don't see why a Silicon Valley investor can have a different criteria? If they did, they wouldn't find many wealthy individuals willing to throw their hard earned in the pot next time round!! Also, we should differentiate between true "technology" start-ups like Facebook - which can erect barriers to entry - and media content, which the thousands of creatively minded 20 something hipsters can come up with, using the tech tools someone else created at their disposal. But the world of the former is populated by geeky sorts whose pics don't pretty up the pages of SMH (!) ..Check out the famous photo of the Microsoft founders via Google - hilarious!

        Commenter
        Reality Check
        Date and time
        July 10, 2012, 1:04AM
        • Silicon Valley has a reputation, and in the Tech industry it is not a good one.

          It is one of technically incompetent money chasers who have no idea how to develop technology products and fail....yes...in the tech industry silicon valley is a valley of darkness that only a lucky few pass through.

          High salaries for competent people, high rents and lots of wanna-bes, why would you set up your business there. The first hint of success, followed by the fear of a failure will mean your competitors will snag all your talent who are happy to jump ship for twice the current pay.

          You don't have to be in the valley to get valley funding, many businesses make frequent investor trips to keep raising capital.

          Love to hear some real stories of success in the tech industry, instead of this rubbish.

          Commenter
          Flingebunt
          Location
          Brisbane
          Date and time
          July 10, 2012, 7:45AM
          • "Love to hear some real stories of success in the tech industry, instead of this rubbish."

            It's early days for these guys. You make some interesting points but its gruff tall poppy-esque comments like this that are emblematic of the reason young companies might want to seek a more supportive environment elsewhere.

            Commenter
            Harry
            Location
            Usually Sydney but currently in Chicago
            Date and time
            July 10, 2012, 9:07AM
        • Thanks for reading and thanks for the comments. Really appreciate the well wishes!

          Regarding return on investment, I generally agree. Australia does appear to have a very rich future in resources. It's a mature market with growth potential. There's a great future in Australia for technology too. We recognise that, but the US technology market has maturity and growth which we (and many others) would like to learn from.

          The US is also very much a hub for our market. Comic-Con International’s on this weekend. We’ll be there. We’re speaking to people in Australia, the US and all around the world.

          We’d like to share our story and we’ll take in all the feedback along the way. We’re a young company, we’re moving quickly and we’ll keep on learning.

          Glenn O’Sullivan (Co-founder, Curicon)

          Commenter
          glennos
          Date and time
          July 10, 2012, 11:25AM
          • You are in your mid-20's , and you own your house ?

            Where are you, Adelaide ?

            Commenter
            enno
            Location
            sydney
            Date and time
            July 10, 2012, 1:36PM
            Comments are now closed
            Featured advertisers