Episode 4: How to get your first 100 customers with Ben Wong from Academy Xi

Dec 11, 2019

Ben Wong, the CEO and Co-founder of Academy Xi, a future-focused education company that has trained over 5,000 people since 2016, joins the Forward Thinking Podcast to talk marketing, the future of learning and how he got his first 100 customers.


It’s always a pleasure to sit down and talk to entrepreneurs who are so passionate about their business like Ben. He’s one of those business owners who wears his passion on his sleeve – and I mean literally…he has a nice Academy Xi tattoo on his arm (I hope they don’t go through a rebrand anytime soon).

We cover a wide range of marketing topics including how to get your first 100 customers, the best ways to learn marketing and why you continually need to listen to your customers.

So please enjoy this special future-focused episode with Ben Wong.

What you will learn

  • How to get your first 100 customers
  • How to learn marketing in 2019
  • How to work in a role that you’re passionate about
  • How putting yourself in uncomfortable situations can lead to big success
  • Why listening to your customers, understanding their problems and solving them with a level of authenticity has led Academy Xi to rapid growth 
  • How Ben learns new skills
  • What the future of learning looks like

 

Resources mentioned in this episode

Academy Xi

General Assembly

Intercom live chat

 

Book recommendations

The Code of the Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

Sapiens book by Yuval Noah Harari

 

What business you would build on Mars?

This is an exciting thing. I mean Elon Musk is my hero. So I think if I was there, if education was something that would be needed, I would probably start education, because it’s something that I believe in. I’ll probably focus less on the skills that we’re teaching today only because they’d probably be less applicable and more about the soft skills and look at how we could align I guess different interests of Martians and human and how are we going to educate each other and how we are going to live and what skillset we really need to build on Mars? I’m sure they would be incredibly intelligent, so I would look at how, what sort of skills they have and how we can integrate our learnings together and build something really exciting.

 

Transcript

Brendan
Thanks for coming on. I know you’re really busy with Academy Xi. You’ve trained over 5,000 people now, making a big difference. You’re changing the way that we learn. I’m wondering, when did you come to the realization that this was your life’s mission?

Ben
Yeah, I mean, that’s a great question. I did reply to that question now not so long ago. So, I think you hear a lot of people talking about what is their passion, what is their purpose in life? Some people know it, some people don’t. It’s funny when I was younger I was one of those kids that never knew what they wanted to be. I had friends, they were like, “I want to be a lawyer or a finance person. I want to be a doctor,” all that sort of stuff.

But really I had absolutely no clue. And going through school, I was maybe not the smartest person in the room, but I always got good grades, because I’d work hard and I find a way to get there. And that sort of work ethic really made me think about myself and as a person. And I thought, “Do I really not like learning or what is it?” And it took me a long time, as I went to university, I decided to study accounting and marketing, did not enjoy accounting. It was absolutely not for me. But it sort of hit a point where I was like, “Actually maybe don’t hate learning, I just don’t like education.” And I fell into digital education and worked in there for a few years. And it was really powerful to see that people could actually take short programs and actually change their life.

And that was for me at the sort of age that I was at where I was looking for a bit more meaning in my life, never knew how I could make an impact with other people. And at that point in time you sort of go, “Well actually, I can create a business, I can create a product or a service, I could help people.” And what I do today is incredibly impactful. People are getting new jobs, they’re getting new careers. And that to me was what education or learning should really be about. Should be about practical applicable skills that can get you that next opportunity, whether it be a job or a business. So yeah, it took me, like I did have obviously a great side to build this business and had a strong mission in mind when we started it.

But it was probably about six months in where everything sort of came together where I was like, “Actually wow, I’m actually doing the things that I’ve always meant to do.” I’ve always had struggles in school. I had to work hard in school to get what I want to do. I never enjoyed that sort of format and that sort of crew, this big purpose or this drive to make a difference in the world. And I think that’s at that point, and I think some people would have it, some people don’t. Yet at some point in your life you sort of had that sort of realization and yeah, it took me six months in where I realized what I was doing and was actually what I was always meant to do and was my purpose in life.

Brendan
So I often hear business owners, they’re working at either a business they don’t like or people might be working at jobs that they don’t like, they’re not passionate about. So from your experience, and it’s great that you found your purpose, I mean, how can people I guess exit their current position and find their purpose work for a cause that’s passionate for them? Have you got any tips around that?

Ben
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I guess what you want to do, I mean so many people are in jobs that they’re not happy about. I look at every job or everything that happens in your life as this opportunity to learn, to grow, a stepping stone to get closer to what you want to achieve. I think you need to be put in situations that you’re not comfortable with and they will help determine what is really important to you in your life. So, if you’re in a role that is not fulfilling, hopefully you’ll maybe sacrifice some things to do something that’s more fulfilling, right?

And so I think, putting yourself in as many uncomfortable situations as possible will help you realize what is really comfortable and what is purposeful to use. So I used to never do … I never have done much public speaking and I put myself in this really uncomfortable situations and that was how I met my co-founder, how I really built my confidence and skills to really build a business.

And so yeah, I guess my biggest recommendation would be put yourself in uncomfortable situations. You learn what you don’t like. This is if you don’t know what you like. If you know what you like and you have your goal, go for it. Do what you can to just go for it. Take some risks, be mindful that not everything works out as planned. So you’ve got to make sure you have a backup plan, so it’s like the idea of failing fast, right?

So when you’re building a startup, you fail fast, you’ve learned lots of things. It’s the same thing when you’re trying to find your purpose or your career. If you don’t know what you want, try many things and hopefully that will sort of send you in a direction that you want.

Brendan
Yeah. Awesome. So Academy Xi you guys kicked off in January 2016. So it seems like you guys have been around for ages. You build a great community, so you get a lot of publicity, a lot of positive publicity. Can you take us back to those early days? January 2016, you’re just starting out. I mean you had previous experience at General Assembly, so I mean you saw their sort of solution for I guess improving the learning experience and how people learn. Can you take us back to those early days? You’re just starting off. How did you, I guess, validate the problem and how did you acquire customers in the early days?

Ben
Yeah, honestly it’s funny. I had been in a sales role previously and I’d never done sales before, but one thing I really learned was really listening to your customer, understand their problems and solve it for them and do it with authenticity, right? So people can smell if you’re not authentic and if you don’t believe in the product that you’re selling.

And in the early days it was really, really hard to get people to trust you because you don’t have credibility, you don’t have this massive history for people to want to trust, to spend a big amount of money with you. So, for us it was really about being customer first. It was about bringing people into the community, really going above and beyond for our customers, showing them the experience that we believe in. Helping out with them driving some outcomes.

Yeah, there was a point, I’ve mentioned that six months period of time where I had a bit of a sort of scare where I was like, “Shit, are we really going to be able to make this? Are we going to make this happen?” Like is it going to survive, because it’s so hard to get those early customers. You’ve got to hustle, you’ve got to go above and beyond for your customers. You’ve got to show them extra value. And if you can’t do that, then you really don’t have any differentiation, or you don’t have any opportunity to win over your competitors when your competitors have millions of millions of dollars and resources behind them and a history. So I think the key was really just, yeah looking at the sort of different parts of the ecosystem. So like we would … I would personally spend all the time speaking to all customers.

I would help with their onboarding. I’d make sure that they had like an ultimate experience, because that’s what really matters and that’s what these people are looking for. They’re looking for the support in helping them get their next opportunity. And so I think if you’re at that early stage, don’t focus on spreading yourself too thin and trying to support too many of customers. Focus on it really understanding what they really, really want and give it to them.

And it sounds really simple. It can be challenging. And yeah, I guess back to the point of that sort of six months period, I remember being at a point where I was like, “Is this really going to work? Are we really going to be able to do it?” And we pushed through, because we really believed in it. But there was a time where we were going to pivot the business completely because we weren’t sure if we got attraction, but we persevered and it paid off in the end and we were able to secure some funding, which really helped. Not only build credibility, but also allow us to service our customers and give them the value that they deserve.

Brendan
And how did you get the first 100 customers through the door?

Ben
Yeah. So we would do … Yeah, yeah, we would be everywhere. So we would go and sponsor or support. Our hackathons, we would go to events, we would speak on them. We would help add value where everyone sort of need. We would look at some partnerships and opportunities to sort of cross share our distribution of our lists or our customers. Yeah. I think, in those early days you really just got to take any opportunity to get more exposure when you can’t afford that exposure, right? So, events is a great way because you meet people, you connect with people, people have a face-to-face connection.

Ben
And we genuinely care about our customers and we generally keep caring about what we’re doing and the people really felt that. And so there was a level of authenticity that they could see that that level of care they hadn’t seen maybe in other situations. Or they had reached out to our competitors because we did go above and beyond for those customers.

Brendan
Yeah. It definitely shows that you guys care about the customers and you do go above and beyond this, and great testimonials on the website and a lot of people that have taken Academy Xi courses. You have a really high repeat rate as well. So do you think listening to the customers, has that really helped build your community and what other ways have you I guess engaged your community?

Ben
Yeah, yeah. I think, and this was when I’m taken two steps back as I mentioned earlier, if you as a founder have the time in the early stages to be in that sales position or the customer service position, do it. I did it for the first year and I really just learnt so much. I learnt so much what they need, why they need it, what their problems are. And that helped shaped where I could add value in terms of the wider communities. What people were looking for out in the industry, what skills they needed, what problems they faced at work. It’s almost like this big huge research piece that we were helping grow the business, but learning a lot about our customers. And then you sort of learn also what other parts that we have, instructors, which are part of it, our thought leaders, our students, our clients and our corporate clients. And what we’ve found is that we’re trying to build something together, right? So if we provide better students out to the industry, that gives better talent for the companies they do better.

And then, at the same way, if we train the companies off, they’re going to be more successful, they’re going to get in a higher mood, more of our grads. So I think, really looking at how you can add value in different sort of ways. So right now for example, we launched this thing’s called access and essentially it links the last students up with people in the industry who wanted to hire or get sort of pro bono or low cost projects delivered and also mentorship. We do that for free. And I think this is like a way that we’re adding value in different sort of ways where we’re helping each parts of that ecosystem. And I think if you really focus on doing that, then people will find that they’re going to assimilate more closely to you and hopefully support the different parts of people within that community.

Brendan
So I wanted to touch on learning how to learn. So it’s a question that I like to ask all the podcast guests and what better guest to ask than yourself. So I mean you’ve already mentioned some skills that you’ve picked up in the last couple of years, maybe not accounting, but sales presentation skills. Now you’ve just raised some capital as well. So how do you personally learn how to learn and how have you, I guess transfer that methodology to Academy Xi?

Ben
Yeah, I mean I’m not sure if my learning style is the same as everyone else. I learn best by lots of small mistakes, right? So I learn best by realizing something that doesn’t quite work, because that sort of ingrains in me. But I guess the sort of main insight of that is learning by doing. So if I learn by a book, I find that I just don’t absorb it as well as it goes in and probably goes out at some point.

And if I do something I’ll remember it. And I will remember it more if I make a mistake. And so I sort of put myself in situations where I just am incredibly uncomfortable. And I mentioned the public speaking before. Long time ago I used to be incredibly uncomfortable with that sort of stuff, but I learnt so much by just putting myself in that situation. And so I guess in the case of learning more practical skills, I’ve just got to do them. And so I guess when it comes to Academy Xi, it’s everything’s focused on a project. So you do a project and you learn the skills that you need to get to deliver that project, like in the real world.

And so I think providing people with that context and allow them to learn by … Let’s say for example they’re learning user experience design, they’re sitting and they’re doing that interview and they realize they didn’t ask that question right, or they got the wrong answer because maybe they didn’t ask the right question.

And so you really got to sort of witness that experience and hopefully that experience is going to be a memory and that memory is going to be part of that learning process. And so yeah, I think you have to do things. In my books I think many people learn out of different ways and some people learn really well off reading. That’s probably not me. I’ve got a new-found love for books, but it just hasn’t been sort of my in nature of how I gain skills. But yeah, I think everyone’s got their own individual learning style.

But if I was to sort of vouch for something when it comes to learning practical skills, you’ve just got to do it. And when you do it and you’re on the job or you’re on the project, whatever it is, you’re just going to remember things so much better.

Brendan
And you mentioned books and new-found love?

Ben
I’ll mention it’s audiobooks. Not quite the typical book. But yeah, definitely it’s, I find it fun and I’m learning a lot out of that.

Brendan
Nice. And any books that you can recommend to the audience?

Ben
Lots of really good books. I read a book a little while ago called The Extraordinary Mind, and it sort of talks about as an individual in this bigger, wider culture or Culturescape as they like to call it, is that we’re sort of set in this ways of how we’re supposed to do things. And I think it’s really interesting to think that you don’t need to follow those ways and many successful entrepreneurs or people in business or professions, I think they push those boundaries.

They push those boundaries and they look at ways in which they can do things differently and don’t have to worry about how what the world necessarily thinks. And so I think that’s a really interesting book. There’s another book that I like to sort of build into my company, which is called Delivering Happiness. It’s by Tony Hsieh-

The Zappos founder?

Yeah, that’s the book. The book was, the reading part of it was interesting, but I think just the overall message was really quite aligned to what I’m doing personally. So that was another good book. And then if I guess less on topic, I like the sort of Sapiens book and Hundred Days book. That’s a really, really interesting read too.

Brendan
Awesome. We’ll put all of these books in the show notes so you guys can find that metigy.com/podcast. And speaking now of set in certain ways and doing things differently. I think that’s what you’re doing at Academy Xi, because I mean I listen to Seth Godin and Baird and he always talks about the education system is broken. It’s designed for the industrial revolution period. There hasn’t been many profound changes over the last 50 years. So how do you sort of view the future of learning and how does that relate to what you’re doing now at Academy Xi?

Ben
Yeah, I mean it depends how far you want to go, right? I mean if you want to go like really, really far, I think the future of learning is almost autodidactic in a way that I feel like the best way of learning is you’re going to be in a situation where you’re going to need more of a personalized learning experience, right? So it’s about what you like to flourish in the most successful way.

How do you actually have an experience that is tailored to you? And so every person is different. Everyone has a different level of potential. So I think the future of learning, that’s probably a long time away is really a way that is customized based on your current skills, your aspirations, your goals, all these things that make you you. How do you make yourself the best you?

And I guess sort of taking it a few steps back to I guess not to the next wave of future of work when you’re talking about that sort of fourth industrial revolution. I think the integration of learning, doing, recruitment, talent. I think it’s all going to become intertwined. So you’re going to be learning as you work on your job or your role or whatever it may be and it’s going to be practical skills. It’s always going to be a practical skills.

I think there’s going to be a big shift towards soft skills. So if you look at the sort of world economic forum skills, they’ve identified the sort of critical skills that are necessarily to have a really good career. It’s in early things like critical thinking, problem solving, all that sort of stuff that we haven’t really taught our kids in the past. These are the things that you need to live in this world, because it’s [inaudible 00:16:20] so complicated, it is constantly evolving, constantly changing.

So you can’t just learn one technical skill anymore. You need to constantly evolve your skills. I mean, I think there’s a stat there saying like 17 different jobs in five different careers in your lifetime as a millennial.

Like you’re living longer, you’re going to be working longer. And I think these things are going to change the way and when we learn and learning is not going to be about getting a degree, it’s going to be about keeping current. And so I think linking back to that project-based learning, I would think that either businesses are going to realize that to keep good talent, they’re going to need to facilitate that learning on the job.

Or alternatively we’ll all be in that sort of gig economy as contractors, and have to sort of self-serve our learning and make sure that we keep current with the support of and the proliferation of online programs. I mean you can learn anything online but that’s for a certain type of person. And I’m sure that at some point that learning experience will evolve and we’ll become better learners. But at this current time, we’re still learning and we’re still getting to that point.

So in 2019, how can early-stage businesses help themselves, help their staff upskill in different areas?

Look, I think there’s amazing content you can get for free online. If you have a low budget, start there. There’s so many skills. Don’t be afraid, go out there. There’s things like Udemy, there’s the whole lot amazing programs that you can learn.

Ben
If you’re finding that you’re wanting to build more practical skills, you come to something that’s more applicable in terms of the current, like some user experience and you need to apply it to a practical learning experience. You need that face-to-face interaction. You need to work with other people, come to a provider like myself or there’s many others out there. I think the other thing is, looking at how you can just structure training in your current company. So one of the things that you think they need to learn, how can they be constantly evolving and applying those skills?

Ben
So depending on what you’re trying to achieve in that business, let’s say for example, the customer experience is really important. Learn something like user experience design or service design. If you’re trying to grow your business and you need marketing, focus on learning something like marketing, learn the basics. If you’re building a tech product, you don’t need to be a coder, but go on to Codecademy and learn an online, just like basic HTML and CSS. Just so you know the foundations, the basics of coding. And when you’re dealing with developers, you have an idea.

Ben
You just want to know enough to know what you’re doing. And I think, many people for example, they speak to a lot of agencies, right? And they have absolutely no clue what these agencies are doing. And so like, I think you just got to make sure that you know enough to have those conversations, and to be able to work with them and get the best value from both ends.

Brendan
Yeah, definitely. And can you tell me the story of one of your Academy Xi graduates? They came to you early on, they learned a brand new skill and now they’re out in the world, crushing it.

My favorite story was, in the early days one of our students, she came to us and think she was in retail and she had maybe some photography skills or whatever it may be. And she was wanting to get into user experience design and she was super timid. And in something like user experience design you need a level of conversational confidence in that space. So I was a little worried at first, but she was really keen and seemed really talented and she wanted to also get into virtual reality. And we had a conversation and we mentioned how we have little bits of those components in the course and also outside of that.

Anyway, she took the program and I remember her, she showed up on the first day, she had shaved her head to this new start. New beginning.

And she took the program and she came out, she went to her first interview, she got rejected, she went to another company and from one of the industry nights that we ran as she got the job. And I still remember her walking in like … There’s sort of a UX sort of product designer at a VR company. That’s sort of my favourite story. I mean partly because I also was the person that was speaking to her at the time because it was really early on, in the early days.

I mean that was the most fulfilling moment when she came in the old side. Like she just got a job, completely changed her career, give up her retail job. And had taken a huge, huge risk, because of the time, the money to do it, it’s a lot. And yeah, that was incredibly rewarding to see her get those results. And she’s crushing it now. She’s on panels and there are amazing things. She’s like a little thought leader. So that was really fulfilling.

And then we had another student who actually got made redundant from News Corp, so she took the redundancy and she skilled up with us. Four months later she got hired by the same company as in News Corp again, and which she loves. She says the culture in this new department is amazing and she’s loving her role and she’s doing all these amazing things. She’s a mom and she’s obviously got a lot of responsibility with her family, but she’s going above and she’s now gone and learning other things in more advanced programs. She flew overseas. So really, really powerful stories that make me feel what I’m doing is, this is what I’m here for. So yeah.

Brendan
Thanks Ben so far for all the amazing stories and the value they provide the audience. We’re now going to the painful section of the podcast. So what’s one thing that you wish you were more of an expert on right now?

Ben
Ask me two years ago it would be completely different. So right now I guess I would probably love to be more of an expert in if I could sort of magically bring that skill because I don’t think I’d ever be that amazing at it.

Brendan
Like The Matrix, so you can just plug it into the back of your head, and yeah.

Ben
I think it would be having software engineering skills. I feel like I’ve got some good skills in user experience design and all the other programs that we teach. But yeah, the software would be really cool because I’d love to be able to build, I’m a creator, I love creating things. So I think that would be really powerful to be able to think about an idea and translate it into a software skill. But otherwise, if you asked me five or 10 years ago, I would have said like a soccer player.

Brendan
And what’s in your current business black box? What problems are you currently trying to solve?

Ben
Yeah, right now we’re sort of in a stage where we’re in Sydney, Melbourne, we’re in Singapore, we’re trying to solve, making sure that as we’re scaling this business, that we’re just retaining quality, because that’s so critical for us. And that’s everything, the outcomes, the experience and just making sure that we keep to our sort of brand promise and live what we’re trying to do. So I think, as you start opening new products and new markets, you’ve just got to make sure that you bring in the right people to grow the business. And yeah, we’ve brought a great leadership team.

Recently we’ve brought some amazing new team members as well. And that’s comforting to know that we’re getting the right people in the right seats to scale the business, but it’s just making sure that you’ve got the right things in place to ensure that you can still deliver that level of quality in an automated way, if that makes sense.

Brendan
Yeah. And talking about tools now, are there any tools, maybe a $100 or less that you’ve purchased in the last year that have made a big difference?

Ben
Ah, oh tools. I think I mentioned this previously on another conversation I had and it was around live chat. I think live chat is a really interesting thing. So I think at the time I know we were paying less than a $100. I don’t know if we’re still paying that, and we might have more users or something like that that has pushed up the price, but at the time it was less than a $100. I think it was Intercom. And I think that was a really good game changer for us because it enabled people to get in contact with us faster. Enabled to get people to get in contact and the answers they wanted in a more acceptable way. Because not everyone likes to be spoken to on the phone or email.

And so, this is a quick way to get people great answers, consistent answers and in the format that they were seeking. So that was a really, really good tool because it helps provide more immediate customer experience and also helped drive growth and sales of the business as well.

Brendan
And what does the future hold for Academy Xi? So I hear you have a lot of students obviously, do these guys continually up-skill? Do they take more than one course? Is it hard to sort of cross-sell different courses to these guys?

Ben
Yeah, yeah, definitely. Our big vision, so I mean we have a big vision to sort of really leverage the community and change the world by using that community to make an impact for other people that maybe can’t afford our programs. But that’s sort of shorter or longer-term, but less I guess aspirational is sort of creating a career lifetime learning hub. And what that means is that, as I mentioned before, people are constantly having to update their skills and change their careers. So we want to be that sort of supportive partner throughout that journey. So either before you start your career, or wait till you finish, how do we add value at different stages? So how do we transform your career with a full-time program?

Ben
How do we update your skills online, how do we provide you with career support and then a network that you can access and extra projects that you can learn from? So we’re building all these small pieces of the bigger puzzle at the moment. But ultimately, we want to create that more seamless experience so that we really, really understand our customers as we start to grow and scale. And we have that sort of those insights to be able to provide them and guide them in what they need to learn.

We’re seeing today a lot of people do take multiple courses, so they might take a full-time program in user experience design and a sort of adjacent skill like service design that’s going to help them be more employable. Or they might learn something like VR and UX and use that as a sort of edge for them to learn. Growth marketing and product management’s a common sort of joint skillset or course that people use.

But yeah, essentially we do see people coming back and wanting to learn, which is fantastic, because I think that shows a really powerful message that even despite that, that’s a lot of money for people to spend, a lot of time. It’s not only the money, it’s the time that they need to spend. But people are investing in themselves. And if you asked me maybe 10 years ago, “Would I have invested in myself like that?” I’m not sure if I would have, right? But the world’s changed and my perspective has been open to see that this is something that many people are successfully getting results out of and it’s awakening to see that result. And I love it, I love it. It’s really rewarding seeing people take multiple courses and get the outcomes that they were seeking as a result of that.

Brendan
Awesome. So Ben, really appreciate the time you’ve taken out today. Amazing mission and you’re executing really well at the moment as well. Before we wrap up, I’ve got a couple of abstract questions that I like to ask all of our guests. So the first one, if you could have a billboard that all business owners would see, you could have text, visuals, whatever you want, what would it say and where would you put it?

Ben
I’ve got a little tattoo on my arm and it says, “Create your reality.”

And so what that means is that everyone’s really in charge of their own destiny essentially, right? You’ve got to create your own opportunity. You’ve got to create your own way that you look at the world. So if you look at the world a certain way, that’s how the world’s going to be to you. But if you shift your perspective, it can be incredibly eyeopening. And I think, yeah, if I was to put that message up there, I would sort of say simple words, create your reality and then just I guess maybe some sort of quote that complemented that.

Brendan
What location?

Ben
Oh it’s a tough one. Who would I best reach at with that message? Maybe not the CBD, maybe there’s … I would put most of my billboards if I was advertising Academy Xi in the CBD. But maybe that wouldn’t be as taken as well. So, that’s a tough one. I’d have to think about that one, but somewhere where people are maybe a bit more open to that perspective of that the world operates how you want it to operate.

I think what people don’t realize is that if you’re stuck in your ways and you’re stuck in your certain beliefs that you have, another world, then that’s how the world is going to be. But if you can shift your perspective and create your own reality, then you can do amazing things. And I think some of the most successful entrepreneurs there, they see the world in a different way and they make it happen. They are so determined to push to those limits to make it happen, where sometimes it’s easy in this day and age to be like, “This is it. And I’m stuck here because I don’t have this opportunity.” And then so yeah, I think that would be my main message to the world.

Brendan
Yeah. Awesome. And just above that tattoo, I see an Academy Xi tattoo as well. You’ve taken the startup teacher to a new level. Congratulations.

Ben
Yeah, exactly. I, yeah, it was just funny. I’d never used to believe in tattoos. Oh, you know what are people going to think. And then I think after doing the startup, I realized, you know what, I can do whatever I wanted. I can do what I believe in and I am not afraid of what other people think. And I was like, Xi is for me for life. Whether I’m in it for life or not, I’m in it for life, and it’s my baby. And I’m proud to wear the logo.

Brendan
So definitely no rebrands coming off in the near future.

Ben
It’s carefully hidden into this sleeve, but you know, the oodles comes out every now and then, so.

Brendan
Yeah, yeah. That’s awesome. And a final question Ben, you’re on the first flight to Mars with Elon Musk and the first settlers aboard the SpaceX starship rocket. So what business do you start when you land on Mars and how do you promote it to the new Martians?

Ben
Ooh, on Martians. There’s Martians there. This is an exciting thing. I mean Elon Musk is my hero. So I think if I was there, if education was something that would be needed, I would probably start education, because it’s something that I believe in. I’ll probably focus less on the skills that we’re teaching today only because they’d probably be less applicable and more about the soft skills and look at how we could align I guess different interests of Martians and human and how are we going to educate each other and how we are going to live and what skillset we really need to build on Mars? I’m sure they would be incredibly intelligent, so I would look at how, what sort of skills they have and how we can integrate our learnings together and build something really exciting. And if that wasn’t needed, they’d probably look at food, sustainable food and how we could make something that would help in a sort of growing colony.

Brendan
Yeah. I love it that you’re already talking to the customers, just like you did at Academy Xi, and what would you call this adventure, that education venture on Mars? Mars Xi?

Ben
Mars Xi, yeah exactly.

Brendan
Thanks so much for coming in Ben. It’s been fun. Is there anything that you’d like to say before we wrap up and how can people get in touch?

Ben
Yeah look, in terms of getting in touch, probably best thing is on LinkedIn. I’m relatively responsive to that. As long as you’re not trying to sell me stuff that I don’t need. Otherwise, I guess the big message I would say is, if you’re thinking of starting a business or if you’re already doing that, you probably heard a million times on a million different things. But follow your passion and make sure you’re doing something purposeful, if you’re not, go work for someone else.

And the next thing is, yeah, create your reality. Make sure you really look at the world in a new way. If you’re doing something, you need to really focus on your customers. You need to not be held back by certain beliefs, and you’ve got to put in a 110% because if you don’t, someone else is going to either put it 120% or they’re going to have many more resources for the new to really drive it there forward. So, or if you have already a strong network, surround yourself by people that are much better than you at what you do and hopefully inspire them to follow you.

Brendan
So Ben, thanks again for coming in and dropping so much value to the audience. We’ll put everything that Ben’s mentioned in the show notes today and some more information about Academy Xi at metigy.com/podcast. So once again Ben, it’s been fun.

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