(This was originally posted on LIFEHACK’s Blog.)
What a year it’s been so far. LIFEHACK has been the most amazing ride, and I’m so proud of everything that’s come out of it.
LIFEHACK has shown me that there are so many awesome people who all believe in supporting our young people. And, while it’s still early days, with phase two; judging of top idea videos underway, and phase three; funding and executing those ideas, just around the corner, the next few months will be very exciting for New Zealand
So I’ve been talking with the Ministry of Social Development (funders of this project) about the future. And. we’ve decided that LIFEHACK needs more technical and development resources than I alone can provide, to move it forward. My role was always a one-year contract, so it’s simply time for me to move on.
It may sound like a cliché, but LIFEHACK has been the most enjoyable (and at times challenging) role I’ve undertaken thus far. It’s always a telling sign you’re up to something special when the people you connect with – co-workers, partners, sponsors, attendees – are just as widely passionate about the project as you are.
Thanks again for being part of the journey. Our success stems from your involvement, and I’m truly grateful. I wish everyone the very best, and have faith that LIFEHACK, and all of the amazing ideas that have come out of it, will continue to motivate, inspire and create the change that we all want to see.
Stay in touch. I’ll miss you.
(Note: This post is loooong. If you want to know what LIFEHACK’s about and where we’re going, you need to know where we’ve come from)
I’m often asked to explain LIFEHACK - what we’re about, how we got started, how we operate, etc. In this post I hope to clarify exactly that.
LIFEHACK was created to prevent mental illness in New Zealand’s youth. The Ministry of Social Development approached me in November 2012, and asked if I would be interested in putting together a programe for therm. I was keen, of course – providing I could do it my way. They agreed.
As someone who follows Lean Startup in my daily life, I hit the streets. I had an idea, but no validation if it would actually work, and 15 days to get things ready (before I took off for 5 weeks over Christmas.) I jumped straight into interviews (with people as young as 15 and as old as 32) about the idea I had, and to hear their experiences with mental illness. What I heard shocked and disturbed me to my core. Young kiwis not yet ‘sick enough’ to be helped by our medical professionals – yet still suffering every day. A suicidal women who’s struggled with various levels of mental illness, un-helped by the sector even when screaming out for help on the phone claiming she’s tried to kill herself that night.
I soon realised that the sector operates heavily from a reactive point of view, with little focus on how to prevent these issues from arising. This is not sustainable, and if we really want to make grassroots change, it needs to come from the youth themselves, a bottom up approach.
And at this moment, LIFEHACK was born:
Our mission is to create digital technology to prevent youth mental illness. New Zealand’s fight for youth mental health and wellbeing needs a fresh approach, and we believe digital technology – created by youth for youth – will play a key part in the solution.
Our dream is to build a self-sustaining environment where digital solutions are created locally by young people, validated and developed within our three month lab, integrated into local organisations, then pushed out internationally to youth who also need what we create.
Our mantra: Working on the edge – away from rules and regulations. We break things. Disrupt the status quo. Change the world.
My Inspiration for LIFEHACK:
While the complete model of LIFEHACK is unique, it’s a combination of many ideas, organisations and companies I admire. They are:
Startup Weekend (Weekend hackathons that happen around the world – most recently in Auckland, New Zealand)
Pollenizer (Mobile focused company that invests team, capital and connections into scalable technology startups)
Imagine Cup (yearly world wide competition that gets teams to work on technology ideas focused on solving real problems.
Good For Nothing (brief focused weekends that get creatives and techies to help make local non-profits better)
My view for LIFEHACK has always been to create a long term, sustainable social enterprise – not a one time go-nowhere project.
What do we do at a LIFEHACK weekend? It’s simple:
1) We connect
Friday night (as is much of the weekend is getting to know each other. We realised early on that dealing the space we’re playing in is serious, and people need to be comfortable with one another if they’re going to dream big.
LIFEHACK weekends aren’t competitive, they’re collaborative. We want the best ideas to rise to the top, and we want everyone to have a part in that success. During the weekend, teams will regularly share their ideas to other teams, brainstorm, even get advice from another team member (if they have a skill set you don’t).
2) We dream big
There’s no bad ideas. Ever. Not at LIFEHACK. We come to LIFEHACK for the same reasons… that the current system isn’t working. At LIFEHACK we spent a lof of time dreaming up crazy, random ideas. We don’t check if they’re safe. We dream.
Once teams have dreamed big, we get them to narrow down one idea and focus on that.
3) We pitch kick arse ideas
Ideas produced in LIFEHACK are unlike anything the sector have ever seen. Your ideas are wanted and very important – so being able to pitch them well is important. We put a lot of emphasis on pitching (up to 7 times over the weekend).
It’s not about you, it’s about them:
People who apply for LIFEHACK come here with a passion to solve a big ass problem. You don’t come to a lifehack with an idea you want to pitch. LIFEHACK’s weekends are about ideation, with a very specific focus:
The scope of mental illness is huge, so if we’re ever going to make an impact, we needed a focus. Our focus, at least in year one, has been PREVENTING youth depression and anxiety.
During the weekend we consistently come back to our character profiles. We’re working on solutions for 12-18 year olds, and for most attendees, that’s their younger self. Attendees need to remember what it’s like being that age, then look at creating ideas that would benefit that person.
Character profile 1: Under pressure
Character profile 2: Feeling Down
Character profile 3: Out of Control
Once teams have spent time understanding the character profiles, they form teams and start dreaming. We encourage them to go big with their thinking and insist they use the ‘Yes…and’ approach when brainstorming. That way, everyone can share their ideas and no one gets judged.
Over the remainder of the weekend, teams go through a very succinct process:
1) Choose one idea to focus on
2) Validate that concept (get out of the room!)
3) Execution (what needs to be done to take this idea to market)
4) Create pitch and practice
To assist in areas where teams may need help we engage a range of mentors to support on Saturday – usually from 11am to 7pm.
As LIFEHACK’s weekend focus is about ideation, we’ve try to get along mentors who can think big and help shape concepts – while not overpowering teams and spinning them in too many directions. It’s key that at each weekend have several design thinkers, techies (mobile and game) and business and/or leadership.
(Auckland mentors above)
By default, LIFEHACK is sensitive. We’re dealing with a topic most attendees know well (either personally or through someone they know) so It’s important that each weekend is set up well to ensure safety of participants.
We have Youthline on call 24//7 during weekends, and have engaged local youth companies to provide support on Friday night and Saturday morning.
We got feedback from an Auckland weekend attendee saying that it can be pretty intense at times, so with that in mind, we went out and bought a Nintendo WII – where people can take some time out to relax and just chill, as well as set up a mediation station, where those who feel under pressure or are having trouble with someone in their team can take 5 and talk about it with someone qualified.
Each team will get 5 minutes to pitch and 5 minutes of Q&A from the judges – although we have been known to get additional questions from the participants too!
We split pitching into two blocks. Block A and block B. Once we’ve got through one block of pitches, we ask the teams who have been listening to vote on their favourite concept. Each person is given three stickers and asked to vote. Teams get 5 minutes for this before we switch over and repeat.
Judges take this feedback into the judging room, where they make their decision. The community voting plays a large part in choosing the top ideas.
Once judges have made their decision, we bring them back into the main room and all take a seat in a circle, shown below.
This is my favourite part of the weekend. I often find myself getting emotional and chocked up during this section. Participants share how they’ve found the weekend, their ups and downs, learnings, etc with everyone in the room. Truly a humbling moment for me, and everyone else involved.
Below are some of the comments we received from the Auckland (our first) weekend.
So that’s the weekend covered off. I now want to share a little about what happens post LIFEHACK weekend.
LIFEHACK is split into three phases:
Phase one: (weekend events)
The tip of the iceberg. Our weekends are designed to bring talented people together and to dream up awesome ideas. From the weekend we identify the top ideas from around the country. These ideas make it into our ‘lab.
Phase two: (validating the top 10%)
By now we should have at least 10 teams (split around the country) who have made it into our lab. These teams are provided $2000 cash and asked to provide a 5 minute video and two page document on their idea. (we supply the video brief and questions to answer)
We then work with our partners to select the top 3-4 ideas, then work together to create a go-to-market strategy.
Phase three: (execute like a demon)
The top 3-4 ideas have been identified. Our partners (national organisations, local governments, health boards, large corporations) are now ready to fund, support and develop your ideas.
LIFEHACK is currently in phase two, while working on phase three. It’s demanding, but we’re all excited and growing fast.
Ok, so this post was to explain LIFEHACK in more detail, but only you can answer if I’ve done that right… and If not, leave me a question below.
My role at LIFEHACK is to drive the vision and ensure we succeed. Going into LIFEHACK I knew we were in for a challenge. The goal was large and the timeframe was small. Fortunately the Naive Optimist in me made sure I backed myself and jumped right in.
There were many times during the process that I felt burned out, and was running at an all time low – both physically and mentally. It’s been an exhausting few months. There were times when I struggled to keep my head above water, and in several cases had to check out for hours on end to mentally regain my strength. Like many other people, I have high and lows in my life.
You soon realise just how important it is to have someone you trust in your corner. Mine being Jil, my always supportive and caring fiance’ and best friend.
Yesterday I busted my knee while surfing at Muriwai beach.
While riding down the side of a 3 foot wave, my body was knocked by the wave, with my feet firmly planted (and unwilling to budge) on the board. Unfortunately, this resulted in my knee buckling inwards, much to the joy of my now torn MCL. Crap.
I’m told that an MCL injury can take up to 12 weeks to heal – which couldn’t have come at a worst time. We start our national tour of LIFEHACKweekends on April 5th, which will see me facilitating 48 hour events in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.
I’ve got crutches now, which is helping. 5 days and counting until our first event.
Wish me luck.
Is what I am…
It was only a short time ago that I came to this realisation, after throwing myself blind into another large project (of which I new very little about).
What some people might see as a weakness, or as ‘crazy’, I see as an enormous strength.
I try. I fail. I learn. I succeed.
I attempt things before I realise just how difficult it might be. There’s a lot to say about just fucking doing it.
Change depends on unreasonable people. Don’t assume–analyze. Brutal honesty trumps hypocritical politeness. Have courage. Build companies instead of cutting deals. Thrive on technological risk. Ignore the nonsense of conventional wisdom. People matter. Care about genuine issues: a healthy environment. Sustainable power. Free information. Go for GREAT, not just good. Be willing to fail but aim for revolutionary success.
- Vinod khosla
[This post was originally posted on the Borrowed Size blog, written by my business partner and beautiful fiancé Jil O'Brien.]
This is by far the most difficult post I’ve penned for the Borrowed Size blog.
As from today, the Borrowed Size store is no longer open for business. The decision wasn’t an easy one to make but, after hours of deliberation, I’m certain that closing the store is the best option for us right now.
Developing Borrowed Size has been an amazing experience, I’ve learnt a lot since Jason and I began work on the concept back in August 2011, and I’m immensely proud of what we’ve achieved. We’ve worked hard, made substantial discoveries about the wardrobe dilemmas faced by new Mums and had the support of some fantastic people who believed in us and Borrowed Size. But it is time to put the brakes on and scale back our plans.
The reasoning behind the decision is two-fold, both personal and business. On a personal level, working with your spouse inevitably adds pressure to your relationship. Extra pressure is added when the balance between business and family is mismatched and I wasn’t able to achieve that balance. For me, the scales tipped too far in favour of family meaning I lacked the commitment and motivation to drive Borrowed Size forward as we had planned for me to do. I realised that I’m just not ready to spend time away from my son. I’m not ready to entrust his care to someone outside of our family so I can work. I’m not ready to be anything other than a full time Mum. I’m still making my peace with this realisation but I’ve already felt a huge weight lifted from my shoulders.
The other part of the reasoning rests on the business model – I don’t think we’ve got it right, yet. I still believe (and know that many of you agree) that Borrowed Size in an amazing concept. The whole point behind the store was to test the market and validate the concept through a Beta launch. We’ve had some fantastic feedback but we’ve struggled to source the product our customers want for a price they want to pay! I’m sure we can find the solution (and I’m sure we will at some stage) but, right now, I don’t have the energy or the resources to commit to developing the next iteration of Borrowed Size.
That said, I’m sure there is a future for Borrowed Size. We’ll still be engaging via the Facebook page (and the Borrowed Size blog) and translating the latest fashion trends into wearable looks for breastfeeding Mums. We may also sell some garments via Facebook and we’ll continue to reach out for feedback on our ideas and plans for Borrowed Size.
Thank you to everyone who’s supported Borrowed Size this far and given us love, support feedback and insight into their wardrobe woes – you’re all amazing! Please keep in touch.
Jil & Jason
Every year Unlimited Magazine publishes a list of influencers who are making a significant contribution to New Zealand. In August this year, I was lucky enough to be named one of them for my work bringing Startup Weekend to New Zealand.
Over the course of two years it’s been amazing to see how popular Startup Weekend has become in New Zealand, and by the end of 2012, there will be around 800 startup addicts expected to complete the weekend.
Below is the video I filmed with Unlimited. Note the challenge at the end to “Smash out the Australians in a Trans-Tasman battle”
There were many people who helped make Startup Weekend a success – it definitely wasn’t a one man army. I want to acknowledge these people for there support – for without them, SWNZ wouldn’t be where is is today.
There were also the hundreds of attendees who put up money in exchange for a weekend of work to sprout a new movement – kudos to you too!