How Michael Took The Non-Traditional Route, Founded a Startup, Failed and Pushing On

Editor’s Note: Reading this story reminds me a little of myself. I was never engaged in class back when I was in university.

I was more interested in business – I read books, attended seminars, I tried a bunch of stuff (and made decent coin), joined a digital marketing agency and finally started my own freelance business. All before graduating with my Bachelor’s degree.

And it looks like Michael is showing the same pattern! But he’s gone further. He started his own tech startup, and even though it ultimately failed, it was an experience I wished I had!


Let me start out by saying that I haven’t yet achieved *everything* I want – and I doubt I’ll ever reach that. In fact, I think in its purest form, what I want is to see others become successful; because if I can achieve that, I’ll be surrounded by those kinds of people, and those are the very best type of people.

My name is Michael and I was born in South Africa in ’94. Due to the lack of possibilities for a low-income family, my parents decided to immigrate to Australia in 2003. I was homeschooled my whole life, only spending the last three years in school to graduate. In my homeschool years, I was heavily interested in the digital marketing field, and literally tried everything from Google AdSense, to marketing books, to Forex, to HYIP schemes and so on.

In reality, I worked hard at a KFC job, and used all the pay I earned on internet marketing methods and schemes; also creating a budget and started investing in the stock market at (probably not lawful I assume) 16 years old. This budgeting process is what ultimately brought me to experience and join Pocketbook! I eventually made it into University at the age of 17, in the IT Security field.

My first real job after leaving KFC was a Sports Sales and Marketing position at a startup company in Melbourne; they marketed differently to competitors by doing everything face to face – never cold calling, always trying to create a personal and genuine connection with every person we came in contact with.

As with most things in my life, I strove to enhance, improve, add a twist to the work in an entrepreneurial spirit. I listened to a lot of self-help materials, speakers, and successful people, both in the marketing business and out of it. I went to property sales conferences, internet marketing courses, even app design workshops.

I soaked it all up like a sponge, and applied my 17-year old self as thoroughly as I could.

While my friends partied, I outsourced workers to program apps others had contracted me to design. While my friends went out with their girlfriends, I spent time with my Brian Tracy audio CDs, learning how to make people feel wonderful about themselves, how to create connections, and be successful.

I remember seeing needs at my university (such as a way to distribute parking tickets efficiently), and working on such projects while attempting to study for exams. This led to many great things – in fact my university even awarded me with a phone, tablet, and smart-watch after successfully getting the most votes in a competition related to the website!

A huge step in my ‘hustling’ was really putting a flag on the people that would help me advance in my personal, career, and faith journeys, and ignore those that would bring me down.

I started remembering birthdays and names of those I wanted to impress, and constantly made the effort to meet up with adults ranging from the age of 21 all the way to 67 years old! I soon had myself three mentors at any one time; going out for a walk-and-talk at 5:30am around the suburbs of Melbourne discussing spiritual and faith based questions.

9am would be meeting up with a CEO of numerous companies, who would guide me towards the business side of things, and encourage my marketing perspectives. 11:30am and I was meeting with a very influential speaker, who taught me many things to do with people and how to get them to do what you want them to do.

All this really propelled me to aim for success. I attacked my course with tenacity, all while balancing side projects focusing on anything from creating BitCoin software, to creating social university clubs. In my first year at University I created an IT society which has now grown to over 250 members, and meet and discuss things daily. The society alone has opened up so many business and academic opportunities for me, and to think in the beginning I was so nervous about stepping out!

In fact, I did not see the benefits until 2 years later, when graduate companies started really recognizing my leadership role in it.

Using my marketing and experience-based skills, I made an effort to not only talk to each and every single lecturer, but to also ask them out for coffee. Out of my 8 lecturers that year, only 1 reacted positively. This lecturer is now my best friend, and has opened up so many opportunities for me. I am still in awe.

At the age of 18, I was offered a position through him working at my University, and at 19 I was offered a role as a research assistant; as of last week my research paper was completed, and will be published under my name by Deakin University. It is currently being reviewed for submission in a Forensic Conference in Denver, USA!

It doesn’t stop there.

This lecturer also helped me score a position as an actor for my universities advertising campaign, even though I’ve never acted in my life! This allowed me to meet even more people, and yes, you guessed it, I made a personal connection with the film crew! I hope to meet up with them in the future, and continue my relationship with them if I am ever needed again.

Last year I again went one step further, becoming Vice-President of IT in the renowned Deakin Commerce Society, and eventually went on to create my own Deakin Information Security Club, creating a hub for past and present students to learn the hands on skills that academic courses usually fail to cover.

Already being the founder of this club has allowed me to get into contact with numerous high-ranking officials and people in huge organizations, such as NAB, Deloitte, Accenture, and Telstra. I also plan to create both personal and professional relationships with these connections, and continue my journey.

My first startup was fun, a great experience, but ultimately a failure. It focused on creating a BitCoin software that would allow users to mine without the need of a powerful computer. In a sense, all they needed was an internet connection. The software was programmed by my friend Paolo from University, and directed by myself.

We received monetary support from at least 15 investors, but development time and costs were too great, and in combination with our studies unfortunately, we had to end the project. I saw it as a great experience, and hope that the next time I do a startup, I’ll put more time and effort into it.

To be honest, I don’t know where my life is taking me. Although I do know that I’d be nowhere without the very influential people in my life, and their constant interest and dedication in my life. It’s taken a lot of time, a lot of effort, but it’s slowly shaping up to be the amazing experience every successful person claims it to be.

I know God has blessed me with skills in IT Security, but I have a feeling my entrepreneurial spirit and startup attitude will take me further in the business areas of life. I intend to graduate from my course in 2014; I’ll be 20 years old, and a whole lot of life left in me to explore.

Thank you again for giving me this chance to share my journey with you – I must warn you, it’s an unfinished story; I have no doubt it will continue to claim its share of greatness over time.

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