The Voice of Cyber®

Episode 149: Matt Johnston
First Aired: December 07, 2022

Born in Sydney, Australia, and having lived in the United States for the past 12 years, Matt Johnston has had an international career as an entrepreneur and founder, creating and leading companies in verticals including service, manufacturing, distribution and direct to consumer. Johnston’s early career was in Security Risk Management and Investigation, working as a Security Consultant and other related roles.

With a passion for furthering society through innovation and technology, Johnston currently works with founder-led companies and private and institutional investors to create value for all stakeholders through Venture Capital, Private Equity and other investment. His track record of excellence and his balance of business acumen, technology knowledge and finance experience, sees Johnston advising startups, securing startup finance, advising established companies on exit strategies, as well as executing for them on mergers and acquisitions.

In addition to his core business activities, he works with a number of US based startup accelerators in vetting and selecting startup companies for investment and/or engagement in accelerator programs.

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Episode Transcription

These transcriptions are automatically generated. Please excuse any errors in the text.

Introduction (00:14) You're listening to KBkast, the cybersecurity podcast cast for all executives cutting through the jargon and height to understand the landscape where risk and technology meet. Now, here's your host, Karissa Breen. Karissa (00:29) Good to me today is Matt Johnson, founder of Ila Global. Matt, thanks for joining. It's wonderful to have you here. I'm really excited to get to this interview today because I really want to understand from you more about your journey, but then also how you are obviously an Australian, which people will hear accents soon, but you are living in the United States, so I'm keen to talk through about how Australian companies tend to move to the US. So I personally want to start with that. Talk to me about your experience of moving to the United States as an Australian and then maybe talk through some of your hurdles. Matt Johnston (01:03) For sure I will. KB, thank you so much for having me. It's always a pleasure to speak with you. I think it's your morning, my afternoon, so always enjoy us having chat for the journey. As it stands, I've been here working in the States now for twelve years. I came over here with my own company. I didn't come here with employment from anybody else or anything like that. So it's been one hell of a journey, I guess, providing a little bit of background. I've owned companies in Australia since I was 18 years of age. I think I started my first business when I was twelve and second business when I was 16, and then my first company when I was 18. And so we're sparsely different from moving from Australia to the United States. I had a start up there that was not in technology, it was a product space business at the time. And so it was new to me in Australia and then also, of course, new to me once I got to the States. And there's so many, so many things we can talk about culturally. The United States is very similar to Australia. Matt Johnston (02:11) I lived on the West Coast here in Los Angeles, in California, and there's a lot of similarities. Like as far as the transition goes, culturally, it's pretty easy. It's the same essentially the same language. Of course there's Aussie nuances that make it a little different, but it's essentially the same language. People beat the same broadly, unbound I'm talking, there's obviously always going to be minute differences between people, but broadly, like, we're talking a democracy, obviously, republic you're as opposed to Commonwealth, but it's democracy, it's Western values, its allies throughout all the major 20th century conflicts and so forth. So there's a lot of it that's really easy, and then there's a lot of it that's really confronting and tough and sense how much time we want to dwell on that. But I mean, first of all, what comes to mind is one of the pleasant surprises that I found most disconcerting is the market here is so big, the consumer market, compared to Australia. Take California by itself. It used to be, probably still is the fifth. If it was its own country, it would be the world's fifth largest economy, as opposed to, I think Australia is 14 or somewhere around there anyway. Matt Johnston (03:23) So it's the entire United States. The market that you can leverage there is just absolutely massive. And because of that there's always a conversational largely, again, except that I'm generalising, but this is my experience, there's a larger conversation around abundance. The general attitude is the market is so big, there's plenty for everybody and you don't have to be cutthroat. And obviously there's still competition. We all want to win and be the top dog. Everyone understands they're never going to dominate 100% of the market. And the natural fact that you have one or 2% of the market, it's an absolute economic victory. And that was a little disconcerting at first when you have your competitors cheering for you and wanting you to succeed because they take the view that a rising tide floats all boats and they want to see you win. And I found that was the first thing. And of course, I'm also going back twelve years, so I know things have changed in Australia since then. But in the businesses I'd been in Australia at the time, that was definitely not my experience. It was Tall Poppy Syndrome that was alive and well. Matt Johnston (04:26) That was one of the first things. And those kind of cultural differences really stood out to me at first. But then of course, at the time knew everything about starting companies. I put that in quotes, right? I knew everything. But I knew a lot about starting companies in Australia and knew nothing about the journey over here, or nothing about help and what was available to me. And it was actually a really tough fog, like learning the system, learning to comply, learning the rules. It's not easy because it is completely different. I mean, people even struggle with it domestically when they have businesses in Australia, let alone trying a new system and complying over here. So that was also a hurdle. There are some of the two things that jump straight out of me anyway. Karissa (05:08) Yes. No, super interesting. I have the same observation. I think there's so many questions I want to ask you. I want to firstly start with you mentioned Tall Poppy Syndrome. I was in a meeting yesterday and one of the guys saying he coined it Short Poppy Syndrome, which means you don't have to grow too tall these days before someone is trying to cut you down here in Australia. There's so many things that I want to ask because what I'm seeing in the market is we've got really great Australian companies, security companies, tech companies, but they're being overlooked. And the thing is, you said a really good thing before, our competitors are, like, happy to support you. That doesn't happen in Australia at all. Because, I mean, what often happens is, and it's sad people don't, quote, unquote, make it here in Australia. They go to the United States and they make it. And that's not just in the tech security industry. I'm talking about, like, actresses and all these people. Why do you think that's the case? Matt Johnston (06:09) Really good question. Why is that different? I do think that it's to do perhaps look back culturally, and I love history. I'm not a student of history per se, but I think, you know, when you have a look at where you've come from, you get a better idea of where you're going. You know, I think I don't know whether it's to do with Australia's initial convict heritage and some of those us versus them not wanting people to succeed initially. I mean, but there was entrepreneurship in 7800 Australia. I can point to it with stories about horse races and farms and all sorts of things that were obviously built. Now we've got a country of 30 million people, but it could be that. What I do know is that, again, I go back to the vastness of this market. And the vastness of the market is good because there's plenty of room to play in. But you do have to be on your game. Like, you've got to know your product markets fit, you've got to know who your competitors are, you've got to know who your customers are, you've got to have the channels to get in with them, whereas your competitors will cheer for you. Matt Johnston (07:08) They will not waste time either. That's one thing that's for sure. People can be very shrewd with their time. Karissa (07:15) I don't think that's a bad thing, though. Matt Johnston (07:17) No. For me, years ago, it was always, let's have a coffee meeting. And this is not just because of. Karissa (07:25) COVID I think that still happens here, Matt, to be honest. Matt Johnston (07:29) Doesn't really I mean, I love it. Karissa (07:31) It's twelve coffees before people want to make a decision. I mean, not all the time, but it's in a very Australian way. Let's go down in Manly, have a chit chat. Will they go for a surf? Matt Johnston (07:41) Yeah. Karissa (07:42) It is still very much a mentality like that. I'm sorry. It is, absolutely. Matt Johnston (07:46) And it's part of me that loves it. Because, as you know, I'm a really social creature. Love to chat. I like to meet people. But when you are trying to get something achieved, I'd rather get something achieved. Get a contract signed and then let's go for twelve coffees while we make sure that what we promised to deliver you with delivery, that's a better use of time. And I've had to be shrewd about it here in Los angeles too, because I live in the southern part and to drive to the northern part. As you know, I love motorcycles, so for the most part I will ride my bike and it's still going to take me, without traffic, an hour to get to the northern part of Los Angeles. So you add a part of that mix and peak hour, you're looking at two and a half, 3 hours to travel anywhere. And you really only want to travel here between ten and two because peak hours and all sorts of other times covet has done the world a little blessing in normalising Google meet Zoom video chat FaceTime. It's a really, really great way to get things done. Matt Johnston (08:40) And again, as I say, I'm a social creature. But yeah, 100%, you can't have coffee all day or you'll never get anything done. Especially when you are trying to find that first customer. You're an entrepreneur first customer, whether it be domestic, international, or even if it's not the first customer, you're still scaling that business and working really hard on it. You got to talk with a lot of people. You're raising money, you can't just talk with one person in a day. You've got to be knocking on that door time and time and time again. You're going to get hundreds of nos before you get a yes. So you've got to maximise that time. Karissa (09:12) Yeah, I understand that. I mean, it's not like me saying that I'm definitely a social creature as well. It's just more so that you'd rather sort of be told like, no shaleway and then move on rather than stringing along or something like that. It does happen in Australia and so, okay, you make really great points. I'm definitely on board with what you're saying. The other thing then, as well, is some of the other things that I'm finding in terms of people I'm speaking to, whether they're VCs in Australia, where you are, or just local startups, we're not really backing our own people here. So just say if you think of it as a football team or basketball team, whatever, now you want to use like they back each other. We're not doing that here. We're like completely almost trying to destroy other people's games. And then what happens is people either they either flee to the US and they make it there, which is usually a common story. Well, they give up. So we're actually then generating a market of people that we can't drive. Innovation. We talk about sovereignty here in Australia and innovation and growing our people and backing them. Karissa (10:16) I think that's good service. I don't think that's genuine at all. I really don't. Matt Johnston (10:19) Such a shame that here, because it is so important. Like I sort of referenced in the first instance because the way Australia came to be as a modern country, it's full of innovators, it's full of entrepreneurs, always has. Karissa (10:32) Breen I know, and I think that's the challenge that we're facing here. And I've spoken to a number of people that are startups and people in this space that share the same opinion as me, because it's worrying. And I think that I was explaining to someone yesterday, like, when you go out on your own, it's like all these people that say they're going to back you and they don't. But then what happens is you hit, like, different levels of your entrepreneurial journey where people like, oh, actually a bit more valuable to me now, actually. I can get something from you now, and so it will change, but in the early stages, it's all well and good to say, oh, Pat on the bat, Matt. Yeah, great job. And then they don't actually really help you. I've seen this time and time again, people have approached me, come forward in the Australian market and say, did you find this initially when you went out on your own? I mean, I've been doing this for five years now, so I've seen the game and how it changes and I think that, unfortunately, a lot of people don't last five years, right? Karissa (11:21) They give up between 1218 months because it's hard. But what makes it inherently harder, in my opinion, is we're not backing our own people. We're not even a big country. Why isn't it that we're not doing it, though? Like, I really don't understand that. I'm always going to support people, but people here that just don't like it when you start to do things a little bit outside the lines, straight away, people will cut you down. And then we don't actually have any great innovation here because people are too scared to do it. Matt Johnston (11:48) Too scared to do it. And it's also really comfortable, and I think this is a blessing about Australia when I say this, but four weeks paid annual leave to start with here in the States, sometimes you can start jobs, many jobs, when you're working hourly, you don't even get paid annual leave. The salary jobs start, I think, with two weeks here. Obviously, there's great social support networks in Australia. If you fall on hard times, I mean, it's easy. It's easy not to innovate, right? It's very comfortable just to go pay these innovate and say, you know what, I'm going to get a job with her, because it's safe, it's easy, I get paid well and I still love what I do. So I think you're right when we say support, there's so much support you can give to entrepreneurs. And I guess really, at the beginning of this, we didn't even do everything producing from Ila and Global, but I didn't really explain what that was to any of the listeners out there. Insofar as we work with venture capital companies, we find great startups to invest in and we work with established businesses to exit them when they're ready to retire or be absorbed or just looking for basically a liquidity event in their company. Matt Johnston (12:58) Going back to that story, there's levels of support there's, obviously. Sometimes there's governmental support, but there's support in the ecosystem as well. And you look at, like, entrepreneurial support. You can point to accelerators, you can point to venture capital funds, all those type of things. Again, I'm going to say this without having worked with BC in Australia in a number of years, like I did about five years ago, but I haven't really had my finger on the pulse there since. It's a small pie. And I think what's really necessary to drive Australian innovation is having great connections with capital pools and go to market resources in the United States, Europe, Asia, wherever that is, wherever the market is, I see that that's going to go a long way to garnering the support. And the way that I always feel about it is we can't. And I've always been like this since I was a kid. We can't sit around waiting for the government to do something for us, be it a new Australia's programme or this or that or whatever it is, if you want it, you've got to seize the day like carpet. And we've got to do it ourselves. Matt Johnston (14:06) We've got to get a collective of us and people who want to succeed together and people who want to support the person next to them, knowing that when you do support somebody and you do it from an altruistic perspective, I'd like to think it comes back to your tenfold in some way. So even if you're not the one whose company goes on to become a unicorn, it's your friend who you helped who did. And guess what? As I say, rising tide floats or boats, sometimes you can come along for the ride with that. So the impetus is with us to really, if we want to make a difference in Australia and for entrepreneurs, we've got to get together. We can't wait. No one's coming for us, no one's coming to our rescue. We've got to do it for ourselves, we've got to band together, we've got to leverage connections, and I'm probably the least of them. There's plenty of people who you would know in the ecosystem have probably got better connections here in the States than I have, but we have to use those. We have to look at Australia as where we're going to develop but not deploy. Matt Johnston (15:04) Australia is an awesome test market, but I mean, as an ultimate goal. Even if the headquarters remains in Australia, how are we going to tap into those overseas markets with just a much larger population base and therefore much larger economic opportunities? Karissa (15:20) No, I love that. I absolutely love what you're saying. So I'm a big believer of pull the ball by its horns. I'm not sitting around waiting for no one, or else I'll be waiting around till I was in the ground. Matt Johnston (15:31) Indeed, yes, for sure. Karissa (15:33) You raised an interesting point, map tap into the US market. Now, speaking to a lot of people that I speak to and clients of mine are like, oh, I want to let's just grow in the US market, which is something that a lot of Australians look to to like, that's the next level up, that's the next step up. Americans are more willing to take a risk opposed to Australians. It's a very common knowledge. So I want to understand from you what advice do you have? So there's someone listening that's like, okay, I want to get into the US market. It's convoluted. There's a lot of rigmarole that goes on. What's some of your advice, considering you're already working with a lot of companies to do? Matt Johnston (16:06) That the first thing. And this sounds elementary because you can kind of read through any startup playbook and it's like, yeah, I know that, I know these things. But there's a difference between knowing them and truly knowing them at a core level and what that is, and to use the term, the Cliche is like product, market, fit. Who are your test customers? And let's just talk about Australia. Who have you tested on in Australia? Proof of concept, minimum viable product, whatever the stages of what you are trying to sell, like, where is your case study? What has it done? Show me the numbers. You know, I don't necessarily mean like, you know, the dollar signs, but show me the use case. Be really clear about this particular cyber security product or this particular product in general has saved company X $1 million per year by allowing them to do XYZ or stopping this many attacks or sniffing this particular packet or whatever the product is. Be really clear about not just what it does, but what it's saved and who's used it as well. And then the other thing that I see all the time, like as an advisor to startups and as an adviser to accelerators as well, and sitting on investment panels is a total addressable market. Matt Johnston (17:31) I see people with these lofty ideas about, well, my market is everybody because everybody can use this. And sure, that might be true in a certain sense, 8 billion people around the globe. But realistically, the market you're going to sell to is going to be very narrow and very deep, so very vertical. In other words, like, here is my niche. I know that my proof of concept has worked really well in this particular segment. I even hate using the term segment because it's just like, I want it to be narrow. I want it to be a sliver, like a really valuable sliver. Where your return, where the return on investment for the customer is absolutely massive. I could save them millions and millions of dollars, whatever the metric is that wants to be used and be really clear about that. And the market isn't everybody. And even if it was everybody, you're going to go broke trying to market to everybody. Cyber security, something that everybody can use because everyone's got a computer or an iPhone or whatever. But if we went after cyber security, solving a particular problem for veterinary surgeons to two, with privacy and medical records around dogs or whatever it is, but if you go after something that is really narrow and really deep and concentrate on that and prove it out and get the proof of concept, get the first customers. Matt Johnston (18:50) And then when you are coming over here, don't try and do everything yourself, which is what I did. And this is like how to fall flat on your face and fail hard. Don't try and do everything yourself. Run things in both countries, like find a partner here. Like I say, the pie is big and anyone who's listening, I can always help them find somebody or give them advice or whatever else they reach out. But it's finding the right partner, it's not trying to do it all on your own, it's not trying to reinvent the wheel and all of a sudden, you know, I'm not an Australian business person anymore, I'm going to be an American business person, which is, again, what I did. And like I said, talk about fail hard and flat on your face. Like, it took me years to actually understand what I was doing here. And so that would be my advice, is be really, really clear about who your customer is, product market fit and your total addressable market. Don't worry about everyone on the planet. You know, if it's a cyber security product for veterinary surgeons, just go for the vets. Matt Johnston (19:50) Don't even look sideways into pet stores or doctor's surgeries. Maybe in a couple of years, after we've achieved all we need to achieve with veterinary, then we can start looking left and right. Where else can we apply this technology, the cyber security technology. But just stick to your knitting, as we say. Be true to yourself about where it is your product fits and don't get distracted. Even if it looks like there's a big opportunity, just take what's in front of you and work really hard and just make that niche deeper and deeper and deeper, rather than wider. It's going to cost you a lot less, you'll have more chance of success and you'll very, very quickly amongst that target market. Get a real name for yourself as somebody who is solving problems and moving and shaking and do it with a partner. Find someone over here who can sell into where you want to sell or whatever that looks like. There's many, many things to do with that, but don't try and do all the heavy lifting to countries yourself, especially if you're a startup and you're bootstrapping. Karissa (20:47) Yeah, great advice, I love that. Okay, just say someone's like, all right, total desk on the market. I've got a very narrow way of looking at it. I've got a product market fit, I'm ready to go, it all cheques out. What happens next? What can people do? Matt Johnston (21:00) You look at who your customer is, who is it here who can help you reach those people? Is there something you've seen in the media where there's a similar problem here in that similar vertical that needs to be solved and is there a person you can reach out to? You could do that straight away. Obviously we're not talking about logistics of how do I set up a legal entity here or any of that kind of stuff. We're just talking about how do I make this work? And that's what it would be to be like finding the right partners or someone who knows how to navigate here in the States, like what it is that you're trying to do. And again, we also haven't spoken about do you need money, do you not need money? But especially if you need money, if you can find the right partner, distribute what you've got after you've shown how successful it's been in a vertical in Australia, I think that is a great way to go because then you're not trying to chase money and chase customers. You know, sure, you might lose a larger percentage to your channel partner, but it's well and truly worth it. Matt Johnston (21:59) I mean, channel partners make the world go around. So again, that would be my next step would be try to find like, who can penetrate that market for me after I'm really clear about what that market is. Karissa (22:10) Okay, so there's a couple of questions. Just so hypothetically there's a partner. So in terms of strategy or tactic, so if I'm a security company, I found the right partner, they're happy to distribute my product. Then after a while, is it then worthwhile that company here in Australia sort of landing and expanding in the US? Go, okay, got a partner, seems to be working. I'm now going to take a bigger step to actually having my own entity there. Is that sort of what you're saying? Matt Johnston (22:35) It could be. And it may be that you don't like maybe that you keep the domestic domicile in Australia. Obviously you can set up a company here, no problems. But if you were going to use someone to do the selling for you for a few years, that obviously be a contract under contract for a while, but you could eventually start running the sales yourself. There's so many ways that you can do a deal. You could do the sales yourself here after a certain period of time, depending on who the company was and how big you ended up being with them, that gives you more leverage to reduce what you're paying them to sell. Obviously that's a way of looking at it as well. If they weren't getting the results but you know that the market is right, then you could try another tail partner or sales partner or whatever it is that is needed. Of course, then you're looking at local support and things like that as well. Yeah. So it's quite possible, like, you could then transition and do it yourself over here, but you could also just come here three or four times a year if you don't want to move overseas, enjoy it and come to the States for a businessvacation twice, four times a year, oversee your operations and go back to Australia. Matt Johnston (23:40) Or in turn, you could come here and you could definitely launch what it is that you're doing. And also to the thing that I obviously haven't mentioned is it would depend on the metrics a lot too. It may make total commercial sense to say, okay, we've hit this particular level now and we're on our way to being a unicorn and we definitely need headquarters here, or we're trying to do another suite of products or a feature to the product we've got, or we need to develop something more. So we need capital. And you might be seen, after a period of time, the better way to get the capital is to come to the States and be domestically domiciled in the US. And then look for venture capital firm or whatever particular instrument you're going to use to raise money. That could be part of the equation too. So it may make total sense to move here. There really is no right answer. It's just like it's what suits the founders, it's what suits the business itself, what they're trying to achieve, how quickly it's grown, what's required in the way of liquidity instruments, money, whatever. Matt Johnston (24:43) So it's quite possible you could do any of the above to choose your own adventure. Karissa (24:47) So in the US market, if you're selling through a partner, and I'll give you an example in the Australian market, I've actually had someone this week say, hey, Katie, is this product, they're trying to do some market research on it. They're not based in Australia, they have no boots on the ground in Australia. And I said, look, if I'm really honest with you, if you don't have someone here locally, it's going to be a tough sell. No one cares, right? It's like we've got thousands of other companies that are here, they're showing up if they're working with their channel partners to actually get their product in front of a customer. If you're based overseas somewhere, it's a very hard sell. Is that the same for the US that you're talking about leveraging a partner? Because it's all well and good to say, all right, I've got a partner, but then I don't see these people because they're based in Australia, and when I'm awake, they're asleep and I forget about them. Is that the same, or are you saying that US partners are more inclined to sell Australian based software technology or anything like that? Matt Johnston (25:41) I couldn't say they're more inclined to. I know that the outside sales industry here is the force. Like people in that industry. Get paid well and they're hungry and they want to actually generate sales. Now, that having been said, there's so many different leaders to pull. For example, if you've done some sort of deal and the sales company in the sales rep channel, partner sales rep doesn't get compensated well for it, but it's not going to push you forward, but where you want to be. And I say this with all products, because you want to be that product, but there's nothing else out there that's like it. Everybody wants it. Not to say that it will sell itself, but that makes it easier. But I also do agree with you 100%, is that you do need customer service here. Got to have great customer service and support. The other thing that I've known companies to do is when they have salespeople here now, eventually they do train somebody to do the activations and the installs and everything. So this is not software as a service, but anything that needs customization, everything is going to the cloud, so it's becoming less and less. Matt Johnston (26:41) But anything that was server based, I've known Australians who will come out here and fly out here just for the install, because the customer is big enough and it's multi year contract and it's well and truly worth it. And then you get the principal or the founder coming out because he's the subject matter expert as well, to sort of make sure that everyone's happy and everything is flowing well. So that's definitely an opportunity. I think that the organisations here can probably handle it. And what you don't want to do, though, is place your product with a sales organisation or a rep or whoever, where they've got competitive products, like similar products that's just like one of many, you want them to be selling to your target customer. But you have been having the product that's unique, like it's something that solves a problem that no one else is solving. So you don't want to go with somebody who's already got a particular piece of cyber security software that is used that is similar to something that's already been used in that area. Karissa (27:37) Yeah, I think I hear your point. I think the challenge with that, so there's so many products out there, they're all going to be somewhat similar and if they're super unique, the market just won't get it, they're not ready for it. So I think that's a hard one. I think it's going to be specific to use cases. Some companies there only should be sold in smaller organisations like SMB Market. They're not for enterprise, some of the enterprise. So I think that I do get your point. I think that's the challenge, though, in the space when you're doing something that is unique that no one else has done, no one gets it and then no one buys it then because they don't understand it. Matt Johnston (28:10) Yeah, this is true. You're right, actually. Karissa (28:12) That is a challenge but I think that I'm just saying from experience of international players wanting to try to move into the Australian market, not as easy as people think. Just because we found a partner, we can't just automatically not going to resell all the time. They're probably reselling the people that got a relationship with that they're seeing, that are showing up in their offices they're having those twelve copies with and going surfing at Mermaid Beach or whatever it is this commonality between what you're saying there in the US as well. So I think that these are really key points to be able to understand. Just because you find a partner in the United States doesn't mean they're going to solve all your problems. Matt Johnston (28:48) No, I mean, it's universal, isn't it? You find like a technical cofounder and it's either going to be a complete success or a complete disaster or somewhere in the middle. It's a matter of trying, measuring, just measuring what you're trying to achieve and then move the game along. You just got to be able to manage that based on the measurements that whatever the metrics are that you're trying to use isn't working with my partner, is it not? And again, this comes down to an interesting point as well, that's not necessarily universal, but never rely on your feelings, always have a way to measure something because our feelings as human beings are usually incorrect. Karissa (29:29) How rude are those feelings making decisions for us? Matt Johnston (29:33) I mean, you've got feeling to be right sometimes. Karissa (29:35) So what I want to ask you now, Matt, is how can we sort of bridge further alignment between Australia and the companies that are being originated here to take them to the United States? Because ultimately we want to hear these success stories, we want to say it's an Ozzy back start up and now they're the biggest dog in the United States. We want to hear those stories. We don't hear enough of them. It's like maybe Atlassian, and that's probably it. Matt Johnston (29:56) Atlassian canva there's sort of some really big success stories, I don't know, but I don't think we hear about the ones who are just making it or have been successful, but aren't huge unicorns per se. Karissa (30:07) What can we do here to sort of like rally up with people in Australia and also people like yourself to get these companies overseas? Matt Johnston (30:13) Well, I think it starts with the drive and it starts with the network. Is it an organisation? I mean, there's a tonne of organisations like Australians in Los Angeles and Australians here in Australia's. There it's changing mindset, it's getting people together who have that commonality of mindset. We've touched on Talls Poppy syndrome, short Poppy Syndrome, which I think is hilarious, all those kinds of factors that make it difficult sometimes for operators in Australia. And we want to find the people who want other people to succeed, we want to put them in the same room or the same accelerator down there in Australia. We want them to be able to rise together and push each other. We want to be able to create connections with players here in the States, be it other businesses, be it consultants, be it whoever can help you achieve the goals and get to where you want to be. Is that funding? You don't need funding, you've already got the software developed. You just need to sell it in. So it's like it's looking at, what do I need? Where do I need support? Who do I need to support me? Matt Johnston (31:18) And am I surrounding myself with people who are going to pull from my success? Look at coworking spaces, look at accelerator programmes. Like, are they really pulling for my success or are we trying to be kept small and domestically domicile? That's just as a founder and that's what I'd be doing, is having a real hard look saying, where are the people who want me to be successful overseas? And you're one of them. And you know a tonne of people there in Australia and have a really broad listening base and a great client base as well. Like, I know your Positivity and the things that you and I share, very similar values and beliefs and the things that you believe in. It's surrounding yourself with people like you. It's leveraging the assets and resources that you, as Karissa Breen and KBI Media developed over the last five years. It's surrounding yourself with people who have got the same goals, even though they could be slightly different businesses. It doesn't have to all be in the one pot together. And for me also, it sounds like ridiculous, especially being 1980s and 90s Australia, it's being altruistic. It is taking care of the person beside you as well as yourself. Matt Johnston (32:26) Here's another thing that I learned, and I learned this at a young age in sales and everything, but never be afraid to ask. So I've met people and, you know, like, I'm essentially a nobody. And I've met people as, like, you know, we've had great conversations and we've become really connected and they've been founders and like, oh, I didn't want to ask you because never be afraid of the ask, like me or anybody else. There's definitely been times when I was sort of starting out ten years ago that I was afraid of the answer too, because I didn't want people to what's he going to think of me? Is he going to judge me? Is he going to say no? Sales is good training to be good with the no, because no just means no. It doesn't mean anything about you or your product or anything else. It just means funds not right for whatever you're asking for, but it's never be afraid to ask. Like, people listening, they have a question or they want to move overseas, they should ask you, they should ask me. They should ask whoever is in their circle who shares that same belief that they will succeed. Matt Johnston (33:27) And surround yourself with the right people and you will succeed. Don't be afraid of the ask. The worst you can get is a no. Human beings are wired that they love to help each other. Largely, of course, there's exceptions to the rule, but largely that's what it is to be human, right? It's all about community. That's sort of what consciousness and communication gives us, is we're not siloed, running around on instincts, although some of us are, but largely that's a huge difference. So get the people around you and don't be afraid to ask the people who know the answers or who don't have the answers but say, you know what? I'll always do? I don't know the answer to that, but I know someone who might or I'll find out for you. It's not being stuck in not asking or stuck in your own world. It's like get out there and really create something with other people around you, even if they're not in your organisation. Karissa (34:15) It's so true and I guess it sort of goes back to what you were saying earlier. Just don't wait around. I think a lot of people, Australians are very reserved, they wait around and I always say to people, like, what do you think is going to happen? Someone's going to come down from the sky and they're going to award you with something. It doesn't happen. You've got to go after it. No one cares enough, no one's thinking about you. Everyone's tied up with their own personal life, their own kids, their own business. You got to go out there and get a hunt for it. And I think that one of the key things that you should have said is your network. And that's something I always push to people, always be talking to people, helping people. I will go out of my way to help people. I feel like my own call centre in my own way sometimes. And I don't mind it, I genuinely I like it because I know equally people would go to their way to help me as well. So I think that you are right. We are trying to generate the right type of camaraderie here in Australia to know that, like I said, we can ask questions, we can find out someone in our network that may know the answer. Karissa (35:11) And there's usually one degree of separation. There's always someone that we know that probably then knows someone that we're trying to get to or trying to get an answer from. So I think it's just building up that network and that's incredibly key to succeed in all of these things that we've spoken about today. But if you sort of had to, I guess, summarise what we've spoken about in three key points that maybe people have listened to this episode, they're sitting back and they're reflecting on, okay, great points that match raised. What is something that comes to mind that people can sort of take away in terms of if they're contemplating moving to the United States, right? Matt Johnston (35:47) Well, I think the first thing that comes to mind is contemplating moving here or anywhere else. But the world is a big place and essentially, as far as I know anyway, we only get one life. So with that one life, go in the adventure that you want to go on. Don't think about the money. Think about what it is that you love. Think about what it is that lights you up. The first of all, just like follow your passion, follow your dreams. If your company and money is a vehicle to get you there, right, sometimes you got to just do that. You've got to work a job. But it really is knowing what your passion is and being willingness to go after it. Like you said, if you wait around, you'll be dead. They'll be planting you in the ground. And I mentioned to, no one's coming for you. No one is coming to save you. Superman doesn't exist. Like if you've got a dream, be it technology or a startup or whatever else, or if it's acting or any sort of entrepreneurship or even if it's philanthropy or whatever it is, doesn't matter, just go for that. Matt Johnston (36:49) Passion is the first thing. I think the second thing as well that we touched on right here at the end is partners. Don't be afraid to ask. And of course, there are bad actors throughout the world and it's a shame, but keep your own personal vibration high. Surround yourself with great human beings. My partner and I, she and I always talk about like, who are the five people we want to surround ourselves with? Like, choose five great people who you want to be seeing most regularly, who are going to raise you and make you be your best. If you've got an entrepreneurial dream, you might have a childhood friend or whoever that person is. But if they're going to sit around in their pyjamas all day on the couch and do something that's not productive, you can. Still love that person, but they're not one of your top five, because they are just going to be caught in that treadmill, in that cycle. So always try and elevate and put yourself in the firing line of people who have achieved things that you would like to achieve. I think that's number two. Just don't be afraid of the ask. Matt Johnston (37:53) Ask people for things. Even those people that I just mentioned, like the top five or whoever else, reach out to people, all you're going to get is a no. There's no two ways about it. And then I think, finally, to summarise again, this is not specific to the States, but really know your market and know your product market fit. There's nothing that counts more than that to me anyway. And don't overcomplicate things either. That's another great piece of advice. But no matter where you are, if you've got a product, you're an entrepreneur, you've got something you want to sell, you just know who that customer is. There was no venture money when I started back in the start of business, back in the so what we would do is find a customer, ask them what problem they needed to be solved. This had nothing to do necessarily with technologies, anything. And then you go out and you solve the problem for them or person while you tell them yeah, we can handle that and you got no idea how to handle. But you go out, you solve their problem, you come back to them and say this is the solution, this is how much it will cost. Matt Johnston (38:54) I mean, I'm a big believer in that too. Don't build things hoping that they will come find out what they really want. That's sort of my message there behind the product market fit, be it in Australia or the States, and .4 is you think the US is your market. Just look at all your options. Like it may not be setting up your own company here. It is a hard slog. I mean, obviously my friends and family in Australia immensely. I miss the Australian bush. You know, being out in the western New South Wales is always really dear to me and that stuff's not here. Here has got great things as well. But it's not that to figure out if that move is really what you want to do because there are sacrifices. It's not all fun and games or you can have a few year plan and then just go back. But the message is if you want to make it in the States, think about how you want to go about that. And again, that network. Surround yourself with five amazing people that raise who you are. Ask them what they would do. Seek people's opinions. Matt Johnston (39:58) Don't try and figure it all out in yourself because the best creations come through consultation and collaboration and communication wonderful well. Karissa (40:09) I think those are excellent points that you raise and I think that they are very key and tangible insights that people can take away today. So I really appreciate you, Matt, for coming on the show, spending the time to chat with me and sharing some of your knowledge. Matt Johnston (40:21) Katie, you're so welcome. It's always fun. Thank you so much for having me on and any time. Happy to add value where I can. Karissa (40:27) Thanks for tuning in. We hope that you found today's episode useful and you took away a few key points. Don't forget to subscribe to our podcast to get our latest episodes. This podcast is brought to you by Mercsec, the specialists in security search and recruitment solutions. Visit to connect today. If you'd like to find out how KBI can help grow your cyber business, then please head over to KBI dot digital. This podcast was brought to you by KBI Dot Media, the voice of Cyber.
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