OMG! An Interview with mentor Rab Heath


Written by Elyse Wyatt, Tauranga Startup Weekend organizer


As a Community Activation Coordinator at Auckland’s new innovation precinct GridAKL, entrepreneur and TGASW mentor, Rab Heath is surrounded by his fair share of high tech startups. He has mentored or competed in multiple startup weekends and has formed several companies. Rab champions the importance of collaborating with like minded others and forming a great team, and recently partnered with Vaughan Rowsell (founder of Vend) and nanoscientist Michelle Dickinson (AKA Nanogirl), to found OMGTech! an initiative to get all kiwi children access to amazing technology.


Why is entrepreneurship important to you?

Simply, it enables you to have freedom to work on things you want to be working on, and building something of value, not only for yourself but also potentially for others. And through that value creation if all goes according to plan (which will usually not be the first time) it gives you the freedom to be able to do what you want outside of a working perspective. That’s really important to me because I get bored really easily, and going to work a 9-5 just doesn’t work for me.


What are the elements of starting a business that get you most excited?

Two things. The first being the ability to work with other people and build amazing teams. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and I think finding people who compliment you and you compliment them allows you to do things you could never do by yourself. That’s why teams are so exciting, because you don’t just get a one plus one, you get a multiplication of your skill-sets and capabilities. That enables you to actually do amazing things.

The second one is the ability to create actual value for the world. You are doing new things and taking risks that others aren’t by going into the unknown. You might not earn any money. You might fail. But from that you have the opportunity to create something new the world hasn’t seen, or touch someone’s life or peoples lives in a way that makes things better for them. I don’t think you can really do that in a normal job.


What are a few important things you think entrepreneurs should know?

The first one is the one you have probably heard already which is – you are going to fail. But it’s not a bad thing. Through those failures are where the learning is. You don’t really learn anything from winning, you don’t learn anything from succeeding the first time, and if you want to get better and if you want to make something and you want to make a product or service which is really awesome you’re going to have to learn the different things your customers actually want. Its not what you want, its what they want that matters.

The second part of that would be: don’t start alone. Find someone who compliments you and build a team. Also, find amazing mentors. Almost anyone who knows more than you will, within reason, want to help you if you go to them and say “hey I really, really have a huge amount of respect for you and I’m wondering if you could give me advice from time to time about what I’m doing.” Also, being coachable is inherently important.

Now that you’ve got your concept, and remember that its just a concept. The first thing you need to actually be focusing on is testing those assumptions of value creation. As part of that you need to forget everything you think you know and actually test your hypothesis. Don’t be emotionally attached to your original idea, and be humble enough to realize that you may have been wrong and you may need to pivot as you go. That is probably the most critical thing in becoming successful and actually selling a product.


How can you help TGASW participants?

With a background in digital marketing I understand the process of testing, optimizing and scaling online campaigns for digital products. I have a background in sales and sales processes so understand how to approach people and make a sale from start to close. I can help with market validation, so identifying what your main value proposition is and how to test it as rapidly as possible and then iterate on the learning. Actually validate your assumptions and create value for a customer.

Specifically for startup weekend, I can help with how to prepare the learning from everything that you’ve done – identifying an opportunity, creating a product, market validation and actually putting it together in a way that communicates the value you are creating for your prospective customer. Then delivering it well with a great pitch deck and a great pitch.


Why should someone who has a business idea attend TGASW?

If you have had an idea and you have been sitting on it this long, its never going to happen unless you actually go and do something. This is the perfect place to go and test it. You are surrounded by amazing people who are all willing to take risks, and we are a product of our environment. If its not something you normally do this is an opportunity to be surrounded by people who are going to encourage you and support you trying. If you fail you will have people that are going to encourage you to get up and try again. You have amazing mentors around you, and most importantly you are actually going to learn the entire process in a short period of time that, from my experience, is more valuable than any degree.