Majoran Distillery, Silicon Beach Drinks Co-founder: Michael Reid [Interview]

This is a video interview with Michael Reid, co-founder of Adelaide tech co-working space; the Majoran Distillery, as well as the popular monthly networking event; Silicon Beach. This interview is also the first episode of a new project I’m starting where I interview Adelaide entrepreneurs.

Find all the relevant links over here. Transcription after the jump.


Nick: Welcome everyone to the first Adelaide Entrepreneurs video interviews. This is a new, sort of series of video interviews I’m going to be doing with entrepreneurs from Adelaide about sort of what they’re doing, how they got started, some of the challenges they’re facing, some of the wins they’ve been having and this is the very first one, which is also going to go out on the podcast.

Now, my guest for this week is Michael Reid, a co-founder of the Majoran Distillery co-working space in Adelaide and also organizer of various events, including what’s become fairly popular, our Silicon Beach Drink Meet Up. Good day Michael, welcome to this show.

Michael Reid: Hi, Nick. It’s good to be here. I’m loving the concept and it’s pretty awesome to kick it off with you, so awesome.

Nick: Good to have you along. Let’s get started by, how about you just tell us a little bit about yourself, a little bit about your background and how you sort of got into this entrepreneurial thing.

Michael: How much time do we have?

Nick: Well, give us a quick version.

Michael: Yes, a very quick version.I have done lots of things I haven’t enjoyed most of them and like what I’ve been doing lately is chat at the canteen. What I mean by that was a lack of down loss kind of crowded dead end jobs, like helping grannies in the shower, health care and that sort of thing, pretty gross. So, I ended up as a chartered accountant. Not a big fan of that either but it’s the excellent skills that I have. You get an appreciation for a balance sheet, which is a pretty good skill.

Last year, the start of 2012, kind of about this time there, was a start up weekend that David Trum and Aaron Prunken organized and that just kind of sent me off on a completely different tangent and the end result was hanging out with Chi and Win and we set up the space and now things are just kind of ticking along and we can’t wait to just ramp them up.

Nick: Awesome, awesome, that’s good, that’s fantastic. Now, Aaron, I’m going to be having him hopefully, I will be talking to him later in the podcast, in the video. So, about start-up weekend, can you tell us a little bit, just a briefly about what start-up weekend is and how did you, what made you want to do the start-up weekend thing?

Michael: Well, basically you have to go. When it comes out next, you have to go. It’s just the best, like it’s not easy at all, it’s quite challenging, quite hard but it’s the best thing ever, that’s my experience. How did I hear about it? That is a good question, I can’t remember. Last year, 2012 was especially a code year. There is the code academy that kicked off 2012 and I’d been chatting to people and sick of accounting and was like “Yeah man, I’m gonna be a coder” like that’s the thing and so, somehow that ended up you know, on the internet you know. You find stuff online and the way you go but I do remember kind of hesitating oh should I do it? Shouldn’t I do it? And all I can say is, it’s an awesome thing to do. So their weekend itself, what happens is Friday night, people would get together and they pitch ideas.

Anyone who has an idea just gets up, pitch ideas like, you know, I’ve got an idea for an act that you rate public toilets around Australia you know, just crazy ass ideas and then just naturally change form and then build them. And then there’s a handful left, about 5 teams left on this Sunday and then the teams pitch and there’s like, kind of, we then now declare, like the most kind of, whoever kind of proved their concept, that this could actually work the furthest. Whoever’s got the furthest down that road in the weekend and maybe they had some awesome looking – this last weekend, that was in November, like guys had put in stuff up in the apps store by the end of the weekend, which is just like awesome.

Nick: I was a little bit, I was kind of thinking about going to the last one and for some reason I decided against it and now sort of regret it but the next one, whenever that is, I think I’ll have to sort of jump in there and at least see what it’s all about and have fun with it. I’ve talked to many people who’ve done it and they didn’t win but they met some great people out of it and they’re still doing, they’ve formed companies or at least they’re networking with people and getting some ideas flying so.

Michael: Yeah, like it gets you in a completely different head space, like it’s speeds, like it’s a condensed version of everything in real life. It all happen like you just get shot on by – all sorts of people will come in and just tear your idea apart. You have to get up and present, which is like always sheet scary, so that’s cool and then you get, the whole weekend you’re just hanging out with cool people. I guess for me, the coolest thing was, like I realized there wasn’t completely mental, like there’s other people out there with a similar kind of mindset. That was kind of the most reassuring thing.

Nick: Yeah, I see what you mean. It’s nice to meet people who are doing similar things to you, as opposed to your regular friends who look at you and think you know, what are you doing? You should probably chill out you idiot, what are you doing? And then you got to talk to these people, and oh yeah I’m living in this tiny apartment. I’ve got no money and I’m doing these apps and da, da, da, da. This guy, I can relate to. I can understand where you’re coming from there. Let’s talk a little bit more about the Majoran Distillery. How long ago did you guys start that? First of all, who were the founding people that set that up?

Michael: There’s William Loyer and then Chhai Thach and then myself. We all met at that first start-up weekend. So, Chhai has the kind of tech background and Chhai and I were working on his idea of start-up weekend. I had to let mine go so, that was the first thing and then we just, through the weekend had met William a couple of times, had a few chat and then afterwards Chhai – we had, I think there was four of us in the team on the weekend. One was from overseas, so she was going back overseas anyway and there was this third dude. I think his name is David but anyway, after the weekend, Chhai and I were just amped, and we were like, let’s do this shit and David, believed to be younger, like he just basically jumped on a plane and went travelling and did all cool stuff that you should do back when you’re younger.

I hope he’s still travelling. I hope he’s still out there. I look forward to catching up with him soon. So, Chhai and I went off and we went to build an app you know, and to make a killing and it was hard but we kind of, we’d had regular kind of scratch apps and we’d had kind of regular – we stayed on track to a point and then it got to the point that, how do we kind of take this more seriously? How do we keep real? We need kind of dedicated space and then there was the Tomorrow’s Studio that the State Government had put together a few years ago.

By the time we’d basically found out it, it was ranking down. So, then Chhai now asked, what do we do now? And that’s when we kind of came up with these nuts of idea, let’s do it ourselves, and just yeah complete nuts idea but we stuck with it. Chhai had his, I think it’s a former boss of his, kind of friend, had this office space that was potentially available, so we checked it out. We did a blog, where we put the word – there’s this Facebook group that kind of formed around start-up weekend you know. Hey dudes, anyone, dumb enough to kind of let’s go rent this office together? And in August, we kind of opened the doors in Pome Street and then people liked the – it was a really shitty office, like it was the ugliest financially pooled stuff out of Adelaide City Council, like storage like this ugly warehouse that stunk like rat piss. It was gross. We rescued, all the chairs that had black, do not use, broken on them. We found office chairs and we stuck them all in a room, some crappy table, stuck them all in a room and got some wifi and people actually came back, which kind of spun me out and they paid money for it. So, we pretty quickly kind of assessed that yes, this could actually work. Let’s go find a decent spot to do it and by the end of the year, we had found the Grenfell Street place, which needed a little bit of work.

We did that with the help of everyone that had kind of formed around the space, that you know, a bit of team effort, like the whole thing is a team effort. Chhai is the absolutely guy, like he doesn’t give a crap and he just goes for it. I feel so happy to be able to be working with Chhai and that massive team effort, like for everyone, like all the members helped clean up the space at Grenfell and then on December 10, I think, we opened our doors and it’s just kind of growing from there.

Nick: Yeah awesome, I can’t remember when I first met you guys probably out at the Silicon Beach events. First, which I will talk about a minute but, when were your thinking of setting up the space and had the idea? Were you already aware of co-working spaces in to stay?

Michael: Yeah, I guess we were like, because we were kind of searching around and found Tomorrow Studios. I guess we were, we knew about fish burners being awesome and we knew about how Melbourne – but I don’t [Inaudible 00:11:55] but on the internet, you’ll find shit pretty quickly and you know, if you get inspired and so yes we did. We were aware that it is kind of a growing market. I think we contacted, Chhai even contacted the hub organization over in Europe. I mean and we ended up having coffee with some woman that was even more than nuts than us.

She had, she didn’t have anyone else but she just have this idea of a huge hub, start like general co-working. We wanted to do tech because we want to hang out with the people that inspire us and this woman just wanted just open a hub with general one, like a massive – and we just kind of looked at each other was like, she’s… I hope, all the best to her but she just had no one to do it with and I don’t know where she is now. Hopefully she’s not stuck in some dead end job and she’s doing something that she enjoys.

Nick: Yeah, [Inaudible 00:13:06] and go for it. It’s interesting, since you guys got set up there is quite a few co-working spaces that’s been popping up. It seems a lot of [Inaudible 00:13:15] so…

Michael: In Adelaide? Yeah.

Nick: Absolutely. It seems like a growing market as you say and also not just sort of the tech start-up space that you guys sort of positioned in but there is a creative writing or creative sort of space and there’s gonna be a new one, which is more general, which is the hub one?

Michael: Yeah. So, since we opened up, we basically popped up on the radar of State Government and we had a few chats with them because there was the young leaders, the worm or something, whole bunch of people, like young people got in a room and just support as a duty and some leaders, Government type people in the room and their purpose was, lets tell the Government what young people need to get shit happening in Adelaide and a co-working space was kind of the end result of that.

So, Chhai, William and I get the thing happening and soon enough we were kind of sitting across the table from some guys in the department, talking about what we’re doing, which was pretty cool and then, but then, you hear stuff and by the end of the year, you hear Hub Melbourne just about to open Hub Sydney, have been invited to come and scope out Hub Adelaide, if that makes any sense at all.

Nick: That makes perfect sense. It all seems to be growing and happening now and as far as I can tell, it sounds like there’s no sort of competition. It doesn’t feel like a competition between the different spaces, it’s more like a collaboration and stuff like that.

Michael: Absolutely. You say the word co-working to someone in the street or like your mom and they just kind of stare at you blankly and you know like just get a real job, what are you talking about Michael? So, like the market, the potential for it is huge. The market is very small and so, the more people that come in, especially kind of larger play like a hub, that Caroline is awesome, just like motivated and switched on and got the experience from Melbourne and now Sydney.

So, they be out come in and kind of help us just raise the profile of co-working and kind of like, we still like text up. So, in my mind we hang out with all the new entrance into tech co-working market, which is awesome, and that is Nick Duncan, who is doing that space out on the parade, which is gonna be really, really cool. I’d caught up with him. He’s a young Chartered Accountant as well or I’d say CPA, American CPA. He’s an awesome dude, he is working with his dad on their business, which is just going really well you know. So, yeah and I met Rob from CoWest.

So, you’ve met everyone but things can happen – like more than happy to do it, like co-working, like it’s not office working. Its working with other people, like working independently with other people, like you’re sitting across from someone. Usually, people would ask if you’re kind of plugged in to the matrix because they’ve got their headphones on and then just like coding away but if you are sitting opposite someone, it’s inevitable that you end up chatting to him and then let this magic happens. So, it’s very difficult to leave without something cool happening. It’s jus, yeah it just gets me excited to be a part of.

Nick: Yeah and I’m not a, I’ve been there several times just before events and stuff and seen people in there chatting and also working and stuff. So, I think for people looking for a space where they can go and get their business started or sort of work harder on their business, I think it’s definitely something they should check out. Where’s the best place to go to find out more information about the co-working space?

Michael: Well the internet. Check out majorandistillery.com. Probably you can Google it as well and so then that’s just got like a little blog that we try and update regularly when we get time and then pitches of and just about the space but basically, that’s one way. The best way is just walk up, just come in, bring your laptop, just try out co-working, meet some cool people, like just get into it. Friday is our kind of open house day.

Half day, you know just bring your laptop in the afternoon and just try co-working at no cost, but really, just like just fucking do it whenever you got the chance. Just come and try it but the intention with our space is, like initially, if we just get a whole bunch of people together, that would be awesome but the more that is going on, the more that we’re going like… Chhai and I were talking like holy shit, like this is awesome, that this space is not just about bringing people together but it’s about helping people get to the next level in their, whatever they’re doing.

So, for some people, like the next level is just like getting out of their bedroom – that’s not me. That’s you? For some people, their next level is just getting out of their bedroom, like meeting other people realizing you not nuts. That’s the next level and that’s cool. Some people, the next level is having a dedicated space, so those sign up for memberships and for some people the next level is meeting mentors and I [Inaudible 00:20:04] and that sort of things. So, those people are definitely hanging around the space and we’ve got Shane Cheek there, who is VC, just being awesome, resource for all the guys. Since we started, we’ve had some kind of contact from people that I really, like investors that are really, really keen to know what’s happening in there, like guys from [Inaudible 00:20:29], that sort of thing.

Nick: Yes, it’s also a great way to expand your network it sounds like.

Michael: it’s just like we were just getting started like we opened the doors in December for the real space, like it’s just getting started. We can’t wait – start-up weekend the, start-up last year like inervised is happening like things are happening in Adelaide and it’s just gonna get better.

Nick: Awesome, Awesome. Let’s talk a little bit about the Silicon Beach meet up. Does this pre-date the distillery or was it the same time or how did this fit into the whole thing?

Michael: That did. This did pre-date the distillery. I guess it would be kind of the end of 2011 when I’m starting to think about like the accounting [Inaudible 00:21:38] and then do something a lot like computers. How do I know do that? And there’s this awesome resource codes Silicon Beach, which is a Google group, set up by some guns over in Sydney but I think in how the business is set up, now like he’s the guy, alias that start up the house in Silicon Valley. So, I think he’s based there now but it’s basically a Google group, where you can just go post all your questions, has awesome people from all around Australia on there you know.

All the guys from Fish Burners are on there, people that have headed over to the valley and are building their businesses over there, like Jeff Mc Queen. He’s very active on there. He does this awesome SAS affinity live product, everyone is just there helping each other out. I walked up in 2011 just, reading lots of stuff, too scared to actually say anything but I noticed there was meet ups around Sydney, Melbourne. I think Brisbane was starting on. I introduced myself like, hey I’m Michael in Adelaide, like is there anyone else on here and Jingo Lee put his hand up yeah, let’s meet up. So, we organized and we had about 30 people walked up for the first one, which was really, really cool. So, Jingo was like a big catalyst for the Silicon Beach here in Adelaide and then we went to the regular thing and so, I thought that now, we can hold an app to this theory in like a dedicated space for 5 years and [Inaudible 00:23:37] Bobby on some [Inaudible 00:23:39] and just get everyone together.

Nick: Yeah fantastic! I think I like the first one I kind of like too, Silicon Beach was maybe midway through 2012, and I’ve given it to everyone since because it’s great, fun, great bunch of people. It’s a few drinks, usually a Thursday night? What’s your schedule…?

Michael: First Thursday of the month, so the next one is, I think it’s the 7th of March. I think is the next one and so, that again that would be add out space. If the weather is still perfect we’ll be hanging out on our balcony, so come along.

Nick: Absolutely. I definitely recommend anyone who is interested to come along and I’ll be there. Michael will be there as well as a bunch of other very interesting people. I want to sort of finish off interview with, just want to, what are some of the advantage, you’ve already gone through a few of them but what are some of the opportunities and advantages that you’ve gained from sort of getting out there and doing this these things like the events, which mostly not really self serving it. It is more for the community and the Sili which is enough for profit so, it’s not for your direct gain profit wise. So, it’s more for the community but what are some of the benefits that you guys have gained from doing this space and the events?

Michael: Definitely, the biggest one is just meeting a stack like too many to name awesome people but it’s just really, really cool but like we went over to – when things start to get a bit real, like we try and all kinds of okay, this thing is not gonna happen and so try… I was still working fulltime. We try and went off to Melbourne to check out [Inaudible 00:25:42] and Melbourne York Butter Factory so, he met a stack of awesome people over there and then back in December, we both jumped on a plane and head into Sydney and met the guys at Fish Burners, ATP, Innovation, Pass, or whatever it’s called.

Amazing place and Blue Chilli, and all the people there are just switched on and they’re just going for it. Just very inspiring and then there is other people in Adelaide that we’re getting to meet. We had a piece in the paper, which is a bit mental and like Allan Noble who is like Director of Google for Australia for anyone that doesn’t know. He lives in Adelaide but obviously flies to Sydney a lot. He contacted us, hey guys, what are you guys up to? Which is just fucking awesome, so having coffee with him is awesome and then, all sorts of other people that Adelaide City Council has been really, really helpful. So, just meeting all these people on all sorts of, on the whole spectrum who want to help people and it’s just, that’s inspiring and then so that’s been that the biggest benefit? I guess the other benefit has been, what has been the benefit, like I don’t know.

Nick: The experience I guess, of doing it?

Michael: I guess the experience as well has been another benefit, like I get to add something on LinkedIn you know, that ha, yeah, it’s me. I struggle with the word entrepreneur, I don’t think I’m entrepreneur. I think I’m just nuts and I enjoy hanging out with people and I like to see people get together and I like to see people working together but there is a little economy that’s actually forming inside the distillery, which is really weird, like it just makes me proud.

People that working in there are like graphics, some dude like Daniela. Hey, man, your shit’s awesome and they kind of spread work internally, which is really, really cool. So, that is a huge benefit if you are thinking that joining, yeah, that for me. For me the biggest thing, is just having something that I’m inspired by, like when I was working full time as an Accountant last year like I was in a very dark kind of unhappy, space so, very dark.

Nick: I mentioned there is a lot of people, in a job that they made not enjoy that much and perhaps still like there’s no way out, so, it’s just kind of an inspiring story really. You were in a space where you didn’t really enjoy it but now you’re kind of in a wilderness, it’s not oh, sort of, it’s not a path that’s set down for you that’s gonna guarantee riches but it’s exciting, it’s interesting, and you’re obviously enjoying it.

You are obviously seem very passionate about what you’re doing, so it’s really an interesting story and something that someone else can hopefully draw some inspiration from, to sort of get out of their dead end job and enjoy whatever they’re doing just for themselves. What does the future hold for you and the space and for start-up saying, at Adelaide generally? Can you give us a few thoughts on that?

Michael: Massive, like massive, Chhai and I like William, is still like a full time lawyer. I’d say he is still very helpful and awesome but he’s a little bit in the backgrounds of the basics. So, sorry William, like you know I don’t mean to leave William out of any conversation but in the space like he’s being kind of trying hard, doing a lot a lot of this ground work, the executive stuff. Williams, lucky you get to see strategic, at the top. Like what does the future hold like Chhai and I want to go full blown with the space and we would love to get more start-ups in the space. Everyone talks about start-ups in Adelaide, they are out there. You know, most of the ones that are out there now are already established somewhere the sharing office space with other start-ups or they are a part of partners you know, in some plush, kind of set up, so our space is probably not suitable for them.

That – things like [Inaudible 00:31:11] and just general, like the more people there are getting excited, the more shit’s gonna happen and so, the future is way awesome. People are excited about what’s happening in Adelaide now and that’s gonna build. Like Shane Cheek’s trying to raise his BC funds like you know. So, he’s a local guy and he’s trying to raise funds for local start-ups. So, the future for startups for Adelaide is awesome. It won’t be long before we do have some kind of instagram moment here in Adelaide.

Nick: Awesome, no definitely. So, anyone wanting to get into it, get into it now, so you can take advantage of that growth and grow with it I think is probably a good take away from this.

Thanks for very much for coming and having this interview with me Michael. It’s been really interesting chatting with you and a great guest.

Michael: Thanks Nick. Hope I didn’t dribble on too much.

Nick: No, no.

Michael: I look forward to meeting all your viewers at Silicon Beach at the space, like seriously just drop in. Let’s get a cup of coffee, only good things can happen from that.

Nick: Awesome and we have already mentioned the Majoran Distillery website. Where can people go to connect with you? Are you on some social media? Where is the best place?

Michael: Yeah, I’m on social media. I do have a Facebook because I’m a chatter [Inaudible 00:32:50] background, I’m more into LinkedIn. I’ve been hanging out on LinkedIn for a while, which is really cool if you need to meet the right people. So, hit me up on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. Not too many people in Adelaide seem to jump on the tweets.

Nick: There is a quite a community of twitters in Adelaide in the social media circles but I’ll put some links in the show notes for this show on our website, webmarketingadelaide.com.au but also under the video on Youtube as well. So, anyone who wants to go check out you on LinkedIn versus the social profiles and also the Majoran Distillery website, all links will be there.

Thanks again for coming on the show and hopefully have a good one.

Michael: Thanks, Nick. I’ll see you soon!

Nick: Cheers.

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