Ghacklabs Sharks

Our tech blog is starting to get a lot of exposure. So, we thought it would be cool to run a startup sales experiment and be totally open about it.

But first, here’s a little backstory.

Last year, I helped a lot of startup founders in the Australian startup community, mostly for free. If you asked me to put a number on this, I honestly couldn’t tell you.

One Sydney startup recently raised $1M – and, before they got funded, I helped them out by getting them some press. I just sent out a couple of email introductions to some reporters that I knew, and they got featured.

I also chatted to a lot of Aussie founders about their startups by phone, Skype, over Facebook Messenger and email. 99% of the time, I didn’t charge people and just helped people out because it’s nice to help people.

And, wrote about over 200 Aussie startups. It was really cool as I got to meet almost everyone in the tech community in a really short time.

Recently, Paul Bennetts wrote an article that struck a nerve.

Paul Bennetts From Spaceship Struck a Nerve (And It Could Have Been the Push I Really Needed)

A couple of days ago, Paul Bennetts from Spaceship and Airtree Ventures recently published an article about how TripAdvisor focussed on profitability and user generated content. Here’s an excerpt from Paul’s post:

“On a whim, Kaufer also allowed users to post their travel reviews on When the company saw that these user reviews were getting all the traffic versus curated articles and travel information, they adjusted to focus on user generated content (UGC).

Three months into launching this new model, TripAdvisor was earning $70k per month and achieved breakeven. Incredible. The team had found a pocket of profitability on the interwebs, while every company around them in the dot-com bubble was imploding.”

And, this got me thinking …

If I switched my focus from helping out people for free to charging them – the revenue I could make would help me to grow my little startup projects a lot faster.

I’m just a guy. I have a two-year-old daughter (who’s almost three now), and my wife works full time, while I stay at home and take care of our daughter. I cook, clean and pretty much do everything.

Ghacklabs Interviews, Are Getting Featured Everywhere (I’m Shocked, Thrilled And Speechless)

Some of our interviews have been republished on over ten news publications.

The first time this happened I was shocked, excited and speechless. Here’s a screenshot from my post on Facebook.

Ghacklabs Everywhere

I got so much positive feedback and support from a lot of people. My heart was literally beating so fast.

Ghacklabs Post

I did suffer a backlash from this as well. The sheer excitement of this temporarily ‘blinded’ my focus for a few days.

The good news, I survived.

A day or two after, Paul Towers launched Task Pigeon, and our interview saw Task Pigeon featured everywhere. I’m really happy for Paul!

Introducing, a Startup Sales Experiment

After giving things a lot of thought, we’ve decided to offer ads on Ghacklabs (sponsored posts and content promotion).

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a few people ask me to post stuff to social media, interview them, get startup help, introductions and many other things too.

I’d love to help anyone I could – there’s no greater reward than helping people because you want to, not because you’re looking for something in exchange!

But, I realized that I can’t do everything. And, I think it was Paul Bennetts’ article that sent me a ‘wake up’ call. (Paul, if you’re reading this, thanks mate!)

If I help everyone out, my projects will suffer, and it’s important to also take care of my family.

So, every Monday, I’m making it my routine to focus on generating revenue. This will help me to grow my projects at a much faster rate, and get more things done.

Or, another way to look at it … I’ll hopefully be able to achieve more.

Full Disclosure on Our Startup Sales Experiment 

We’re going to spend 1-2 hours every Monday to see if we can earn additional money from advertising on Ghacklabs.

And, we will be picky about ‘who’ we do choose to advertise or promote.

How are we going to do this? Targeting.

If you take a look at Startup Daily, Startup Smart, or any sponsored advertisement in email newsletters, people are looking to grow their business.

An example of a perfect person to advertise could be MYOB as they recently sponsored a women-in-tech series on Startup Daily.

Startup Daily

So, our assumption is that these types of businesses could be the perfect candidate to advertise on Ghacklabs. And, being transparent with pricing is important as it builds trust.

A Sales Experiment by Roy Nassar, Using Trust

When Roy Nassar, Founder of PDHQ first started out in real estate, the market was booming. Agents were undercutting each other on price to get more business.

After some trial and errors, he created an ascending fee scale that was fixed. For example $300-400K, he charged $10,000.

By charging a flat fee, this made sellers happy knowing exactly what the price was and generated more revenue.

Coming to Grips With Reality (Growing Influence is Awkward)

In the Australian startup community, generally, people respect people that are successful.

This means founders with an exit under their belt (Kim Heras), a startup that raised XZY millions (Ben Sand) – or a product that has gained significant traction and is kicking ass in sales (Jane Lu).

But for me, I don’t fall into any of these categories. I’m not a Kim Heras. I’m not Ben Sands, and I’m not Jane Lu.

I’m just me. A guy bootstrapping at home with a vision. I’m making do with the resources that I have available because isn’t that what startup founders are supposed to do?

I previously worked on (over 800 votes on Product Hunt), (a JFDI startup) and have a growing social following.

I don’t have any exits under my belt. Instead, I have a growing influence, and it feels ‘awkward’ to be honestly blunt with you.

On a personal level, I really don’t know how to deal with this. I figure, if I just keep my head down, work hard, I will get there.

I don’t know if that will be in six months, one year or two years – but I do think I’m heading in the right direction.

Who knows? After PayPress and Ghacklabs launch, things could change very fast.

And, those investors that are watching me, keeping tabs – may suddenly pounce on me … all at the same time. Kind of like the ‘Red Wedding’ on Game of Thrones.

It’s hard to come to grips with it all once. Growing influence is a really strange space to be in.

Key Takeaway

There is no greater thing in the world than to help someone in need. But, it is also really important to make sure you generate revenue. With revenue, you can do things at a much faster pace.

If you’re in this in-between stage – and your influence is growing but you’re not a Kim Heras, Ben Sand or Jane Lu – It’s a really strange and awkward space to be in. Sometimes it’s hard to come to grips with it all the requests at once.

I haven’t made it yet, but with a little luck, perseverance, determination and support, I may just get there.



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  • Paul Towers

    Hi Luke,

    Another great article. As someone who also speaks to a lot of startups founders/people in the startup community I can definitely say that you have a growing influence in the space.

    Pretty much everyone I speak to has at least heard of you (or more often than not, spoken to you previously).

    I think this blog and everything else you have worked on in the past shows that you have given freely to others for some time now. Turning on some form of monetisation is a natural progression and the value you add/can bring to the startup through the press coverage and PR you secure is very valuable.

    Good luck with it, I’m sure this next phase of your journey will be a big success.


    • Thanks mate : ) Will run some experiments and it will be interesting to see what happens this year.

  • Nick Foster

    I like the idea of curated advertising. As a reader, if I know you believe in a product (because you’ve *chosen* to feature it, even if you did get paid), I’m much more likely to pay attention than if it’s just a generic banner ad. What I’m trying to say is, I think your model is a good one, and I wish you the best of luck!

  • Rhiannon

    Great article! It’s definitely interesting to be in that position – a lot of ‘influencers’ I know have had a hard time adjusting from creating valuable content, to creating valuable content which is revenue-driven. Just like you mentioned, it also often happens at once, whether you suddenly fall in a new bracket of Instagram followers or if you’re featured in certain places that instantly boost your cred. It’s a great direction to be heading in!

    • Thank you so much Rhiannon. I’ve found it’s a really strange spot to be in (and was uncertain if I should write about it or not), in a way kind of glad I did as it helped me to share my thoughts.