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The startup lifestyle is freaking hard
Instead of the perfect startup fantasy you dream about, Jason Cross is here to point out the harsh reality you will face.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Jason Cross and I am a hustler. I am always hustling, looking for opportunities to pursue, closing deals and making money. I am the co-founder of Pocket Menu, Aston Club, Startup Hustle and MIkman. Currently, I am the chapter director of Adelaide’s Startup Grind. I also give advice to help startups get off the ground such as 'Boogiespot'. I fell in love with coding when I was 8, wanted to run my own business when I was 12 and dropped out of school when I was 14.

Living the startup lifestyle is freaking hard. Most of us mess up and fail. Many people keep telling themselves lies while living in fantasy land with the belief that as soon as they get over that one little hurdle they will become a big time entrepreneur. I am here to filter out these lies and tell people the harsh truth even if they don’t want to hear it.

 

What are some of the ventures you have worked on?

Mlkman approaches the food delivery business with a twist. People can use our app to order food and have it delivered to their homes. Our brand is here to deliver a really personalised experience because we really care about our customer’s experiences. We always call our customers after the delivery is done to see if they enjoyed the experience. Recently we formed a partnership with Yelp to offer even greater value to our users.

Jason Cross with Joe Nicolas and Chris Nicolas at the Advertiser rooftop

Aston Club is an app that allows users to easily pay their bar tabs or restaurant bills while earning rewards exclusively for members. This app helps hospitality businesses increase revenue, improve efficiency and enhances the overall customer experience.

 

What inspired you to create start up hustle?

There are too many so-called business coaches/mentors out there giving out bad advice. There are even clients paying lots of money to bad consulting businesses in hopes of getting more results. People view what I have done on my LinkedIn profile and ask me for advice. However, I still think I have not done enough yet to be the guy who people can listen to all the time. I created Startup Hustle with Luis Penascoza to give people practical advice on how to build their businesses. At Startup Hustle we practice what we preach and the past mistakes we made are shared so no one will have to experience the same pains that we did.

 

“I am going to be the asshole that gives harsh and negative criticism to people to separate the wannabes from the actual entrepreneurs. Once the startup hype wears off no one wants to be the crazy person who struggles to pay bills while working on a dying concept.”

 

What common excuses do people make when they don’t launch?

In my LinkedIn article I mentioned Bryan John, a non-tech solo founder who built and sold Braintree to Paypal for $800 million and yet I still hear people say how they can’t make it without a co-founder. Too many people believe successful entrepreneurs have unique advantages, which is false. This is why I applied and brought Startup Grind to Adelaide to show people that most successful people have started from nothing and hustled their butts off to make it. This is my way to move it forward to the next generation and accelerate their growth process.

 

Hustlesquad at Southstart with Luis Penascoza John Kevin Kamuchau and Josh Vas at 2015 South Start

 

What did you want to be when you were young?

I come from a family of seven and I am the eldest. When I was 6, I wanted to be a cop and when I was 8, I wanted to be a pilot flying Boeing 747's  for Qantas. After watching my dad as a young kid, I taught myself how to code. Coding left a lasting impression on me because of how much fun it was to create anything you wanted inside a screen. I was not the typical kid who sat all night long playing games. Everyday, I woke up feeling excited that I got to hack and code new things.

I have been teaching myself how to code and learn different coding languages ever since my dad gave me a book on access codes. When I was 12, I knew that I wanted to run my own business. My family is very important to me and running my own business gives me the time to take care of them while having the freedom to do what I want. I made my first income by building control panels and billing systems for American and Australian companies at the age of 13. I view myself as an artist where coding lines and software are my paintbrushes and canvas.

 

“Stop making excuses and just pull the trigger. Embrace your mistakes, find the courage to bounce back and overcome these challenges to get to the next level.”

 

What advice would you give to people who are interested to become entrepreneurs?

Learn how to sell

Right now, we are going into a freelance economy so regardless of those who want to become an entrepreneur or freelancer, you need be able to sell if you want to survive in the future. Even in a job interview, it is your selling skill that convinces people why you should be hired. The best way to master sales is to go out there to sell, face rejection, handle the pressure and improve after every pitch. If you can’t take rejection for a product you don’t even own, you won’t become an entrepreneur.

Jason Cross and Luis Penascoza at 2015 Startup Grind Event

 

I used to do door-to-door sales. Every two days someone would leave the team because they couldn’t handle the pressure. Most people would politely introduce themselves, get rejected and leave. I was not going to leave until people heard my pitch. They could call the cops if they wanted to. I wanted to be rejected on the basis of my pitch or if the product was not good enough. I am not out to get everyone to be my customer.  I am out to make sure that you at least try to be my customer and not just someone who swears at me and rejects me just because I am a sales person.

 

“Life is too short to always prepare for the next step that you are not even sure of. Just get to the next step.”

Give it a go

If you are interested in the startup career path, go and shadow those entrepreneurs and attend startup events to see if the vibe is right for you. Life is too short to always prepare for the next step that you are not even sure of. Just get to the next step.

 

Don’t marry your idea

There are way too many people marrying their idea. Once upon a time, I used to marry my idea. I felt like it was an extension of myself that would help me change the world. Ideas are everywhere, but good ideas are rare. If your startup doesn’t gain any traction in a year then it is just a hobby - kill it and stop wasting your time.

 

Don’t build the perfect product

People get caught up with building a product with tons of features and performs ‘perfectly’ without even talking to potential customers. My process is completely different. I build a very simple MVP and then go sell it to the customer. When we know that people will pay for it, we then go back and build the actual product.

 

“As an entrepreneur you will be on a roller coaster ride every week - sometimes I feel great, sometimes I feel pushed into a corner without a safety net while playing Russian roulette.”

 

Learn to do it yourself

If I don’t know some things, I will just go on Google, YouTube or Stack Overflow to learn about how to do it. Whatever you want to learn, the gold is already out there.You just got to mine it.

 

Find a relevant mentor

Find a mentor who has worked along the steps you want to work to get the most relevant advice instead of someone who worked in another field in another lifetime.

Talking to Jindou Lee-Founder of Happy Inspector at Startup Grind event

 

Pull the trigger

Stop making excuses and just pull the trigger. Embrace your mistakes. Find the courage to bounce back and overcome these challenges to get to the next level.

 

“The best way to master a sale is go out there to sell. Face rejection, handle the pressure and improve after every pitch. If you can’t take rejection for a product you don’t even own, you won’t become an entrepreneur.”

 

What inspired you to educate and promote the startup lifestyle?

I promote startup lifestyle because I believe in people and I want to help them reach their full potential. I find it really hard to quit on people. People just need someone to be tough with them to get better. I am the kind of guy who will throw you outside in the cold while being out there with you to and help you do whatever it takes to keep yourself warm.

I am very optimistic and love seeing the sparkle in people’s eyes when they discuss their new ideas. But I am going to be the asshole who gives harsh and constructive criticism to people to separate the wannabes from the actual entrepreneurs. Once the startup hype wears off, no one wants to be the crazy person who struggle to pay bills while working on a dying concept. What amazes me is people who stall with their idea and fail to launch successfully. They sit inside their comfort spot while chalking out strategies and future plans without actually getting any customer feedback.

 

“If your startup doesn’t gain any traction in a year then it is just a hobby. Kill it and stop wasting your time.”

 

What is your entrepreneur lifestyle like?

When presented with a bright road versus a dark gloomy road, I will always take the dark road where thugs beat me up and rob me for all that I have. As long as I can remember, I feel that I am here to fulfil something bigger than myself. By overcoming challenges I get stronger. Just like you get stronger by lifting weights in a gym, when you are too strong you can lift a car just for fun. I see opportunities all the time while most people can’t and it is actually pretty bad for me because I get an itch to exploit it.

No one else builds software and hustles like I do and that is why I have been getting a lot done. The world we live in is not perfect and working towards perfection is like a dream; yet, I will still keep trying to get closer to it. As an entrepreneur, you will be on a roller coaster ride every week. Sometimes I feel great and sometimes I feel pushed into a corner without a safety net while playing Russian roulette.  Needless to say that my payoffs are much higher than most people’s. I really don’t care about what others think about me. I am who I am. If you don’t like it then move on because I already have people who love me and I am not out to make everyone love me.

 

Creating another episode for Startup grind with Luis Penascoza

 

What is your plan for the future?

The inner workings of all these software products are pretty much the same and so by making  little modification to its functions and user interfaces, I can become the on-demand guy who spins out all these new businesses quickly. Mlkman is expanding to other cities and we see the company being in New York this year.

 

What is your view towards the SA market?

Bad. Adelaide has so much potential with some really cool things happening but it hasn’t been able to reach its full potential. With its small community, people here they are too afraid to try because they don’t want their failures to be known by others.

 

“Many people keep telling themselves lies while living in fantasy land with the belief that as soon as they get over this one little hurdle they will become a big time entrepreneur.”

 

I have a great entrepreneur mate who is very influential and has made massive positive contributions toward Adelaide’s startup ecosystem but is still unable to change people’s mindset. He ended up leaving the city he loved because it does not have the right environment for him to reach his potential.

There are too many big organisations out there believing that they are set for life. Why would they need to take the risk to innovate and improve? They are like big rocks stuck in the sand, feeling cozy and not willing to become better even if people don’t like their products.

The venture capitalists are currently not actively investing in tech startups because they don’t have enough faith in them and are unable to see the potential impact these products bring about. They are waiting for a few startups to achieve sizeable success in order to make sure it is safe to go further.

The only way Adelaide can improve its startup ecosystem is by having more people going out there and just doing it without asking for permission. All it takes is for the first person to make the move and the domino effect will follow.

To know more about Jason's exciting new ventures, please follow him on Twitter.