Rebekah is a serial entrepreneur who has played a lead role in the disruption of two industries: music and hospitality payments. She is innovative, energetic and passionate about driving change. Rebekah writes extensively about entrepreneurship in her column for AFR ‘Boss Magazine’ and held a fortnightly column with The New York Times from 2013 – 2015. She was named APEC’s Young Woman Innovator in 2013 and a ‘Women of Influence’ in 2015.
Rebekah’s latest company ‘Hey You’ is Australia’s largest mobile ordering and payments platform for cafes and quick service restaurants. Hey You enables customers to discover and build relationships with store-owners, order and pay via their mobile phones and gain loyalty instantly. The app is used by 350,000 Australians, 1000 local café owners, processes more than 130,000 transactions per week with rapid growth and recently closed a $10M investment round led by Westpac
Rebekah previously worked as an entrepreneur in the music industry where she pioneered new business models that revolutionised the relationship between record label and artist. Her company ‘Scorpio Music’ developed the careers of some of Australia’s biggest stars: Evermore, Katie Noonan / George, Matt Corby, Operator Please and Lisa Mitchell. In 2010, Rebekah launched a technology platform that enabled music fans to earn income by promoting concerts online. The business grossed over $2 million in sales in the first 18 months and later sold to Future Music
Rebekah’s current focus is on the future of work. She serves on the NSW Innovation and Productivity Council and has conducted extensive research into labour market trends, the attributes of high growth firms and what determines the successful development of innovation hubs and precincts. Rebekah has a particular interest in improving the career guidance services provided to students and those looking to change career.
Rebekah serves on the advisory board of Kidpreneur, an organisation that teaches 8-12 year-olds how to start businesses and previously as Chairperson of Chapel By The Sea, a large community centre providing housing, wellbeing support and childcare at Bondi Beach and as advisor to Oaktree, Australia’s pre-eminent youth-led development and aid foundation.
1. Master of Disruption:
Music was one of the first industries to be disrupted by technology. Rebekah played a lead role as a top artist manager and independent label owner through the industry’s most transformative years. Music transitioned from a business with high barriers to entry; producing records was expensive and promotion on radio and at retail was controlled by the major labels.
This was the climate in which Rebekah launched ‘George’ – featuring Katie Noonan – Australia’s most successful independent band of the time. She worked to build a groundswell of support by touring and connecting with fans one-on-one. She empowered fans to contribute towards the band’s artwork, photography and website building a community groundswell and momentum. George’s album ‘Polyserena’ debuted at Number 1 on the National Album Chart and became one of the biggest sellers of 2002.
In this talk, Master of disruption, Rebekah shares her story navigating the music industry through rapid change. Barriers to entry tumbled as technology enabled anyone with a laptop to make high quality recordings, promote their music online and monetise on iTunes and Spotify.
Similar disruptive forces are now affecting all aspects of commerce. Technology has enabled anyone to build and launch a mobile application, as cheap software has broken barriers to opening and promoting a small business. Rebekah discusses how new products can find and engage with early fans and build momentum by turning these fans into evangelists.
She highlights trends of disruption across multiple industries, uses this information to predict future shifts and shares how businesses can thrive through uncertainty.
2. Entrepreneurship and Innovation:
Rebekah has surmounted difficulties to develop two technology businesses.
It’s been a hard path and she provides a frank account of her journey, complete with challenges, mistakes and discoveries. Rebekah shares a few key errors she made in the first six months of her life as a technology entrepreneur that couldn’t be rectified and still haunt the business today.
She discusses how she tried, failed and eventually succeeded in building technology teams both here and in Manila. How she developed networks of advisors that enabled her to raise $12 million from Angel investors and VC funds in Australia and Silicon Valley. She drove constant innovation across all aspects of the business, striving to find product market fit over several years, often with deteriorating cash reserves and team energy.
With a business partner, she successfully led a merger and acquisition of two other businesses (Beat the Q and E-Coffee Card). She rolled three services into one product (Hey You) and combined teams and shareholder groups. She was prepared to think big in order to win a market.
In this talk, ‘Entrepreneurship and innovation’, Rebekah discusses the brand story behind ‘Hey You’ and how other successful platforms such as as Airbnb and Uber have built durability through community and brand affinity.
Rebekah also covers ‘Agile development processes’ and how start-up teams employ agile techniques to iterate fast towards a long-term vision. For more on agile process see Rebekah’s AFR column on the topic.
3. Corporate Innovation:
Rebekah developed an investment and sales partnership with Westpac to accelerate the growth of Hey You and help expand start-up innovation and practices at the bank.
Rebekah has an entrepreneur’s perspective on what it’s like for a small start-up looking to forge a mutually beneficial partnership with a major company.
She battled mixed political agendas and lengthy processes to successfully launch Hey You ordering and payments inside the Westpac banking app.
Rebekah has developed considerable expertise in negotiating pathways at Westpac to get things done. She learnt to overcome a risk averse culture and drive action. In 2015, CEO Brian Hartzer invited Rebekah to present to his executive team at the end of year wrap.
In this talk, ‘Corporate Innovation’, Rebekah discusses how corporate Australia can better engage with the start-up community to drive innovation and cultural change in their organisations. Rebekah outlines the risks of engaging incorrectly with small companies; large companies often kill early stage businesses without realising the harm they’re causing.
Rebekah has worked as a start-up entrepreneur in partnership with a number of large companies and is a passionate advocate for the benefits that entrepreneurial thinking and start-up working practices can bring to corporate Australia.
4. Women in Tech and Finance:
Rebekah has written extensively on the unique challenges and advantages for women in technology. In Australia, just 4% of technology entrepreneurs are women and Rebekah is passionate about addressing this imbalance for future generations.
‘Hey You’ is backed by more than 80 Angel investors – none of whom are women. Rebekah shares how she has overcome challenges of building a technology team as a non-technical female founder and raising capital in the male dominated venture capital market.
Rebekah has strong views about how we can improve the ratio of women in technology. She is passionate about ensuring young girls see women role-models in a range of careers and has led public campaigns to promote women in leadership and science roles in the media.
Her articles on women in technology subject have appeared in The New York Times, The Australian Financial Review, Women’s Agenda, Fast Company, Business Insider and BRW.
Leaning in can be uncomfortable (NY Times)
Can a female boss successfully manage a chauvinist (NY Times)
Calling out casual sexism in the office (AFR)
Business and babies (AFR)