Podcast delves into start-ups

Yarraville resident Lara Chan-Baker is a co-host, producer and narrator of Duct Tape. (Supplied). 253307_01

Victoria University and Startup Victoria have launched a podcast in which they interview start-up founders about the realities of growing their businesses in a global pandemic.

The Duct Tape mini-series features 10 episodes in which co-hosts Lara Chan-Baker, Hannah Gee, Jordan Gianfrancesco Judy Anderson and Poppy Trewhella talk to the founders.

Duct Tape began as a magazine and its podcast series is being referred to as “issue two”.

The podcast talks to people from a wide range of start-ups including Mindset Health, a business producing hypnotherapy programs to manage a number of health issues like including anxiety and Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Swoop Aero, which works with partners such as non-government organisations to deliver medical supplies using drone technology.

Startup Victoria chief executive Judy Anderson said that each Duct Tape episode told a unique and inspiring story.

“The interviews capture the true spirit of tenacity as start-up founders share insights into how they tackle the unique challenges that arise when you’re building a business from the ground up,” she said.

“Collectively, the founders featured in Duct Tape issue two have generously shared an enormous amount of invaluable insight and along with Victoria University, we are extremely proud to have been a part of their journey.”

Yarraville resident Lara Chan-Baker chats to Star Weekly about the podcast:

What have you enjoyed about being a narrator, producer and editor of the project?

It’s a genuine privilege to get to tell these stories. We’re asking a lot of the founders, to open up and reveal the toughest, realest moments in their startup journeys. So making sure they feel comfortable and supported and confident that we’re going to tell these stories the right way is a big responsibility that I take seriously. It took a lot of work to get it right and I’m just so happy with how it’s turned out. Working with Startup Victoria and Victoria University has been a dream, too. It’s not always as a producer that you get to really control the whole creative process from top to tail – everything from logistics and scripting, to editing and artwork – so it’s incredibly exciting to finally share this project that I’ve put my heart and soul into, with help from a truly brilliant team. Most of all, though, I’ve enjoyed getting to know these inspiring founders. Every one of them is just so inspiring and capable, and yet so normal – it really makes you feel like you could start a successful business too, and that’s what I hope people take away from this.

It sounds like you and the others have put a lot of work into Duct Tape. Did the pandemic impact upon how you could organise the project or conduct interviews?

Ahhh, the pandemic. It did indeed. We actually started working on this way back at the beginning of the year, but right when we were ready to start recording, we went into lockdown. We had decided early on that we ideally wanted to record face-to-face – in my experience it makes for a better interview and really helps everyone relax and get in the zone, plus it gives me more control over the recording from a technical point of view. So lockdown put things on hold for a while and even when it was lifted there were still indoor mask requirements, which aren’t great for sound quality, as you can imagine! So we waited and waited. We were lucky that we finally managed to record almost all of the interviews in our sound studio in Cremorne during a brief lockdown and indoor mask break, but when lockdown struck again (with no sign of lifting for a long time) we decided to do two of them remotely. But we’re all about duct tape moments of course, so we just changed tack and recorded those online with the help of a few special tools. Of course our wonderful hosts and guests were able to make the most of it and it came out great, especially after some post-production magic to erase the background sounds of dogs barking and fans. I don’t think you’d be able to tell now which ones were done remotely – perhaps I’ll give a prize to whoever figures it out!

Do you have a favourite moment from, or aspect of, any of the podcast episodes?

That’s a really tough question! Overall, my favourite thing is just how honest and vulnerable everyone was in letting us in behind the scenes. In startup world, you spend a lot of time trying to conceal those things so that investors and potential customers see your business as totally flawless. So it’s a big deal to open up like that and something that I think is really valuable to hear. It’s not about pointing out flaws though, it’s about helping everyone realise that we’re all a bit messy and scrappy and facing tough stuff – that’s just how it is and with a bit of creativity you can recover from anything.

I think there are very different lessons to learn from each of the episodes. Everyone’s journey has been so different. For me the ones I could relate to the most were the technical mishaps – where technology just goes haywire and chaos ensues. I’ve been in a few of those situations myself (including during the production of this podcast) and they’re so stressful at the time, but it’s very reassuring to see how much everyone can laugh at those moments looking back.

If I had to pick one of my absolute favourite stories, it has to be one that Eric Peck (CEO of Swoop Aero) tells in the very last episode, episode 10. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but let’s just say it involves the Democratic Republic of Congo, witches, and drones, and quickly handling a problem that I don’t think anyone could have foreseen!

How did you and the others find businesses to feature in the podcast?

Both Startup Victoria and Victoria University are really deeply embedded in the startup scene, so they have huge networks of entrepreneurs that they speak to and work with regularly and they drew from that pool to find the perfect mix for this podcast. We had a range of criteria we wanted to meet and we wanted it to be a really diverse mix in all aspects – the founders themselves, the types of businesses they have, the stage the business is at, and so on. Of course, they’re all based in Victoria, but beyond that they’re so different. You’ve got a business helping people grow their own food, a medical device that measures seizures, a company that helps small businesses protect themselves from cyber attacks, to name just a few – it’s a wild mix. We were so lucky that everyone we asked happily agreed to be part of the project and trusted us to help tell their stories.

Would you like to add anything else?

The name of the project, Duct Tape, is a funny story. Originally we started as a magazine – Issue One came out in December 2019 – but it was actually called something else. I can’t tell you the original name, because after months and months of hard work, when the mag was finally at the printers ready to start rolling pages off the press, we received a stern letter informing us that the name we’d chosen was actually already taken by another magazine. We were already past deadline and so had about 10 minutes to change it to something new – cue a lot of stress and swearing. Someone on the team piped up with this brilliant anecdote they’d heard about how NASA astronauts on the Apollo 13 mission (the one where the oxygen tank exploded on live TV) had cobbled together a fix using, among other things, duct tape. It made us think about how duct tape is this super common material that we’ve all got in the bottom drawers of our kitchens and how it’s so often used as a last-minute fix when something goes drastically wrong. Duct tape isn’t sexy or elegant, but it works, it keeps things going. It was the perfect name for the stories we tell. So we super quickly changed the files to have the new name, got it printed, and Duct Tape was born. All this time later and it just fits us so perfectly I couldn’t imagine having called it anything else.

See ducttaped.co/ for more details of the podcast.