Deep blue leads to deep thoughts on the Venturer Program

03 August 2017 • 4 minutes

Written by Eban Escott

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This July I was lucky to be included in a fantastic opportunity called the Venturer Program. Created by the current QLD Chief Entrepreneur Mark Sowerby and run by the man who landed the Best Job in the World gig, Ben Southall; The program is a seven-day mission to the Whitsundays designed to take 20 Queensland entrepreneurs and corporate executives out of their comfort zones and instil in them the qualities that they need to survive and thrive in the competitive world of startups.

What Does Resilience Mean To Me?

Resilience is about not letting the moment get the better of you.

To paint a picture of a resilience moment that I experienced during the Venture Program I’d like to start with a story.

It must have been day 4 and I was partnered with the wonderful Sharon Hunneybell a.k.a The Pocket Rocket and General Manager of Opmantek, for the open ocean kayak adventure. Sharon was in the back of the kayak which is where the foot controls for steering the direction of the kayak are located. We were rounding the headland, and it was the biggest surf we had seen so far, 3m overhead at least. We were about 40 m’s offshore when suddenly the steering mechanism released meaning Sharon could no longer control the kayaks direction! Sharon had a moment where the panic could have set in, but instead after a quick affirmation that she had this; was able to re-adjust the pedals and steer us to safety. After that we powered through the waves and this major win reinforced my beliefs on resilience.


Knowing One’s Limits

In Aaron Birkby’s awesome article he questioned whether we would be broken and rebuilt during the adventure. While we were not broken, we were definitely tested and became stronger because of it. Like many others including Steve Baxter and Wayne Jerrad, two of the incredible speakers for the trip, I have a military background. During my time in the army I was broken and rebuilt and discovered what some of my limits are. I can now recognise the internal signs and understand the boundaries better if or when I come close to breaking point. I can approach the situation with knowledge of how to handle it better.

For me resilience is about realising each and every moment is temporary. There is always a bigger goal that requires an ability to stay calm and always drive forward even when there is a lot of pressure.


What Is The Venturer Program?

Spearheading the organisation of this awesome program is Mark Sowerby, the current Queensland Chief Entrepreneur and all around champion of Queensland’s startup scene. Backing up Mark and Ben were other leading active participants in Queensland’s entrepreneurial ecosystem: including Shark Tank’s Steve Baxter and celebrity chef Matt Golinski. The Venturer Program is a really exciting and original idea and I recommend giving it a go. You don’t need to be a startup founder to apply, but you do need to be active in the Queensland entrepreneurial scene and open to discussing and improving your entrepreneurial attitude.

I always say when you ask someone to do something, you’ve got to be willing to do it yourself. I want my awesome team at Codebots to be brave and to always be ready to try new things. So that means I have to do likewise. To me, that’s what being a startup founder is all about. The Venturer Program is about giving it a go, growing as a person, and in turn becoming a leader.

The Venturer Program and The Office of the Queensland Chief Entrepreneur are part of the Queensland government’s $420 million Advance Queensland initiative, a collaboration between entrepreneurs, industry, universities, and government to harness the Queensland ideas and create new businesses and verticals.

Just last month Sydney Morning Herald contributor David Wilson published an article about me and Codebots he titled ‘Leading by Example’, talk about turning on the pressure!

My Main Take Away

As an entrepreneur and a father I understand the time constraints we all put on ourselves, trying to be in two places at once and not miss anything important but it means there is no time for deep thought.

This trip provided me with an opportunity to make face to face connections, really get to know a number of people in a way that is just not possible with all the “noise” created in part by the various devices we carry around everywhere. As a founder of tech startup, I especially valued the chance to connect face to face with like minded peers and leaders. It is so important to me that moving forward we learn how to work alongside technology without forgetting the value of human interactions.

The safe atmosphere free of phones and other devices, that was felt amongst the cohort meant people could share ideas and thoughts they had previously never spoken aloud. In the wise words of Baden U’Ren it takes a community to raise a startup (thanks big spoon!).

Overall given the nature of the adventure and the experience of going off-grid, if I had to describe the style of the trip, I’d say it was more James Bond than Bear Grylls! We had open ocean kayaks, maxi yacht racing, helicopter rides to the outer reef, mountain peak hiking, and giving back with eco beach clean ups and visiting sacred Aboriginal sites of the Ngaro.

The Venturer Program gave myself and my 19 fellow adventurers a chance to get off-grid and put down the phone, tablet, and laptop. I cannot emphasis enough how important it is to every now and then go off-grid and give yourself time and space for deeper thinking.

The next adventure has been announced already and the next destination is Tasmania. The time and money is well spent and the value I got from participating in the Venturer Program was unbelievably great. Massive thanks to Ben Southall for facilitating the adventure, Mark Sowerby for the amazing opportunity, Salty Dog Sea Kayaking and Explore Whitsundays- Sailing Adventures for the awesome experiences, and all the other venturers for the amazing friendships.

Eban Escott

Written by Eban Escott

Founder of Codebots

Dr Eban Escott received his Doctorate from UQ (2013) in Model-Driven Engineering and his Masters from QUT (2004) in Artificial Intelligence. He is an advocate of using models as first class artefacts in software engineering and creating not just technologies, but methodologies that enhance the quality of life for software engineers.