A month into classes, students at the University of Sydney have adapted to early mornings, all-nighters and caffeine jitters. With deadlines and mid-semester exams looming, Mandelbaum residents took a night off on March 27 to welcome David Vitek to Mandelbaum House for our second formal dinner of Semester One 2019.

David Vitek, started his career as a software engineer at IBM before eventually launching a start-up with Roby Sharon-Zipser, now known as hipages. Focusing on the home improvement sector, this incredible venture fittingly—and like many successful start-ups—started in a garage. It has a business-to-consumer model that involves providing homeowners with access to tradesmen to fix home problems.

Vitek explained- “We started hipages because we noticed that it was so easy to buy a product anywhere in the world online, yet it was still hard for someone to find a good tradie in their local area.”

Fast forward nine years and they had over 40,000 tradies listed on their directory and had entered into a partnership with IKEA, locating tradespeople who could help customers install their cabinets and kitchen benches. In 2017 over 100,000 jobs were posted on hipages every month and the company had over 100,000 tradespeople listed. This generated $2 billion of work for Australian tradespeople.

The night was also resident Kacy’s 18th birthday, so after introductory announcements the night started by singing her a happy birthday in over 10 different languages. Then resident Thomas performed a magnificent acoustic rendition of American Tune by Paul Simon. This was followed by a brilliant meal served by Chef Robert and the amazing kitchen and wait staff.

After dinner, David Vitek talked to us about how to be a successful entrepreneur. We learned that hipages was carefully planned out, effectively solved a problem and had a large enough market to grow a successful business, but that when you have a business you need to keep innovating if you want to continue to grow.

After his presentation, he was showered with questions from residents. Two questions stood out:

  1. What is the most important characteristic of a successful entrepreneur?

The response: “passion and resilience”—because you have to be passionate or you will never want to accomplish the impossible, but you also have to be resilient and keep trying, even when things are not going your way.

  • As an entrepreneur, when did you realise you made it?

The response: “I’m still making it. Every now and then I look up and think, oh, look what I’ve created, but then I just get right back into it.”

After thanking David Vitek for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk to us, we finished up by celebrating Kacy’s birthday again—this time with cake.

Article written by Darryl Young (Mandelbaum resident) Photos taken by Qingyuan Mei (Mandelbaum resident)