Always determined to find a better way, David Whitfield has won several CleanTech and Green Globe Awards for his innovation and contributions to clean energy. His newest company, Geepers, is yet another groundbreaking initiative that hopes to make navigation easier by creating a new digital address system.
How do you take your coffee?
Rarely. There’s enough going on without coffee!
Do you have a favourite quote?
My favourite quote is definitely Thomas Edison – ‘If there’s a way to do it better, find it’. Most start-up ideas are that in itself, they’re finding a better way to do something. It describes what we do in innovation.
How did you originally develop the concept for an electronic address book?
I was sitting in a factory car in China and the driver refused to move until he programmed his GPS. So he was on the phone to the next driver, yelling at each other, arguing with one another, and I was sitting in the back thinking there’s got to be a better way to do this. And Geepers was born!
How did you transition from the great idea to the app? What was involved in the process?
Basically we put the idea together, documented the idea, went round the three F’s (family, friends and fools), raised enough money to start the process and the idea grew. When we raised $265,000 and had subscribers in four days we knew we were onto a good thing. Eighteen months on and we’ve just launched it to the market. There are a lot of things to work around but I’ve learnt how to deal with it a bit better now and stress a bit less. You need to be able to step back and listen to what’s being said to change or tweak the direction based on what you’ve been told.
What was your biggest oversight with Geepers?
Our initial development probably wasn’t supervised close enough. We included a mapping platform and built it into our program before we realised it wasn’t available in China, which is one of our core markets. Simple little things like that. It’s the biggest mapping program in the western world, but it’s never going to work in China. Sometimes you make assumptions when you should never make assumptions. You never stop making mistakes either, so don’t beat yourself up about them, you learn from them.
Have you ever had a mentor who helped you get to where you are today? What did they teach you?
I don’t believe you can ever build a start-up alone. Particularly as a young person, and probably even more particularly as a young woman. You’ve always got to have that support and structure around you, people to bounce ideas off, but again you’ve got to make sure you have mentors who understand the start-up process. A good mentor in a start-up environment is one that, even if they don’t fully understand what you’re doing, they give you positive advice even if it might not be what you want to hear, but it will help you move forward.
What advice would you give to other women and men looking to create their own start up companies?
Go for it! You might need to change things because you are listening to what’s being said but don’t ever stop just because someone says you can’t do it. Pivot when you hit a roadwork, but you’ve got to have faith in your vision. That’s probably the hardest decision you make as an innovator, whether to push ahead or listen and change directions. That’s when you talk to a mentor, or three or four mentors!
WORDS BY Lauren Piggott. You can sign up to Geepers online here. If you want to get ahead in your career like David, sign up for our personal mentoring program here for access to our supportive network.
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