After years of teaching MBA students at UNSW and undertaking her own PhD in strategy, Jane Qiu recognised a clear market demand – coffee. This wasn’t regarding the physical product itself, but rather everything that happens around a coffee.
That includes the people having the coffee, their topic of discussion, the time and place they meet, and the expectations and outcome of that meeting. Jane was inundated with requests from students and alumnus for introductions to have coffee meet-ups with academics, business leaders, strategists and more.
Jane shared her observations with James Behzadi, her husband who was a Data scientist at Qantas. He saw the opportunity to digitise this “coffee” idea and founded Kintell in May 2018. After supporting James financially with her full-time job for a year, Jane also decided to leave her academic role and became a Co-Founder of Kintell.com.
Recognising a market need for peer-to-peer knowledge sharing
“Our ultimate goal is to make wisdom and knowledge accessible to everyone, regardless of their background and income,” explains Qiu.
The Kintell business has now expanded to NZ, with more international expansion plans ahead. As well as seeing demand among her MBA students, Qiu empathised with these requests from her own experiences after moving to Australia from China.
“As migrapreneurs – migrant entrepreneurs – we both experienced how keen we were to learn from people around us,” says Qiu. “People don’t have the spare time to give advice. But lots of people are willing to make time for a small fee.”
While the original business idea was to build an app that arranges coffee catch-ups, the ultimate goal was to go global. Consequently, the couple landed on a video-based solution that is globally scalable.
Taking a strategic approach to hiring
Qiu’s background in strategy, business and management, has enabled her to use these skills when she works with the team to design, build and scale the Kintell platform.
Qiu says, “The internet is getting mature, so customers have high expectations of the quality of the product. They will immediately expect high standards of a video platform, so we couldn’t just build something quickly and launch it. It makes sense in theory, but not in practice.”
As Kintell scales and continues to expand, Qiu explains from her experience that start-ups should take a measured approach to assessing whether they should source the knowledge from platforms like Kintell, outsource the work to a freelancer, or hire a full-time staff member.
Qiu leverages strategy frameworks from her own teachings to build skills matrices and maps.” For know-how you don’t need every day, consulting advisors on Kintell is the way to go,” Qiu explains. “You need a map of the importance of the skills and how frequently you need them.”
Qiu also said the Kintell co-founders don’t look at formal qualifications when searching for talent. Instead, they focus more on personal values, skillset and capability.
About the expert
Jane Qiu is the co-founder of kintell.com, and her focus is on community development, team building and strategy. Jane is also an award-winning MBA educator who has been teaching International Business and Innovation at AGSM (UNSW) for near a decade. Before her startup journey, Jane was a faculty member at UNSW Business School with a research focus on workplace mindfulness and international strategy, and have published numerous studies in international journals. Before migrating to Australia, Jane had worked in China as a business consultant and foreign direct investment specialist.
Image description: Headshot of a woman from the waist up. She has long dark brown hair behind her shoulders and is looking at the camera. She wears a black top with Kintell written in white.