Startup Story: CEO David Smith

Startup Story: CEO David Smith

Cheryl Mack, Head of StartCon CEO David Smith on Gen Y and eating your own dog food

David Smith, chief executive of, says he’s fired up about how good Generation Y is doing in business.

He says people are out there giving it a go. In startups, in small business, and in freelancing.

“It is awesome that so many people are out there having a crack at starting something on their own.

“Another thing that has me fired up is the availability and quality of talent coming through. In my short time at Knokal I have been able to hire a uni student who has gone to Stanford to study entrepreneurship, my content manager is studying a masters of journalism and my junior dev is 20 years old and has been coding since he was 10. How can you not love growing a business of superstars like this? The much maligned Gen Ys are killing it.”

Knokal is an online marketplace for small businesses, startups, and lone wolves, based on building relationships and connecting people with the right other people, and has just hit 1000 members. And Smith believes in a mantra he calls “eating your own dog food”.

Knokal’s target market is also making its product.

“Our first hire from Knokal was our SEO guy Andrew,” he says. “He was able to spend a full day with my developer walking him through how to put the right meta descriptions and keywords and things like that. You don't get that from using a large agency or someone who is on the clock.”

Another reason this generation is doing things differently and well, he argues, is the change in economic structure.

“When was the last time you heard a big company announce hiring increases? Compare that to how often you hear about job cuts or offshoring of roles.”

The climate has changed and jobs aren’t jobs for life anymore, unless people create jobs for life for themselves.

“I don't want to start a generational war but this generation is supposedly the first generation that will end up worse off than their parents. So why stay in an economic structure that doesn't benefit them?”

So, Smith says, Generation Y has created its own structures.

“The switch to a different economy is already beginning. And if big industry isn't going to hire everybody than small business will pick up the slack.”

People look at Gen Y and think they’re lazy, but in reality they’ve created a system in which they can work hard for the hours they want, and create a life around work.

“The opportunities to be able to flexible are only going to increase as technology gets better. Free tools like Trello, Insightly, Knokal are giving people epic tools to help create something of their own easily and affordably,” says Smith.

“I also think Gen Ys are easy to manage provided you see yourself as a coach rather than a dictator. The stereotype that you give them a gold star for turning up is ridiculous and doesn't reflect the reality. Give them the opportunity to grow and do interesting things and they will create things they never knew was possible.”

Smith says the Knokal product is continually changing and growing, and that’s fuelled by Generation Ys.

“We are about to undergo a redesign of our front page, which a Knokal member is doing. Our SEO, marketing agency are all coming from Knokal.”

So, in conclusion:

“Why do I have faith in Gen Y? Because I have some great ones working with me. They are educated, they are willing to learn and they are ambitious. They want to achieve and they don't necessarily follow the traditional paths.

”Take Mark Zuckerberg - he went for it. But I bet his mum was a little disappointed he left Harvard. Not a traditional career path but he ended up OK.”