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Tech & Fashion: the Aussie tech entrepreneur making waves in the USA

James Alexander catches up with Ryan Junee to talk startups, tech culture on campus and what it takes to create a successful company.

Ryan Junee is a serial entrepreneur who has made a living creating innovative products. Graduating with a degree in Finance and Computer Engineering from the University of Sydney in 2002, Ryan has been involved with startups and product development ever since he left University. Every time you use YouTube you’re using part of a product from Ryan’s first successful startup, famously acquired by Google in 2008. Yet, Ryan is unknown to many students at the university. James Alexander caught up with Ryan as he launches his next product in New York.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a fashion technology startup called Inporia.  We just launched a mobile fashion app at New York Fashion Week named Kaleidoscope (currently available on Android and on iPhone).  I’m splitting my time these days between Silicon Valley and New York.

How did you start your first company, Omnisio, and did you have the idea while at Sydney University? 

We started Omnisio originally with the goal of building a platform for putting educational content online.  I didn’t have the idea while I was at Sydney University, but rather while I was at Stanford.
I definitely had a bunch of other ideas while I was at Sydney University but didn’t end up pursuing them because I wanted to apply to grad school and move to the United States.

Tell us about the Google acquisition of your first startup in 2008? How did that feel?

Our Google acquisition was certainly unplanned, and it came as a surprise that they were interested in acquiring us so quickly, less than 12 months after starting the company.  We had a series of meetings with them where it was clear they liked what we had built and liked the team, and so the discussions pretty quickly turned towards acquisition

Out of your peers at the University of Sydney, were any of them involved in startups? 

A few of my peers at Sydney University have since moved over here to Silicon Valley and started companies.  I joke with one of my friends that he followed me over here because he has followed a pretty similar career path.  I’ve also met Aussies here in the alley that turned out to have gone to Sydney University around the same time I did, although I didn’t know them at the time.  So there was certainly a small group of entrepreneurial minded people at Sydney University at the time, we just weren’t so public about it I guess.

 Did anyone teach and/or promote tech startups as a career path for entrepreneurial students? 

Tech startups certainly weren’t promoted widely as a career path.  It was probably only one of my lecturers, Matt Barrie, who talked a lot about tech startups since he was starting one himself.  In fact I joined him as the first employee after I graduated.

Will you move back to Sydney in the future to mentor local startups?

I love mentoring and offering advice to passionate entrepreneurs, and try to do my part to help build the startup scene in Sydney through initiatives like StartMate, and guest lecturing at an entrepreneurship class at Sydney University.
I can’t say for sure yet when I will move back to Sydney.  I plan to be in the US for the near future growing Inporia, and will probably start or invest in a bunch more companies after that – whether that’s in the US, Australia, or somewhere else in the world I’m not sure yet.

For students currently with their own startups, what one piece of advice would you give them?

The best piece of advice I have is ‘just do it’.  Honestly, you will learn so much more by building a product and putting it out there, and getting feedback from real users, than you will be sitting in your room and wondering what might happen.  It’s so cheap to build and launch a software or web startups these days there’s really no excuse not to!  This is why students with technical degrees have such a huge advantage – they actually have the ability to build the first version themselves rather than having to go and find or pay someone else to do it.

This reporter is on Twitter: @shortino29