The Mining Hub (TMH) is the love of Sean Mitchell’s life. Any conversation with Sean, about any subject, will be irresistibly pushed towards TMH over the first few minutes.
If Sean isn’t in a hour-long conversation about TMH, he’s not happy. So getting him to talk about TMH’s launch today was pretty easy.
TMH launches today, so Sean can finally begin to reap the rewards of his long and arduous journey. There’s undoubtedly a long way to go yet, his customers will let him know where he has to go next, but at least they’ll be paying him to go there now. It’s been very touch-and-go getting this far, but Sean should explain that to you himself:
//SN: Our readers love hearing stories of startups, so what’s story for The Mining Hub so far…? [/highlight]
Sean: I started the idea of TMH Some 7 years ago when I was managing a mining recruitment team in New Zealand and got asked to build at expert guide to mining in New Zealand. and I realized that there was nothing out there to really help anyone in the mining field whether you are in it or trying to get into it. After this point I tried to join other companies that would help me grow as a consultant and as a leader/mentor to see if I had the credentials to build/run and manage my own company. I took note on what they did well and what they could improve on and as I implemented changes for each of these companies I also noticed a need for a hub for the mining community to be joined together in one place online, with easy access to information in one place. So I tried to work out where to start; I could go the way of some recent web sites out there and just list facts and attach a job board, but as they will testify (though somewhat awkwardly), you need engagement with your audience or you will continually be at the whim of a SEO company.
So on the 22nd of November 2012 I quit my job as a BDM/Senior Recruitment Consultant and started The Mining Hub. I never in my life thought I would have had so much of a change in everything. I went from grudgingly getting out out of bed for a 6 figure salary with stress-induced migraines every month to not earning a cent. I managed to get on the NEIS program and that took out a lot of the main stress as at least I had the bills covered and could concentrate on developing the idea. I did the Lean thing and launched with an idea and a splash page while I got the rest of things together: ABN, BSN, GST registration, tax number, business plan, financial plan, safety plan, etc. Then as the testing and information came back from the splash page I changed the splash site and tested different areas of the web site and worked on getting an MVP together. I did this with not only the information that was coming in from the site but also the network of people I knew in the last 17 years of mining, from top level management to guys I got in from the ground floor. I worked out that I needed to develop a freemium product with added services that are beneficial to the mining industry and have it at a rate the was truly suitable and rewarding to a sector that is primarily used to seeing dollar signs everywhere.
Over this time I was also looking for a financial investor, a Tech Co-founder, and a management team, but for no lack of trying come up short with people interested but unwilling/unable to commit. So I’ve gone ahead alone and with the help of friends and network managed to build my idea this far. Being nothing but tenacious about the reason for the startup, mixed with a never say die attitude, I have managed to build something that has become a realisation of my original dream. So 18 months later we are now coming out of beta with a media platform that is original and ready to help and connect the global mining market. The beta stage was great to get a good understanding of what people want out of a platform like TMH and also gave us a membership base to launch to, some 21000 people which isn’t bad as a starting audience.
//SN: Your next step is to launch the new site, what are you hoping to achieve from the launch?[/highlight]
Sean: This is easy, I hope to get out of the noodle phase of the project that I’m on and get back to real living on a halfway decent income, like the rest of us in startup world 🙂
But in all seriousness, I want to have a fast customer growth so we can then help the rest of the global mining community by having a single point of access to the mining industry. My dream is not just to make TMH profitable for me, but to provide a real service for the community I’m a member of. I’m a bit like //Startup News like that. I have future plans past the B2C launch, there’s a B2B product that I’m planning to launch in six months that sits behind TMH and provides services to the mining companies, who are part of the community as well after all.
//SN: You’ve outsourced your development due to co-founder drama, what has that whole experience been like? What tips would you give for other startup founders struggling to get their site built?[/highlight]
Sean: Very stressful and challenging. I came from mining and then recruitment, and the curve that I went through over the first 6 months learning all the intricacies of business that I hadn’t learned in just building rec con companies, where it is basically register you business and start trading (if you have the cash). Having to define what it was that I was building, then trying to get the idea to market, then I had to learn product development, this was a challenge as what’s in your head is not always easy to get onto paper.
I managed to get a tech co-founder, which was both a blessing and a curse. The blessing was that he insisted on proving his worth and effectively built our beta site. But the curse was when he thought his worth to the company was more than I had stipulated from the start he left the company and destroyed all the source code. That left me 2 weeks from launch with an incomplete website, no code, and 14 months from a pay check to fix it with. But I’d had a lot of success with Odesk, an outsourced data miner/admin/anything, and with the success of him I went back to Odesk and asked for people to help continue with the development. With the network of tech friends I had made in the startup community I managed to vet the applicants and get down to a shortlist of decent contenders.
Then I bartered with them like my life depended on it. I had decided that I would get the site designed first and chose a designer so my dev had something to work off. This turned out to be a kicker as a few devs dropped off and the ones that were left knew what they were getting into. Now with a very clear budget and contract in place with me owning all the code, we’ve managed to put the beta on some seriously strong steroids with a growth plan, and the proof will be the launch when our users get to hit it for real.
//SN: You’re one of the few resource-based tech startups that we’ve seen in Perth. Given the recent Unearthed hackathon and interest in resource startups here, what’s your experience been like?[/highlight]
Sean: Very hard, as you seem to get a lot of interest because of the area you are in, but the follow through isnt always there. As with any new startup people want something new and innovative but never want to put up the fundamentals in getting a project like this off the ground unless its been tested before.
Finding investors has been a real battle. There’s a lot of interest from people, they like the idea, they like the area I’m in, they like my approach, but in the end it’s not the investment they’re used to making so they don’t follow through. I see this as a simple decision: here’s a bloke with over 20,000 people signed up and waiting for the product, those people are all earning top dollar and able to pay for anything we can provide that helps them, and yet they don’t make that decision.
//SN: Your background is in recruitment and sales, and yet you’re launching a B2C startup that traditionally relies much more on marketing than sales. How do you think your background has helped you get this going?
Sean: I think sales is a very big part of any startup from selling the dream to others to marketing it out to the masses. I think every startup founder is always selling, even if they don’t realise it. My background is as a BDM Consultant so I’ve had big exposure to developing marketing campaigns and developing results on targeting specific audiences, so these skills are something I have put to good use over the development stages, getting the audience of over 20,000 miners ready for the launch.
//SN: Thanks Sean for taking the time to talk to us. We’re proud to see a WA startup taking the lead in this industry. We hope you have a successful launch and can leave the noodles behind.[/highlight]
You can find The Mining Hub at https://www.themininghub.com, be sure to pass it on to anyone working in the industry, and contact Sean direct through there if you’d like to be involved in the next phase of the project, he’s still looking for people to help him.