CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Ali Linz, Co-Founder & CEO of GroupTogether

Ali Linz is the co-founder and CEO of Australia’s top group-gifting platform, GroupTogether.

The platform aims to take the awkwardness out of group gifting and provides a sustainable gifting option. The online platform was used by over 1 million Aussies in the last year.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I used to be the Strategy Planning Director at DDB, advising large companies like McDonald’s and J&J on their brand strategy, but it was sometimes frustrating when they weren’t able to do the more audacious things. Diving head first into my own “start up” was my chance to take bigger leaps, push the boundaries and to test myself.

Now, I’m the Co-Founder of GroupTogether, Australia’s largest group gifting website and we’re proud to have helped over one million Aussies make group gifting easier in the last year alone (and through GroupTogether, we helped gift $16 million in gifts in the last financial year).

We help people take the awkwardness out of chasing friends, colleagues or peers to chip in and contribute to a group gift. It’s simple tech to solve a painful problem.

I really like that we’re reducing waste (one group gift instead of lots more “stuff”) and that people can donate a portion of the total collected to charity to honour their friend.

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

English breakfast tea (ideally delivered by someone else) while I clarify the biggest issue for the day. I find that if I don’t do this, the “urgents” overtake the “importance.” After this, I move on to any urgent overnight emails and check yesterday’s results. We’re launching in the US so I’m excited to hear about progress.

Then it’s a walk, usually with another founder. We share our roadblocks, brainstorm and build each other up. Otherwise, I run Bondi to Bronte, listening to a startup podcast. By the time I’m back, I’ve had an idea (or three) that I’m psyched to make happen. If my mood isn’t firing by then, a swim is the tonic. It never fails!

Once I’m energised and jigging my plan, I rush back to my desk where I use Trello for my own “To Do” list, which really helps to categorise my action items and lists into priorities, keeping in mind those that really help grow the business Vs all of “the stuff”. I also use Notion to accumulate info and Jira to monitor our product developer team. It’s so satisfying moving the “To Do” items to “Done.”

Deep thinking time is when I try to shut down distractions to think through a big idea. Otherwise, the noise takes over – between meetings with investors, PR partners and our internal team, one-on-one chats with the team, brainstorming and just listening – it all takes up energy. I usually work until 7pm and then make dinner (I cook fast).

3) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Balance implies sustained perfection. That’s not a thing. I’m very calm by nature but start-ups are a roller coaster. Periods of massive optimism, innovation and inspiration and then feeling fat, flat and splat.

If I don’t keep myself in check, I’d just work 15 hours a day. For me to be at my best, though, I need to feel I’m also being a good friend, daughter, sister, mum, wife, and member of my communities – yes the list is long. So I try to give my non-work time to one person at a time during the week. Weeknights are for my family.

I also do sporadic things to give back – for community or university. It sometimes feels like a burden until it’s happening and then it feels rewarding.

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4) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

I’ve stopped working on the weekends (mostly). We have staff now who deal with all but emergencies. That’s a game-changer. I’m ten times better on Monday. I’m also trying to do some exercise daily which provides a Teflon coating against crap sticking (at least till 11am).

5) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I love podcasts, particularly interviews with start-up founders. My favourites are How I Built This with Guy Raz and Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman. If you haven’t heard the interviews from the founders of AirBnB, Spanx, Calendly, Khan Academy – go and listen now. I also like Product Hunt to read what’s new.

6) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

I find interviews most interesting with people who don’t have the infrastructure to delegate everything. It’s all very well to hear that Oprah makes you feel like you’re the only important person when you’re with her, but how do you do that if no-one is there to answer your help desk? (No disrespect to Oprah; clearly a living legend).

7) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

There are only 24 hours in the day. I try not to waste my minutes on things that aren’t about love or high priority outcomes. If I can do it online, or delegate it with the same outcome, sign me up!

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.