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Interviews / Founders

Balancing the Grind with Brian O’Farrell, Co-Founder of Furthr

Brian O’Farrell is the co-founder at Furthr, a startup that enables users to fund experiences important to them by earning money with everyday spending.

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

I am from Ireland originally, where I worked in cafes, bars, restaurants, door to door sales and more throughout school and University. I loved it, interacting with so many different people from all walks of life. I wanted to be an architect, so I studied Economics. Honestly, don’t ask me how that happened!

I fell straight into sales, selling print & digital advertisement, cold calling all day long, it was hard but I loved it. Great office banter and friendly competition. I was lucky to work with amazing people.

I instantly took the approach to observe everyone’s tactics and put my own twist on it. The role didn’t pay amazing as I was a junior which was fine as I was learning a lot, living at home and living pay cheque to pay cheque essentially. 

The recession hit, a friend of mine made the decision for the three of us: “We are moving to Australia. The economy is healthy there, it’s time we put our heads down and work hard, let’s try and actually make something of ourselves.” Two of us couldn’t afford flights so our third friend paid for us all.

I was lucky to have a friend introduce me to his recruitment company who sponsored me straight away. I loved it, meeting lots of people and learning about local businesses again, except this time they actually had money, unfortunately, unlike many in Ireland due to the recession. I navigated myself towards the leading IT recruitment company as I envisaged one day I’d return to sales and IT seemed to be the ever evolving space.

After 3 years in recruitment, in 2013 I decided to kick off my own agency Talentpool. I revived a dormant business with a friend who had set it up previously in 2008 but had to temporarily close up shop in 2010 due to the GFC.

We found ourselves partnering with high growth tech companies mainly which we loved, companies like ZipMoney, Canva, Airwallex, AfterPay, eBay and more. We opened multiple offices in Australia and the US employing 100+ of the most amazing people which made work literally like hanging out with friends. Being so embedded in tech we began to angel invest which again I loved!

Fast forward to around 2018, work was crazy busy and I fell in love with travel more than ever! I used it to reconnect with friends and family back home and to overcome burnout, not to mention just a love of adventure!

I longed to work on something that would allow this to become my world and help unlock the same others. On a flight coming back from Ireland, I met a lovely gentleman on the plane who ultimately introduced me to the amazing Nathalie (His daughter) with a recommendation we should do something together, which we did and now Co-Founders of Furthr, where I now work full-time since mid 2020. Telling people an app to unlock travel (experiences I love) was my latest passion at the start of COVID raised eyebrows I assure you!

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

Semi-structured chaos packed with learning, failing, winning, sharing, laughing, helping, building and beyond! 

  • 8am – Still in bed asleep
  • 9am – Still in bed, reviewing emails
  • 9.30am – Shower, coffee & juice from Vizio cafe
  • 10am – Team catchup on hangouts 
  • 11-1.30pm – Emails, calls and meetings. Often walking with my partner or on rollerblades to double up on exercise and work. Plus I love cold calling and telling strangers “Hey it’s Brian from Furthr, apologies for the noise as I’m just out on my rollerblades, then waiting for their response. 
  • 1.30-2pm – Lunch 
  • 2pm-4.30pm – Emails, calls, meetings, etc 
  • 4.30pm-6pm – Speak with overseas engineering teams 
  • 6pm-7.30pm – Basketball/workout/sauna etc
  • 7.30pm-8.30pm Dinner, partner time and some reality TV to switch off (Guilty pleasure)
  • 8.30pm-10pm (Ish) – Study disruptive FinTechs, payment innovators, crypto etc around the world 

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine? 

We created a work environment where our team can work where and when they like. We have worked remotely from day one, with flexible WeWork desks (some of us needed human interaction after the first lockdown), some like to start early, some late, some take days/weeks off for their kids, a holiday or just because. 

To be honest the flexibility married with a purpose I adore and an incredible team is nearly too good. I need to remind myself to have fun outside of having fun doing work. lockdown kinda puts me in default “Always on productivity mode” so I need to be better!

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

Personally, I’ve always strived to not necessarily separate the two sides too much. I always looked to work with smart, fun and empathetic people who don’t take life too seriously.

The reality is work takes up a lot of our week and I am very grateful to currently and previously just work with super lovely humans that gives me that allows me to work optimally without burnout (I have burnt out before so I am very aware of how I feel and drop the tools of ever feeling fatigued).

Then on top of ensuring I’m surrounded by the right people, I love to try to push myself to different extremes, for example in November I joined a long run from Bondi to Palm Beach and back on rollerblades.

Earlier this year I was on Ninja Warrior (did terribly!). I did the Whitsundays for two weeks and put my phone on airplane mode throughout. (I aim to do a lot more of this as we come out of lockdown).

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

Yes, I took up basketball, I found it a great release and downtime. I was rollerblading initially in the first lockdown. It was just amazing, it kept me physically and mentally strong. I felt like being outdoors and working. 

Work-wise I began to reflect more on my gaps, knowledge I have gained I can pass on and overall try to link up with some amazing industry peers/great friends have been just amazing sharing their insights and knowledge.

A special shout-out to the likes of Liz Adeniji, Angus Muffet, Paul Weingarth, Quirin Schwaighofer, Alex Poe, Ben Ford, honestly I could go for days, the Australian startup community is just phenomenal, how generous people are with their time and knowledge is breathtaking. Simply thank you for being amazing!

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

Random I know, but I don’t read books or listen to too many podcasts, I thrive on two-way human interaction mainly. I do enjoy studying the power of networks on LinkedIn, organisational structures, success stories in our industry overseas, thought leaders, etc. There are a lot of capital raising and disruptive tech articles published on LinkedIn that I enjoy also.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

LinkedIn I must say, I have my own little hacks to learn so much across the globe fast. I do enjoy catching up on various sports or auditions on YouTube also! Obviously Furthr as well. 

There was one YouTube clip I still use for motivation, when I doubt myself which can happen a lot especially navigating new ventures. It’s called “I am the champion”, a motivational talk to an American football team paired with underdog battle music from The Last of the Mohicans movie, one of my childhood favourite movies.

When I started my first business, I doubted my capability so much I listened to it on repeat 30-40 times a day for a month until I stopped doubting myself. It’s all I could think of but it worked funnily enough!

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

I often try to keep the saying “healthy body, healthy mind” in front of my mind, no matter how busy things become. There’s always a way to get out and exercise, walk and talk, rollerblade and talk, etc. Find what helps you rejuvenate and do it daily.

Don’t try to take on the business world by yourself, collaborate with others, pass on your findings to those that may benefit from them, if you can find a way to incorporate helping others into your day. It can be a compliment, a smile, an introduction, knowledge sharing or other, I personally have found it brings me purpose that has this ripple effect, it boosts my morale, then how I come across to others and so on, so regardless of some of things I can’t always control like achieving business goals, targets, etc.

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.