Balancing the Grind with Sam Cust, Director at Hyper

Sam Cust is the Director at Hyper, a global startup incubator helping founders validate, build and grow their technology businesses.

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

In my early days at uni, I was studying, working at my first startup, and playing semi-professional AFL. But then, in my first year at Uni, I met a few guys who introduced me to the tech industry and an early stage startup called LOKE, and I thought: this is my passion.

I was a part of the founding team of LOKE Group and was lucky enough to learn the highs and lows of building a startup from a very young age. From raising our first $1M to navigating the early days of the tech industry. It’s been wonderful to go through the evolution of the industry here in Australia.

I am now the Director of Hyper, a global Tech StartUp Incubator. I have been involved in building startups from the ground up, including several successful capital raises in-turn achieving high growth. I sit across multiple Startup boards and have a deep passion for supporting the Australian StartUp Ecosystem.

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

I’m a very strong advocate for work-life balance and a huge believer of quality over quantity to drive better outcomes in all aspects of life.

A typical/recent day for me is waking up early to head out with some mates at Bondi for an early morning surf, followed by a coffee at my local cafe with friends. I love to get the day started with exercise, a good laugh and personal connection. 

My days are spent balancing between all stages of Early Stage Startup life. Every day is full of a variety of thinking, from a creative workshop on a new idea, to an afternoon spent pitching to VC’s with a Founder looking to raise capital.

If the current working climate has emphasised one thing for me – it’s ‘let’s ditch the boardroom catch ups’ and connect with each other in an enjoyable and wholesome environment. I always take the opportunity to go for a swim, walk or even surf with Founders and the Team! 

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

Hyper takes cultural inspiration from companies such as Apple, Google, Spotify, Netflix and Facebook. No matter how big we get, our thoughts, decisions and actions will always reflect the ethos of a startup. This is reflected in the culture we foster in each of the locations we have around the world, that’s why we are huge believers of flexible working. 

For me personally, it honestly makes every day feel like a winner as it allows me to work based on how I am feeling to ensure maximum quality of work. Whether that’s working outside in the sun or heading into the office to hangout with the team when needing some human energy! 

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

Work-life balance for me is when there isn’t a separation between work and life, it becomes the way of life. I believe that only truly happens when you are passionate and love what you are doing.

A concept I am incredibly passionate about is ‘Ikigai’ which is a Japanese concept referring to something that gives a person a sense of purpose, a reason for living. If you can find your true Ikigai in life it means that ultimately you feel you have a strong life equilibrium – which is incredibly empowering.

For me that is truly helping people to achieve great things, whether that’s founding their own startup, growing into a happier person or in sport becoming the best they can be. So for me, I spent a lot of time working out what truly makes me happy and being able to do that across all aspects of my life allows me to feel true balance in my pursuits. 

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

Pre-COVID times, I found myself under a lot of time pressure and always on a schedule socially and work wise. Due to the flexibility this landscape has now presented, I find I don’t need to be as systematic in my daily habits. Whereas in the past I felt I had to follow a rigid routine, but realised that would eventually lead to burnout. 

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

A book I buy for anyone close to me is The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz – you’ll know why once you read it! I enjoy listening to the podcast WorkLife by Adam Grant. 

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

100% Slack. The fact you can feel connected to work whilst you go for a walk or are out and about means you can ultimately still be productive while not just having to be chained to the desk. 

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

I was privileged to do some work with Paul Taylor (who I know you’ve interviewed) and love his outlook on life and particularly the concept of the ‘Catastrophe Scale’.

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

‘Comparison is the thief of joy’ – go about life in your own time & way. Look after yourself!

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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.