Ask the Experts

Eddie Dostine: The Barefoot Upstart

6 Min Read
Sara   |   July 16, 2019
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Eddie Dostine has an impressive career history that includes tenures at several Startups-gone-stellar. Here, he shares some insight into what it's like on the ground at fast growing companies like Uber, Deliveroo and Airtasker and provides some tips for work-life balance when it can feel like you're "Always on".


Age: 29

Education: Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies at Sydney University.

Masters in International Management (CEMS) - The University of Sydney, Nova School of Economics (Lisbon, Portugal), Fundação Getulio Vargas Business School (Sao Paulo, Brazil)


Career History:

Operations and Logistics Coordinator at  Uber

Operations Manager then Community Manager at Deliveroo

Community Manager, then International Launcher and Community Lead at Airtasker

Currently on sabbatical in Europe and looking for his next challenge  


What “stage” or how “mature" was each business you’ve entered into and did you notice that has a correlation between their rate of growth whilst you were there?

Uber and Deliveroo were early stage launch markets, meaning they are mature startups with models already proven in their home country (US & UK respectively) and they had big VC money behind them to launch internationally. Uber and Deliveroo were both greenlighting cities every other week all over the world. Whilst I didn’t appreciate it at the time - the pace of expansion and the pace at which both companies entered and dominated markets was astounding.

Airtasker is at an earlier stage of growth then Uber and Deliveroo were when I joined. Founded in 2012 - it’s hit its stride in the past 3 years in Australia and is now quite well known. However, for me, the last 12 months have been the most exciting - we have product-market fit and ambitions to be the Amazon of the service industry. We’ve launched in the UK and already established ourselves here as a strong player in a crowded market. Next month, I’ll be setting up the community in Dublin and America later in the year.


What are the main differences between working at a Startup to Corporate environments?

I have never worked in a corporate environment, so I can’t compare, but my favourite thing about working in Startups is being part of a small team building something new from the ground up. For me being a part of a launch team is exciting as I can see the direct results of my actions. Experiments are run in a fast cadence and either scaled up to deliver growth or dropped. Being able to act quickly on decisions without bureaucracy means Startups can be agile and lean (sorry not sorry for the buzz words).


What are the similarities between each of the businesses you’ve joined?

They are all marketplaces. They all provide value by removing inefficiencies. We no longer hail for a cab, call to place an order with our local takeaway or use the yellow pages to find a handyman. The subtle difference is Uber and Deliveroo run on an agency model where they connect the supply chain on behalf of the customer, while Airtasker is a pure marketplace play where both demand and supply are given the freedom to connect, set pricing and timings.


Favourite thing about your job?

I’m not the smartest person in the room. I’m able to learn new skills from my colleagues every day, and the challenges that each day presents. Given we are a small team in the UK, my duties are varied and I’ve become very good at wearing different hats - which keeps work engaging and keeps me learning.


Worst thing about your job or any job you’ve had in the past?

When decisions are made because of hierarchy or history instead of data and reasoning - I tend to get visibly frustrated.This can happen from time to time even in start-up environments when time pressures mean you have to trust the gut over more measured methods of decision making.


Characteristics of the best leaders you’ve had?

In my short career, I’ve been lucky enough to have worked closely with some great leaders. Characteristics which I’ve seen and aspire to in my own leadership style are a blend of technical ability, emotional intelligence and determination. I admire a person who is able to do the grunt work, bring everyone along for the journey and then navigate through the waves. I also think radical candour and the ability to create an environment of trust and feedback is key to organisational success.


What’s the “Secret sauce” that you think is essential for successful businesses/growth

The most important thing I’ve learnt over my experiences at Uber, Deliveroo and Airtasker, is that having a good data infrastructure, is essential. Not just in the back end found by SQL script but easily accessible to the whole business so everyone is empowered to create and solve their own hypotheses.


What gets measured, gets done.” The numbers don’t lie, and should inform every single decision made no matter how small. Data helps us know which levers to pull and when, and foresee what will get impacted. Ensuring the feedback loop following these decisions is super tight and measurable, is critical to know if they are right or wrong, or not right for right now.


If you had a super power what would it be?

I would love to be able to fly! It’s unfair that birds get to have all the fun up there. Also flights back to Sydney are expensive.


Whose the youngest person you’ve managed and what have you noticed about managing young people today?

I manage 18-19 year olds at Uber when I was 22-23 myself. I think you’ve just got to make sure you’re being sensitive to their priorities and aware of the fact that they may not be as invested as you are. Being able to acknowledge that, helps to tailor your management style to try to engage them in other ways.


Do you use any tech for your HR processes?

All of them! We use Breeze for our sick days and annual leave. Payroll is automated by another Cloud Bureau. We use Lattice for 1-1s and check-ins with the managers. Life is so much easier with HR tech and we’d be in a very different stage of growth without it.


In addition to being paid, how else has your career created value in your life?

It’s easier to spend your days working towards a company vision based on shared values. I’d like to leave the planet in a better place then I left it - or at least try to in my own way. If I’m able to help provide an income to a person and help them become more financially independent, perhaps they will have an altruistic mindset to their day-to-day choices. Assuming this occurs on the platform continuously as we scale - I can hypothesize (bear with me) - that I’m contributing to helping people better themselves on a mass scale.


Who was the biggest influence in your career:

David Rorsheim at Uber Australia and the early team at Uber. From working with them I saw first hand the ability of a small team to uproot an entire billion dollar industry when coupled with the power of technology (and a wad of VC cash of course!).


What would your ideal job be?

I’m lucky enough at the moment, to be launching international markets at Airtasker and this is pretty close to my ideal job I’d say! Continuing the growth of the Airtasker community is my next 5 year plan! I enjoy seeing the measurable impact of something I’ve built - in Ireland, Canada and the US. I also have a passion for photography and run my own website - I take photos of my friends doing extreme sports and occasionally get paid to do shoots myself.


What’s the main differences between Airtasker in Australia Vs Airtasker in London?

Aus is quite mature while London is just 8 months old so is still in the hyper-growth phase. While both teams are focused on growth marketing - the Australian growth team come up with features to grow demand globally.


What are some of your daily habits?

I’ve recognised my happiness is directly linked to my physical health. I’ve “gamed” living in London by avoiding the tube (currently my record is 6 months without using it) and instead, I cycle everywhere. My commute is 20km to and from work (Wandsworth to Soho) and there is an F45 conveniently located in my building so I do that most weekday afternoons. I also try to get in a yoga session at a studio near my work a few times a week. Oh, and on Sundays, I go to the local pool/sauna. If I close my eyes I can pretend I’m at Icebergs overlooking South Bondi. I eat the same salmon and avocado wrap for lunch and dinner during the week - it’s filling, healthy and cheap. Also means I can eat out on weekends.


How do you maintain work/life balance in a role that can mean you’ve got to be “always on”

At Airtasker, we have a motto “When it’s on, it’s on” which infers, “When it’s off, it’s off”. When you know there’s work to be done - you do it. But you are also encouraged to celebrate wins and enjoy your downtime. I take weekends quite seriously…. In fact, I’d go to say my weekend activities out in nature are the basis of my side project - a photography site called  I tend to go off grid for weekends with friends, camping, surfing or skiing. Anywhere out of wifi! This means I’ll come back into work Monday morning feeling energised and refreshed… usually with lots of stories and some cool photos to prove it.

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