“Airbnb but for education”: Hey You co-founder Rebekah Campbell launches new venture Zambesi after realising her “burning life ambition”


Zambesi founder Rebekah Campbell. Source: Supplied.

Hey You co-founder Rebekah Campbell has ventured into the education space, launching an online marketplace for founders seeking help from startup industry leaders on topics such as raising capital, scaling a startup, and hiring a top tech team.

Billed by Campbell as like “Airbnb but for education”, Zambesi delivers founder education workshops presented by prominent startup ecosystem players like Shoes of Prey co-founder Mike Knapp and Showpo’s chief marketing officer Mark Baartse.

With just 12 spaces available for each session, Campbell hopes these intimate face-to-face workshops will provide founders with access to startup leaders who may not otherwise have time to share their wisdom beyond a cursory half-hour coffee chat.

This is the latest startup venture for Campbell, who founded Posse in 2010 and eventually pivoted the business and became co-founder of mobile ordering and payments service Hey You, after merging with ordering platform Beat the Q. Prior to Posse, Campbell founded Scorpio Music, an independent Australian music company.

After Hey You secured a $2 million funding round last year Campbell took a step back from her role as chief executive to start a family and work on her next project. Since then, she has been taking the time off to build Zambesi after realising her “burning life ambition” was helping workers to upskill and tackle the rapidly changing future of work.

“I became a mum last year so I thought about the best founders and businesses I really look up to — I realised they are not here to do something quick, this is their life mission,” she says.

“I’m super proud of Hey You, but this time I realised that if you want to build something really great then it’s got to be your burning life ambition. I wanted to make sure the problem I was solving is something that in ten years time I would still be super driven to solve.”

Skills for rent

Campbell admits that she “came up with this idea by accident” after trying to figure out how to generate income while thinking of her next career move.

Campbell says after previously raising $12 million in funding for Scorpio, Posse and Hey You, her experience was in high demand from other founders looking to pick her brains for advice.

She soon found, however, that meeting founders over coffee wasn’t an in-depth interaction that allowed her to dig down into a startup’s real funding challenges.

At the space time, Campbell’s partner had suggested renting out the extra room in their house on Airbnb for extra income. The idea appealed to Campbell, but for a different reason.

“We were thinking we could rent out our extra room on Airbnb, and I thought, ‘why don’t I rent out my skills in raising capital?'”

After successfully running her first capital-raising workshop, Campbell found it became “a full-time hustle trying to market this thing”, which showed her a potential market niche waiting to be filled.

The idea of having workshops led by current industry leaders had captured Campbell’s attention, and her time as a founder taught her the value of getting advice from people who are still at the top of their game.

“My experience as a founder over the past five to six years was getting advice from people that sometimes wasn’t that good; a lot of the people who advise [founders] aren’t doing it [startups] anymore,” she says. 

The people who gave me the best advice as a founder were people who were doing it right now, but the problem was those people were really hard to get.

“That’s why I started Zambesi, to [give founders] access to those people where you get them for a focused period of time, in a small group, for a whole day.”

Read more: Hey You founder Rebekah Campbell on her biggest startup regret

Finding product market fit

Campbell received a $25,000 grant from Jobs for NSW to develop a minimum viable product for Zambesi, and the founder maintains her startup will be bootstrapped for a while, after learning the hard way that raising capital isn’t always a good thing.

“Getting product market fit before raising capital is one thing I’ve learned [from previous startups],” she says.

“A big mistake I made at the beginning was raising capital just with an idea, then we hired a bunch of people and had to retrofit the right ideas,” she says.  

Zambesi launched earlier this week, and offers workshops in marketing, technology and leadership, taught by industry players including Mike Knapp, Canva’s head of growth Andre Pinatoan, and Fleur Brown from TEDxSydney and Launch Group.

Places in the one or two-day courses range from $400 to $1000, Campbell says, with Zambesi taking a 20% share of ticket sales.

While the Zambesi courses are unaccredited, Campbell says the ability to keep content current, agile and relevant outweighed the “arduous” and restrictive accreditation framework, which prevents courses from changing their content for a year after becoming accredited.

“The workforce is changing so quickly that by the time any sort of formal institution creates a course and gets it accredited it gets outdated before you even learn it,” she says. 

“[With Zambesi] you’re learning incredibly current information from someone who is actually doing it.” 

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4 years ago

I was enjoying this story, up to the part where “Campbell received a $25,000 grant from Jobs for NSW”. This never ceases to astound me. Why does someone who has raised $12 million of funding in previous ventures, need to take a $25K grant from Jobs for NSW??? How about the “pay it forward” concept and let someone use the grant money to take a crack.

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