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Jeanette Cheah

Co-founder & CEO, The Hacker Exchange

Fast Five is our quickfire interview series where we hit up some legendary movers, shakers, innovators and changemakers with, you’ve guessed it, five big questions. In this week’s edition, we talk to Jeanette Cheah, co-founder and CEO of The Hacker Exchange

Q1: Give us three words that describe your life as an entrepreneur.

One big adventure

Q2: Most entrepreneurs have an origin story- a moment in time or an experience that was the catalyst for their entrepreneurial journey. What is your origin story? 

I remember sitting down at my kitchen table with my Mum when I was 14, and stressing out about choosing my electives for Year 9. I felt so much pressure to choose those electives – because I believed they would determine my Year 11 and 12 prerequisites, which would determine my uni degree choice, which would determine my WHOLE LIFE! 

After following a pretty traditional career path for 14 years, I realised just how much talent and potential is actually held captive within old-school thinking about learning and jobs. I decided that I would make it my mission to help people find alternative education and career pathways that add incredible value to the economy and to our society. 

Q3: Tell us about a massive flearning (failing + learning) moment for you.

Early in our business journey, my co-founder and I put our trust in someone who promised they could deliver a great experience for our customers in Silicon Valley. Unfortunately, he was all talk and no substance. This left us high and dry, and we ended up having to issue some refunds and apologies to disappointed customers. From this, I learned how important it is to get to know the people you’re working with, and to keep tight control over my customer experience! 

Q4: What do you wish you’d learned at school about starting or running a business?

It’s more of a mindset thing – but I wish I learned that you don’t need to be perfect or get ‘straight As’ to be successful. 

Entrepreneurship is a world where experimentation is celebrated, which means you’re not always going to get it right the first time. 

Q5: What’s one book, website or podcast you’d recommend to aspiring young entrepreneurs, and why?  

The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz

More about this week’s Fast Fiver, Jeanette Cheah

Jeanette Cheah is the co-founder and CEO of The Hacker Exchange, a tertiary-accredited organisation connecting the next generation of leaders to Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv, Singapore and beyond. Through their immersive programs, The Hacker Exchange encourages students to develop global citizenship, entrepreneurship and innovation skills, and to embrace lifelong learning.

Born in Honolulu, Hawaii and raised in the US, Japan, and Australia, Jeanette is a true global citizen and is committed to bringing an international market mindset to the next generation of founders. Her students have been seen pitching on Chinese TV, on stage at Brazilian accelerator programs, and in the boardroom opposite angel investors and VCs.

A 2019 Telstra Business Women’s Award Finalist, Jeanette is also a regular guest lecturer and mentor for university-founded startups, supporting programs at Melbourne University, RMIT University, Monash University, Deakin University and more. As a keynote speaker and panellist, she has represented Australia at the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance and SXSW for G’Day USA.  She also champions startup community building and diverse representation in business, volunteering for the League of Extraordinary Women, Code Like a Girl, and Pause Fest, and took home the ‘Women In Tech Global Ally’ Award in 2019 from Lisbon, Portugal.

Jeanette co-hosted the Bright Ideas Summit at _Southstart 2021 alongside our very own Nicole Dyson. Click here to check out the event with bitesize videos to use in your classroom.

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