West Aussies making waves here and overseas.

Steven Goh

Perth venture contests Facebook

A social media site to outdo Facebook? Perth-born tech entrepreneur Steven Goh believes his new venture may be just the thing. Having established Australia’s first online stockbroking company in the 90s, he looks set to shake things up at the helm of Asian social networking site mig.me, launched this year to Australian investors.

“In the same way premium SMS has changed the way audiences interact with media that they love, the modern format of digital brings about a universe of new possibilities,” he says. And he thinks mig.me – a social network with a miniblog, chat and chatrooms that makes money through gift and game purchases – could be the platform to tap into this new potential.

“First World and westernised social networks are built on the premise of getting you to behave on their platforms and, through that behaviour, understand you as a user and then target advertising at you,” says Steven. “Whereas in East Asia, things are a little more pluralistic and there is a wider variety of successful networks. Many of these networks have engagement through more playful experiences, and monetise through gifts and games.”

He points to Japan, a market exposed to several domestic and international networks, as an example of how the rest of the world could follow. “It took five years for Facebook to become larger than Mixi − originally a clone of Friendster − and only two years for (free communication app) Line to beat Facebook.

“Mobile’s changing the world but in different ways,” he says. “We have one artist on mig.me in Nepal who is using it to raise funds to bring children out of prostitution in South Asia. Singers in Indonesia are building larger audiences in mig than they are in Facebook and Twitter.  And we have girls in Syria trying to live an ordinary life and be teenagers. Building mig is fun.”

Olivia DeJonge

Hollywood’s next big thing

A 15-year-old Perth schoolgirl is tipped to be a Hollywood star after scoring the lead in the latest film by The Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan. And she did it without a formal audition.

When Olivia DeJonge didn’t hear back after sending her video auditions for the role, she didn’t think any more about it. “Two to three weeks had gone by since I had sent over my last audition so I assumed the role had gone to someone else,” she says. “When my USA agents called and said I had the role I started crying, which is so totally unlike me! I was just so happy, and it was a wonderful feeling to know I’d be working with someone so acclaimed in the industry.”

The film, Sundowning, is a psychological thriller slated for release later this year. After a few big-budget films that failed to yield critical or box office success, Shyamalan is back to the low-budget style of production that made him famous – and fans are hoping it will herald the return of substantial characters and gripping plot turns. Olivia, for one, is excited for the rest of the world to see the final product. “It will be great to see the end results of everyone’s hard work, which I am proud to have been a part of,” she says.

The Presbyterian Ladies’ College student finished filming in Pennsylvania in March this year, before popping her blazer and hat back on for the school term. “For me, it really comes down to prioritising and balancing my time wisely between school, work, family and friends,” she says. “Obviously
my education is a priority and I focus primarily on my studies when I’m in school, and second to that comes auditions and working. I give my all to my projects and I have a supportive family and network of people that surround me, which helps me a lot.”

Next up, Olivia flies to Sydney to film a role for a new television show on the ABC, an exciting venture for the star who has previously only made films.  Beyond that, we imagine her film career is just beginning. “I’d like to be able to continue what I love to do most − exploring new characters, making films and working with people who share my love for the creative industry,” she says. “And hopefully I’ll be making a living out of it when I finally finish school next year!” We wish her all the best.

Jordan Belfort

Million-dollar blogger

An encounter with the Wolf of Wall Street himself, Jordan Belfort, was the catalyst for a then penniless Perth salesman, Joel Brown, to earn his fortune.

Joel, who was in debt following an ill-advised foray into the music industry, was working a day job at Amcom in 2011 when he met the infamous Belfort as part of the company’s training program.

“I was talking to him about setting a vision and making a goal I was passionate about,” says Joel. “He’s a pretty crazy guy but it was a huge inspiration.” A penchant for reading life-coaching books and a fascination with successful people suggested Joel’s passion lay in sharing inspirational advice, so he started the blog Addicted2Success.com in 2011.

Though Joel was reluctant to refer to himself as a blogger – “It sounds like something an emotional person would do with a cat” – he can’t deny the success that blogging has delivered: a loyal following (more than 30 million yearly views), a tidy salary that allowed him to leave his nine-to-five job within two years; and a $1million offer.

“My first blog posts were really money-driven, but then, as I grew as a person, I realised success isn’t just about money,” he says. “It’s about having an impact in the world. At the end of the day the secret of living is giving back – you want to feel like you’re worth something in this world, you’re valuable to others.”

Still, the blog’s been the platform for rewarding and lucrative activities, such as a contract with MindValley, a leading publishing company in personal growth. He impressed CEO Vikesh Lakhiani – a personal hero – with a keynote speech delivered in Malaysia, and was quickly signed on to coach people around the world on a peer-to-peer model for successful blogging practice.

He’s also published an eBook. “About a year ago when I was in India, a coconut tree fell and landed on our phone and power lines, so the Internet went out for a week,” says Joel. “I was pretty devastated and took that time to write an eBook. It’s my formula for how I created success online. It’s a basic manual but it can get a lot of people started in the right direction.”

Joel hopes to turn his hard-won wisdom − gleaned from personal experience as well as from interviews with the likes of motivational speaker Tony Robbins and US business magnate Donald Trump − into a lengthier, more ambitious book. “Hopefully it will go to the New York Times bestseller list. Let’s cross our fingers!”

Bridget Malcolm

The next Miranda Kerr?

For a model, working with Victoria’s Secret is akin to an author winning the Man Booker, or a physicist taking out a Nobel gong: the ultimate career milestone. And for Bridget Malcolm, who started shooting with the lingerie giant late last year, it’s all in a day’s work.

“At first it’s a little intimidating, you are in your underwear after all, but quickly it became fun and enjoyable,” says the Fremantle native. “The teams make it easy for you to be comfortable.”

It’s been a big couple of years for the 22-year-old, who’s scored contracts with Maybelline, Emporio Armani, Marc Jacobs and Hugo Boss, among others, as well as working with some of the biggest photographers in the business. “I’ve just shot the cover of V with Mario Testino, and shot a soon-to-be-released big campaign with Bruce Weber – can’t tell you any more about that!” she says. “Life’s been busy.”

And not just with modelling. The former lead oboist with the WA Youth Jazz Orchestra and WAAPA student is still devoted to the oboe, as well as the Chinese martial art Wing Chun. She also spends time with boyfriend Johnny Mackay, who fronted Melbourne band Children Collide and now works on a psychedelic project called Fascinator.

Though Bridget is based in Brooklyn, she claims it’s not always the easiest place to live. “I go crazy without nature and the ocean. But moving out of the city into more space has helped, and with frequent trips away I appreciate NYC when I’m home there. I will always love Fremantle, though.”

David Doepel

Changing the cinemascape

A West Australian film distribution company is helping to change the national cinemascape, bringing to Australia a new platform known
as cinema on demand. 

Founder David Doepel, who in 2013 started Leap Frog Films with his screenwriter wife Barbara Connell, describes it as “crowdsourcing for cinema; if enough people want to see something and buy a ticket, then a screening happens.”

Building the online platform – which has achieved considerable success in the US under the URL tugg.com – will benefit Australian producers who might otherwise miss out on screening their works. “A lot of films only get small releases, don’t go regional and leave the cinemas too quickly, and we believe the cinema on demand platform will bring them a chance to be seen.”

Leap Frog Films is also interested in carving out a niche for audiences aged over 50, currently the only audience under-served in cinema.

“Our research shows if we buy films that people of that age resonate with, they’ll go to the movies,” say David. They’re under-represented at the cinema because there are not enough films for them.” But the pursuit of substantial films that click with an older Australian audience isn’t always easy. “We go to markets, zoom around the planet – Cannes and Berlin and Toronto – and then watch hundreds and hundreds of movies,” says David. “It takes a long time to find films that fit our criteria – our tagline is ‘good stories well told with heart and substance’. They need to be entertaining but they have to be more than that.”

Gemma Walker-Smith

50 shades of success

A self-published book by a Perth stay-at-home mum could be on the verge of Fifty Shades’ notoriety, after it was named iBooks’ Best Of 2013 Breakout Book Of The Year and downloaded close to a million times.

Gemma Walker-Smith, who penned Saving Wishes while juggling family duties, says the accolade was “amazing, and totally unexpected”. The book is a love story between headstrong Charli from coastal Tasmania, and sometimes-bad-boy New Yorker Adam.

“The wheels started turning when I first visited a little seaside town in Tassie that I ended up basing Pipers Cove on,” she says. “It was sleepy, quiet and gorgeous. I visited New York a few months after and the ideas began to flow. Throwing two people together from different walks of life was a story I wanted to write.”
She says she decided to self-publish her series instead of going down the more traditional route. Why "Essentially, I’m impatient. The beauty of self-publishing is that the process is quick. Once I finally felt ready, I was published the next day. Then the hard work began! Working independently means that I’m not only a writer; I’m a marketer and promoter, too. It’s far more complicated than I imagined it would be, but I wouldn’t change a thing.”

She made the somewhat unusual decision to offer Saving Wishes for free download after the release of Second Hearts, the second book of the series. “I wanted to share my book with as many readers as I could,” says Gemma, who reveals making money was never a motivation.

The prolific writer is now working on Star Promise, the fifth book of the Wishes series, and bracing herself for a year of travel, book signings and conventions in Australia and abroad.


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