Mike Tozer is the Founder & CEO of Xceptional, a tech services firm that recognises the unique strengths of people with autism. Over 150k people with autism in Australia are unemployed and this is not only costing the economy a lot of money, the bigger issue is that there is talent that is being overlooked, which could be costing businesses.
What inspired you to start Xceptional?
All our team each have experience with autism either through a family member, a close friend or they themselves have autism. This is the primary point of inspiration for us; we are all profoundly motivated to create a better world for those we know and love.
We have watched our siblings and friends struggle with employment for, in some cases, decades. For me, it’s my sister. She has amazing ability yet struggled her whole life with finding a job.
Our goal is to make employers aware of this talent pool that’s currently being overlooked and to inspire them to focus on the strengths of people with autism rather than perceived weaknesses.
What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing with building your startup and how do you think Remarkable can help you overcome this challenge?
Our biggest challenge at the moment is harnessing the incredible interest that we have had since the ABC TV series Employable Me featured our company. Following the program, our pool of candidates grew by 7 times, our website and social traffic went through the roof and we’ve had a huge increase in businesses contacting us to find out how they can employ people with autism. Remarkable has been helping us with this in a number of ways: giving us frameworks to focus on the the most fruitful conversations, helping us put in place systems to manage that growth and connecting us to mentors who can advise on the work we are doing.
What parts of the accelerator are you most looking forward to? Are there any parts of the program that you’re nervous about?
I’m really looking forward to demo day. We are excited to be profiling some of the companies we have worked with through the accelerator as well as demonstrate some of the new products we have been working on. What am I most nervous about? Any time there’s any media or public speaking. I take the opportunities as I know they will help us grow and impact more lives, but I’m still learning to channel my nerves!
Do you have any tips for startups who are trying to get on an accelerator program?
Get on TV! I’m saying that tongue in cheek, yet there is a principle here: if you can get the media interested in your idea or product then that’s going to help.
On a broader level, focusing on getting traction would be my top tip. Whether that is getting media interest or winning more customers or growth in other areas, that traction will help show the accelerator that you are doing all it takes to make progress.
What is your top tool, blog, book or podcast that you’d recommend others look at?
Zero to One, by Peter Thiel. I’m re-reading this book at the moment. I’m finding it an excellent companion to the Remarkable program. The book has an awesome combination of practical advice and profound thinking, both of which I appreciate. On one page Thiel compares 19th century physics with the maths of economics; and then the next page he gives a super helpful tip for startup job interviews. I also like this book because he advocates for hiring people with autism, as he thinks their unique perspective is so valuable for startups.