Kultivate winners' series: driving real change with Hireup


We hear a lot of talk about the ‘bottom line’ in the business sphere – that being defined as the ‘fundamental and most important factor.’ So that’s money, right? Well – yes –without it, businesses wouldn’t work, but we shouldn’t assume this is everyone’s bottom line. Because it’s clearly not for siblings and entrepreneurs, Jordan and Laura O’Reilly. Having grown up at the side of a younger sibling with cerebral palsy, they spotted an opportunity to revolutionise a disability sector plagued by inefficiencies and lagging behind the times. That opportunity was seized by their joint venture, Hireup.

Following the trend of Uber and Airbnb in a growing peer-to-peer economy, Hireup is a cost-efficient online platform that provides people with disability the tools to find, hire and manage their own support workers. This means, for the first time, both support workers and people with disability can choose who they work with and develop more meaningful relationships along the way. Thanks again to another great blend of technology and innovative minds.

So back to that bottom line. The future looks bright for the venture and its growing user base. Since launching in 2015, over 2,500 people have signed up to the platform with users ranging between two and 95-years-old. But this is a business truly driven by an innate passion for real change, long-held by both Jordan and Laura. Jordan has won numerous awards for his innovative work in the disability sector including the Foundation for Young Australians Changemaker of the Year Award 2014 and NSW State Finalist Young Australian of the Year Award 2015 – among many others. It’s a similarly impressive track record for Laura, who sat on the NSW Disability Council from 2012 to 2015 and has been awarded the Australian Woman’s Weekly magazine’s Woman of the Future 2014. And neither are strangers to the start-up space having co-founded the multi-million-dollar organisation Fighting Chance in 2011.

The list could go on but here, Jordan speaks to ShortPress about their experience with Hireup:

Describe the ‘moment of inspiration’ that led you to start Hireup?

“The inspiration for Hireup came from a few different places. I grew up alongside a brother with disability and worked as a disability support worker while I was studying at University. This gave me a good understanding of both sides of the support work fence. My family moved to the UK when my siblings and I were kids because they had a more progressive disability support system. This gave me great insight into how the Australian sector can improve.

“The Australian government recently launched the National Disability Insurance Scheme and fundamentally changed the way people are able to access support services. This innovation, coupled with my own insights, lead me to develop Hireup.”

What’s the toughest challenge you’ve experienced?

“Growing Hireup has been a steep learning curve but it's been great. I've been very lucky to have had the support of some incredibly compassionate and dedicated people. We ran an MVP at the start of last year and given how successful it was we thought we were pretty set to start looking for financial backing to kick start Hireup’s growth. In hindsight the amount of work needed to go from running a successful MVP to being investment ready really surprised me. Even with all of the support I had around me, it was a lot of work and a big challenge. More so than I had anticipated. But the payoff has been incredible. We’ve been able to build the team and properly resource the business.”

Do you have any myths to dispel about entrepreneurialism?

So far I’ve learnt how important it is to surround yourself with helpful and supportive people who are as resourceful as you are. The old cliché says Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it also wasn’t built by one person. I think one of the great myths about entrepreneurialism is that it’s often perceived as the journey of one but it’s definitely the journey of many. It feels great to have a team around me and to be turning so many cogs at once. It's strange to look back at this time last year and imagine myself without the supports Hireup has now. I take full responsibility for Hireup’s actions but I do it with the support of an effective network around me.”

What’s been the biggest surprise on your journey so far?

“I’ve been surprised by how much people are keen to share in our mission. I’m driven by a very personal experience but every new person that joins the Hireup community, including the people who use our service, seem to be invested in our mission in their own way. They’ve taken what we’re trying to do and made it their own. I shouldn’t be surprised because I know how universal stories of frustration with the Australian disability sector can be, but every time I speak to someone new who sees something of themselves in our mission I still feel a kick of excitement and surprise.”

If you had to start over again, what would you do differently?

“That’s a tough one. We’re still quite new and thankfully continue to go from strength to strength so we haven’t had a whole lot of need for regrets at this stage. As a new business we’re constantly coming up against forks in the road but I think so long as we continue to trust our instinct and focus on the decision made rather than the road not taken, we’ll keep heading in the right direction. Each choice teaches me something about the next.”

What motivates you – daily?

Hireup is a for-purpose business – we do what we do to build a better reality for Australians with disability. While there’s a whole bunch that motivates me, this has to be the most important one because it’s motivation shared. I know our team and our community are motivated by the same goal. Knowing that I’m not the only one driven by this makes it much easier to tackle the challenges that arise.”

How do you feel when you think of the future?

“Incredibly excited – we’re well resourced, we feel valued by our community and there’s great potential in Hireup to make a meaningful difference. Every time I think about how that combination sets us up for the future, it’s the anticipation that gets me most excited. I have no idea what it will hold but I do know that we’re in a great position to deal with whatever it might be.”

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