The Startup Playbook Podcast

Insights and lessons from the world's best entrepreneurs and investors

Ep173 – Mark Woodland (Co-founder & CEO – Kismet) on timing, leadership & high performance

My guest for Episode 173 of The Startup Playbook Podcast was the Co-founder & CEO of Kismet, Mark Woodland.

Mark has had a fascinating journey to date.

He joined the military to fulfil his brothers dreams before leaving to do “admin” for his mums childcare business.

That experience led him to starting Xplor education, a childcare management platform that he grew from $0 to $40M ARR in 5 years before eventually being acquired by Advent International. 

Mark is now back with his next company, Kismet, to reduce the barriers to access disability and healthcare services – a company that he initially had the idea for and pitched way back in 2010 before being laughed out of the room because as Mark puts it, it was a different generation back then!

Fast forward to today and Kismet raised a $4M pre-seed round led by AirTree Ventures in early 2023 and recently closed a Series A funding round after seeing exceptional growth for the company.

In this interview we covered a range of topics including:

  • Mark’s journey from the Australian Army and running childcare centres to building Xplor which was acquired by private equity
  • Why his retirement after his exit only lasted 2 weeks before he started his new venture Kismet
  • Leadership principles and how he builds and inspires high performing teams
  • How to get crystal clear on a product vision and avoid short term distractions
  • & much more!

Time stamps:

  • 4:33 – Mark’s background
  • 12:08 – Service mindset in business and life
  • 16:18 – Meeting with AirTree for the first time while building Xplor
  • 19:18 – The vision behind Xplor
  • 22:03 – Lessons from building a childcare business vs tech startup
  • 24:28 – The decision to exit from Xplor
  • 27:03 – How to build high performance, humble company culture
  • 33:18 – Thoughts on leadership
  • 38:18 – The thesis behind Kismet and why Mark ended his retirement after 2 weeks to build it
  • 40:18 – The importance of timing with startups
  • 43:03 – The difference between being a solo founder with Xplor and having 5 co-founders with Kismet
  • 47:33 – Staying focussed on the bigger vision and not getting distracted by short term wins
  • 51:48 – How founders can clearly define their product vision
  • 55:53 – How to push your team without breaking them
  • 58:48 – How Mark approached hiring the first 150 employees at Xplor

Our partners

A big thank you to Daniel Petre, Elicia McDonald, Matt Ellis and Stefan Cordiner for their help with research for this interview!

Also a big thank you to our partners for the show:


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Links mentioned

Mark’s links

People mentioned

Companies mentioned

Feedback/connect/say hello:

[email protected]
@RohitBhargava7 (Twitter)
/rohbhargava (LinkedIn)
@rohit_bhargava (Instagram)
My Youtube Channel


Music: Paycheck

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