Alix O’Hara, CEO of Mashblox

Alix set up Mashblox to help overcome the ever-rising obesity problem facing our developed countries today.

What’s your story?
I have a rough background. I started this journey with my first company Mashblox while homeless less than 2 years ago after my ex-employers did a spectacular job of convincing me that;

  1. I have no interest in working for anyone else’s exclusive benefit ever again, and
  2. I had at least the seeds of everything I needed to do something for myself.

I think (b) applies to most people if they can push into the unknown: a client / customer focus and big picture orientation fills a lot of gaps.

I’m driven by creating solutions so that others won’t have to struggle through some of the challenges I’ve faced or that I see around me.

Mashblox is about preventing eating disorders, unhealthy nutritional and overconsumption habits that are endemic to a lot of the developed world and have created our ever-rising obesity rate. I think we unconsciously create these problems for our children as babies by overriding their instincts and natural wisdom with our own habits and values.

What excites you most about your industry?
I’ve found the baby feeding accessories market to be highly collaborative and supportive. Everyone’s got their niche, and we’re all united by an interest in what’s best for the child.

I’ve already connected with a number of other companies with similar values of promoting conscious feeding habits and good infant nutrition for cooperative efforts in sales and marketing promotions and am working towards partnerships with several companies in Australia and abroad.
(But I’m always looking for more!)

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m in the Asia Pacific region (Australia), but I’m mobile! My recent visit to Singapore was to scope the Agglomeration model as a potential route to IPO for Mashblox by strategic partner acquisition.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I’ve only seen one so far but I’m loving Singapore!

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Keep quiet about what you’re working on, let the results speak for themselves.

Be careful who you share your dreams with, particularly in the early stages.

I also tend to hold on to quotes and mantras:
“Even if you’re on the right path, you’ll get run over if you just sit there”

“Entrepreneurs are people that work like no one else will for a few years so that they can live like no one else can.”

“Your only job in your job is to systematise your job so you do not have to do your job.”

I’ve come up with a few myself:
“If I wasn’t nervous, there’d be something wrong.”

Leap before you’re ready: “If you’ve waited til you’re comfortable, you’ve waited too long.”

Who inspires you?
I do.

I find there’s a balance in focusing on your own goals and rhythm versus looking afield to borrow inspiration from others’ exploits. If I pause too long on the latter it becomes a distraction and makes me feel insecure when it starts to distract from my own goals.

Looking to other visionaries just shows me my dreams are possible and the many potential pathways there, if you’re creative and dedicated enough. I find everyone I connect with has something to offer though, be it their experience, connections, a perspective or an idea.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I was reading about adult obesity; that insatiability of appetite is the strongest concomitant factor and that bariatric surgery (by which portion size limits are drastically reduced and enforced) is the most effective long term treatment.

It wasn’t surprising, but it told me that Mashblox is on the right track by promoting infant rights to feed themselves only as much as required, as all evidence is clear that once the stomach is stretched beyond natural capacity it’s not great at bouncing back. Obese adults aren’t weak: they legitimately do not know when to stop eating, or the energy value of what they’re eating because those instincts have been damaged to the point they’re impossibly subtle.

I tend to do a lot of my other learnings in targeted conversations: My measure of a good one is one that blows me away (and I don’t have time for pointless conversation), so it happens fairly regularly.

One that comes to mind this week is an eye-opening perspective on a collaboration with a big brand FMCG.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’d have put more effort into finding people that supported my ambitions and happiness and would have run with my first business idea at 13 years old. Who knows or cares how far I would have gotten, but I’d have learned so much in the process that I’d have been able to use towards my current (and future) ventures.

How do you unwind?
By getting stuff done. (Meaningful progress keeps me happy)
I unwind from that by reading, meditating, or with good company depending on where my ambivert pendulum is swinging. I miss my motorbike.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Singapore! (That’s also the only place I’ve been so far). Things I love:

  • The smooth, clean underground rail
  • The availability of amenities and prevalence of English makes me feel comfortable
  • Exotic food
  • The whole city seems designed around exquisitely simple branding and social conscience
  • The concentration of world class tourist attractions

I’ll definitely be back.

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Agglomerate” Jeremy Harbour & Callum Laing
I believe it’s critical to set your goal before figuring out your way there, and consider myself lucky to have come across the concept of Agglomeration (binding companies together to send them to IPO in whatever market will optimise return for the group) early enough in my startup journey to design my corporate structure and growth strategy to support this as an investor exit. It’s opened my eyes to exciting long term possibilities.

Shameless plug for your business:
Mashblox represents a new standard in infant feeding, by

  • Letting kids feed themselves safe textures from as early as possible
  • Supporting a broader range of textured foods than many other feeding methods so that sustenance doesn’t need to be sweet to be tasty
  • Playfully engaging kids with foods that are otherwise boring or intimidating

Our company model is rooted in partnering University research with childcare centres to test these (and other) supporting hypotheses with evidence-based longitudinal trials, parallel to commercialisation. We believe that spoon feeding in most cases is not only unnecessary, but that it’s potentially very damaging because we simply don’t know when to stop as well as the child does (and that this creates habits that they don’t ever necessarily recover from).
Mashblox is the most versatile tool available for safe baby-led weaning, by providing a vessel for age appropriate textures.

How can people connect with you?
Regarding business opportunities:
LinkedIn: (please include the nature of your interest to connect in your invitation)

For interest in Mashblox(R):
Email: let me know where you’re from and your interest in my product and I’ll see how I can get it to you, or if you can help me get it to others.

Twitter handle?

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
Download free copies of his books here:

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