This is a guest blog by Gary Scott, Founder and CEO of GlobalWhere, a startup in the current Xcelerate cohort. Gary shares how the concept for the business came about, and the many steps taken along the way. GlobalWhere provides a real-time data sharing platform for worker safety information.
Following in Dad’s footsteps
I grew up on a New Zealand farm in the 70s when the normal course for the oldest boy was to take over from dad and do what he did for the next 50 years.
That wasn’t what I wanted to do.
Dad taught me to be self-reliant, to make my own success. It was an enormous relief when he took me aside and said “I don’t expect you to take over the farm. In fact you shouldn’t – the return on capital is very low”. His interest in investing had rubbed off on me, so I understood what he meant.
Fast forward and my work career was mostly IT contracting. I think this met dad’s criteria, selling my knowledge without having invested too much capital. It also felt a little bit, but not enough, like working for myself.
This new thing called “SAAS”
In 2002 I started my first company with my wife Natasha. The idea was to develop a software-as-a-service (SaaS) application for professional services firms to scope and price large matters or relationship work.
There was no rule book for SaaS or technology startups – this was almost 10 years before The Lean Startup was published.
We did research – we created some screen mockups and showed potential customers. $40,000 of outsourced development later the first commercial version was live. It was pretty basic. Today, we’d call it our MVP.
We did sales call after sales call and demo after demo. But we weren’t getting new customers or revenue quickly enough.
I now know there is a name for this – the startup valley of death. With the benefit of hindsight, I think we could have made it through by seeking investment, but there wasn’t a well-beaten path of support for tech startups as there is now.
Wine not try again
Natasha and I started another company. We imported and distributed premium South American wine. Neither of us had worked in anything vaguely associated with importing. Or logistics. We were just keen amateur drinkers who travelled to Chile to ski, drank the local product, liked it a lot, and saw opportunity in bringing it to Australians.
This was an amazing journey of education about international commerce, and how easy it is to pour money down the drain in the wine industry.
Back to the drawing board: In Oil and Gas
Then I was back in the real world, selling my knowledge again.
I got a contract in the Oil & Gas industry. This was the first time I had worked for a company where workers had a real chance of being injured or killed at work. Staff and contractors were vulnerable to driving accidents, snakes, oppressive heat, bushfires, floods, not to mention the perils of working with gas, high voltage electricity, and mechanical equipment. Fatigue multiplied the risk.
I found myself at the centre of a worker safety system to keep track of who is in the field, where they are, and whether they are safe.
There were some major headwinds. Most of the thousands of contractors were completely invisible on the job. Contractors used different systems. There were commercial and trust issues around sharing information.
Sparking a solution
In the end the challenges were way too big to overcome. But this experience lit a fire under me. I spent years thinking about how to solve these challenges.
Eventually I came up with a real-time data sharing technology solution, and was confident that it was now commercially viable, thanks to big data and high volume event processing technologies.
I even developed enough of a business case that Natasha was on board. Not just on board, but excited! We both saw the potential, which was 10000x the potential our first SaaS product.
I lodged a provisional patent application, and gave myself 12 months to establish viability of the idea.
Which problem first?
A colleague introduced me to Warren Pickering who was experiencing similar frustrations at another Oil & Gas company. After quite a few conversations, we agreed to join forces as co-founders.
Our problem was that we didn’t know which specific problem to solve first.
We entered the Fatigue Hackathon being run by the Australian Trucking Association and decided to pair our data sharing platform with a wearable wristband that calculates the level of fatigue of the wearer – not just now, but for the next 18 hours. The response we got at the Hackathon gave us confidence to pursue the solution.
Knowing that there is now a vibrant ecosystem of support for startups in Australia, I had done some research on accelerators. BlueChilli stood out for me because of its methodology developed over many years, and the product development element.
So when I received an email announcing the BlueChilli and Coca-Cola Amatil Xcelerate program I was quick to attend an information session. I immediately felt very comfortable with the BlueChilli team and had no hesitation applying.
We were accepted and as I write this we are in our third week of the program. We’ve learned so much in such a short period.
The first and best advice was to validate that the problem we are solving is actually a big enough problem for others, and that they highly value a solution.
In Xcelerate, I’ve benefited from the wisdom of many people who have been there and done it before. It’s an instant family of amazing people who are all conspiring for us to succeed!