Why study commerce-accounting and law?
My mother was a school teacher and now works with my father who has a building and construction company. Coming from a hardworking, entrepreneurial family, I felt that a commerce and law degree would well position me to run a business one day.
After uni, what roles prepared you to do just that?
My first role was in management consulting at KPMG. I worked with many business types on strategic and operational projects. It taught me resilience within changing work environments and helped me to develop a strong attention to detail, given the client-focused outcomes. Then I moved into advisory and investment related roles, one being at a venture capital firm called OurCrowd which invests in leading edge companies and technologies.
How did you come to be company secretary of ASX-listed MOQ Limited?
I joined MOQ to assist with corporate development. I was fortunate enough that the board members also appointed me to the role of company secretary which has given me the opportunity to experience what goes on in the engine room of a listed entity - particular the conversations and decisions made at board meetings.
What is MOQ Ltd's focus?
Building, developing and acquiring technology companies.
And its traction?
MOQ Limited listed on the ASX in 2015 and has made four business acquisitions to date, including a number of software and infrastructure managed services and consulting firms, as well as SkoolBag, a market leading communication SaaS [software as a service] product.
You are CEO Of SkoolBag, the leading school-to-parent communication platform. What led to it?
I had the benefit of stepping in as CEO once SkoolBag already had an established product in the market. Whilst I did not conceive the initial concept, I can say that developing and operating a leading software product for a large customer base involves a continual feedback and innovation loop and not a day goes by that out team doesn't experience both small and large light bulb moments, where we come up with new ideas for enabling our customers to achieve more and derive further value from our product.
There are other such platforms. What makes SkoolBag different?
With a large customer base of over 2500 schools, SkoolBag has the benefit of working closely with a broad spectrum of schools across Australia, all with different needs and desires. Balancing simplicity whilst at the same time offering various levels of customization and flexibility has been challenging but one of our major strengths. Our customer success team is also second to none. They truly care for our users and offer unlimited assistance, which I'm regularly told by customers, has made a lasting impact on their experience.
How has Skoolbag changed since its 2016 launch?
It has undergone many improvements. Sometimes these include back-end system improvements, for example security and database optimisation. Other times these have been more obvious changes such as new user interfaces and new products, such as our recently released SkoolBag School eNewsletter feature whereby school newsletters can now be built by schools in minutes and read by their communities on any device in over 100 languages - without needing to be peeled off the mouldy sandwiches in the bottom of your child's school bag!
How many staff have you got working at Dash Co-work space in Newcastle and why did you choose to have a base there?
We've got three employees working out of Dash Co-work, one of our three offices. Having previously been in our own office in Newcastle, we made the move to be in a more collaborative workspace with a strong start-up culture. Dash also provides the environment and technology needed for our team to effectively work with our other office locations.
Are there plans to export Skoolbag?
Given the success of SkoolBag in Australia, we have been lucky that word of mouth has spread us overseas into over 25 countries. We have been very focused on the Australian market, however growing our international footprint is also a strong priority for us.
How would you describe Australia's startup ecosystem?
We're seeing great initiatives come out of it. We truly feel the collaboration both within co-working communities and at meet-ups. With greater amounts of venture capital being invested into the local market, startups are thriving. The biggest challenge is teaching the start-up mindset to kids early on and building resilience so that then they enter the ecosystem, they are ready for it. The startup path is challenging, but can be the most rewarding - the Australian ecosystem needs to ensure that it develops a strong immunity from the fear of failing, and then anything is achievable.
The biggest challenge is teaching the startup mindset to kids early on and building resilience so that then they enter the ecosystem, they are ready for it.Brad Cohen