Smart50 Awards 2018

30 ELMO

Revenue

$26.52 million

Growth

117.75%

Founders

Danny Lessem (50), Manuel Garber (74)

Head Office

Sydney

Employees

193

Industry

Information and communication technology

Website

elmosoftware.com.au

HR and payroll software platform ELMO considers innovation a critical component to its business.

Founded in 2002 by Danny Lessem and Manuel Garber, the business was born out of a recognition that manual HR processes were inefficient.

The business has an Australia-based R&D team, Lessem says, which accounts for some 25% of its overall workforce, and since listing on the ASX in July last year, ELMO has released five new modules into the market.

“Even at the turn of the millennium, [we] believed businesses were in need of more advanced and streamlined solution beyond Excel spreadsheets, heavy paperwork, filing cabinets or installed software,” Lessem says.

Although there was some initial hesitation from the market to move processes online, as internet speeds increased, ELMO found it had a first-mover advantage, with what Lessem calls a “native cloud solution”.

Due to being self-financed, the company initially struggled with client acquisition as “there was no budget available for sophisticated sales and marketing functions”.

With no track record of success or partnerships to reference, it’s tricky to get those first few clients on board.

“Nobody wants to be the guinea pig,” Lessem says.

The only way to overcome this was to identify the most likely early adopter industries and build a convincing argument to best demonstrate the value of the platform.

“We learnt the importance of sales, grit and working closely with key stakeholders to ensure we got those first few customers on board,” he says.

But those challenges are all part of being an entrepreneur, Lessem says, advising others not to take the decision to go into business lightly.

“While it may be ‘vogue’ to be a serial entrepreneur with a series of ventures as part of your credentials, depending on what your goals are, going into business for the long term is a huge responsibility and requires a considerable time and financial commitment.”

Getting a business venture off the ground often requires founders to bootstrap, especially in the early days.

There are uncontrollable forces at play, he says, and advises entrepreneurs not to put all their eggs in one basket.

“While it’s important to have preferences, goals and a strong vision, accept the need to be flexible and adaptive,” he says.

“This could be the difference between success, slow death or a short shelf life.”

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