Award-winning Tasmanian entrepreneur reaps rewards in navigating bureaucracy

Lawrence Howson, founder of software developing group XVT Solutions, has been awarded the 2013 Pearcey Award for Tasmania as part of national innovation awards program the iAwards.


Howson told StartupSmart the award is testimony to his team, and brings credibility and increased profile to the company, noting that running a start-up in Tasmania was difficult.


“There isn’t a lot of investment or venture capital that flows down here. Projects like the ones we take on have been done on a shoestring, so being an entrepreneur down here requires a high level of commitment and belief in being able to bring something to market and to take it to a wide audience,” says Howson, whose company is based in Hobart.


He says there are 15 to 20 IT companies working in Tasmania. His team of 22 works with clients across Australia, creating and managing software solutions. Most of the company’s work is with government departments in Canberra.


Howson says navigating the differences between large federal departments has been challenging and rewarding.


“We’ve had to develop a range of skills in understanding how government works and what’s important to government clients, and those are quite different to private sector clients. It’s not necessarily about money or profitability or economics, it’s about effectiveness and meeting policy and legislative requirements.”


Howson has a background in government IT, having worked with the Department of Economic Development in Tasmania.


He says understanding governance and reporting structures has been central to their success.


“Knowing who reports to who and engaging with those, not from a technical point but from a project management point of view has been important,” he says.


“It’s all about developing strong relationships with clients and really listening to what those clients need and not just wanting to push a solution at them, but tor reflect on those needs and demonstrate an understanding.”


The XVT Solutions team now has a business development manager based in Melbourne and will be looking to develop their clients, especially in the eastern states.


Below is an interview with Howson by the iAwards team. Here is a Hobart meet-up for developers.


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