Aconex founders Leigh Jasper and Rob Phillpot are two of Australia’s most successful tech entrepreneurs. Their business, which provides cloud-based collaboration tools for the construction sector, has offices in 35 countries, and annual turnover of just under $39 million.
However, the company, which was established in 2000, got off to something of a slow start and the founders faced a big challenge in educating the market about the power of collaboration tools.
Leigh Jasper tells us his story:
When we first launched, internet uptake wasn’t very high and the most common response was, “I don’t get it. Why would we use this?”
For this same reason, raising capital was also a challenge, as many didn’t see the potential to leverage the power of the internet to solve an industry-wide problem. This meant a lot of energy had to be put into educating the market.
From this experience we learnt that we needed to be completely customer focussed. Rather than focussing primarily on the product and its features, we learnt that we needed to focus on making our system easy to use and providing an unlimited amount of training and support. The idea was that the more adept they were at using the system, the more value they would gain from it, resulting in repeat business.
We also realised that the early adopters were absolutely key to our business, so we made sure that all our staff always went the extra mile to give them all the support they needed. Many of our early clients, who took a punt on us at the beginning, are still with us and have been invaluable advocates.
Our best lessons for entrepreneurs are:
- Naivety can be your best weapon, so keep it as long as you can!
- Ensure your clients are the focus of everything you do.
- Be open and brutally honest with investors.
- Never lose sight of how important your people are and your culture is.