How Aussie startup Local Measure secured a partnership with Cisco to modernise the Sydney Opera House

Local Measure founder and chief Jonathan Barouch. Source: Supplied.

Local Measure founder and chief Jonathan Barouch. Source: Supplied.

Sydney-based startup Local Measure has secured a partnership with tech giant Cisco, to bring its real-time customer experience platform to the Sydney Opera House.

Founded in 2013, the startup provides a customer experience platform for hotels, venues and even theme parks, using guest data to better engage guests and personalise experiences.

Five years on, it has offices in Singapore, Dubai, London, Miami and Phoenix, and just shy of 50 staff globally, which includes chief operating officer and ex-Twitter executive Sara Axelrod.

Working on the iconic opera house marks something of a full circle for Local Measure — it counted the Aussie landmark as one of its first clients.

Founder and chief Jonathan Barouch tells StartupSmart in the early days he received some government funding, and the Sydney Opera House was “one of the first New South Wales government bodies to say they wanted to work with us”.

The business has grown up a bit since then. This latest development follows a $4.5 million capital raise, closed in January 2017, which Barouch says allowed the startup to reach the next level of growth.

It grew its sales team globally, and diversifying its product to move away from social media data collection and into providing a customer experience-focused product.

“We couldn’t have done all the development without that capital,” Barouch says.

Since the raise, Local Measure has also secured “a number” of significant new global accounts, and almost doubled its revenue, he adds.

And the partnership with Cisco — a NASDAQ-listed business with a $US223 billion ($308.6 billion) market cap — is helping propel the Australian startup’s growth even further.

Local Measure initially took part in the developer outreach program of WebEx, a conferencing and collaboration video conferencing technology owned by Cisco, and then integrated with Cisco’s cloud and routing business Meraki.

Cisco saw the potential for marketing automation “and other use cases that allow businesses to connect with customers at scale”, Barouch says.

Clients liked the joint offerings, and the relationship “grew and grew”, he adds.

It’s an achievement, but “as an entrepreneur, you’re always looking for the next thing”, Barouch says.

Already, the startup is reaping the benefits of “advocacy and support” offered by Cisco, with Local Measure teams in Sweden, Paris and the UK being invited into meetings and presentations to showcase the startup to prospective new clients.

“Those are introductions and meetings that we never would have got on our own,” Barouch says.

People like Australians

Having secured a partnership with one of the world’s biggest tech companies, to work on one of Australia’s most famous landmarks, Barouch admits “I did pinch myself”.

But it wasn’t an easy ride, and “obviously I don’t want to sugarcoat all of the hard work it took to get here”, he adds.

There’s has been a significant investment of time, resources and capital on both the parts of Local Measure and Cisco, he adds, and the outcome is a “nice culmination” of that.

For other startups trying to partner up with large and influential tech players, the key thing is to focus on the impact you want to have on the end-customers.

“The customers care about tech, but they don’t really,” he says. They want the best outcomes, but they don’t necessarily care how it happens.

If a startup can align with a large company and “demonstrate that the sum of the parts is better than each of the parts independently, that’s a really good start”, Barouch says.

If you can provide a “really symbiotic” product or service through partnership, then “naturally, bigger partners are interested”, he adds.

Start with the customer’s needs in mind, “and the rest will follow”, he says.

And finding the companies to partner with may not be as hard as startups imagine. A lot of the large Silicon Valley companies have active tech outreach programmes, and they’re increasingly looking to Australia and the Asia Pacific region to connect with startups.

“There’s a natural advantage for Australians … if you’re trying to connect in Silicon Valley, you’re one of several thousand,” Barouch says.

“When senior executives come out to Singapore, there are less people fighting for their partnership.”

Australia also has a bright workforce, and works in the same timezone as Asia, which can be an advantage, Barouch says.

Plus, “people generally like Australians”.

Australian startups tend to “say it like it is … no bullshit”, he adds.

“I think a lot of global companies find that refreshing.”

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