While you’d think being the grandson of one of Australia’s richest people and most prominent business magnates might give you a leg-up in startupland, Josh Lowy says it hasn’t really had much effect at all.
“There’s been the advice and guidance as I’ve grown up, and he’s definitely been a mentor, but the connection doesn’t really impact any part of the business,” Lowy (junior) tells StartupSmart.
“From an exposure standpoint, it’s all implicit. It’s not something we’re focused on or that we mention.”
This is in part thanks to Lowy’s startup Hugo having very little to do with the retail and real estate world associated with his grandfather Frank, and in part because Lowy prefers to spend his time and energy “focusing on today”.
Dreamt up by Lowy and co-founder Darren Chait in 2016, Hugo initially started out as a simple tool which facilitated the posting of meeting notes to workplace collaboration software Slack and list-making software Trello.
“It was born from a frustration we had ourselves. We realised it’s hard today for teams to stay on the same page, with more than 60% of companies employing a remote workforce, and nearly 15 million people in the gig economy,” Lowy says.
“That’s leading to issues like people fragmentation, data fragmentation, and multiple tools being used for multiple things across the business at any one time. Additionally, we recognised the information generated in a meeting is always more valuable to people who are in the room, compared to those who aren’t.”
The two decided to build a solution themselves and were soon seeing results, along with getting feedback from people who were asking for more and more integrations with different pieces of SaaS software.
Seeing the potential, the two pivoted Hugo into what it is today: a SaaS tool which aims to break down team silos and be the “glue” which connects all the different tools used by a company, big or small.
“There’s a lot of new trends coming through from the SaaS explosion, but it’s created a new problem that needs solving, which is how to bring everything together when everyone’s using so many different tools,” he says.
Not just another SaaS tool
Hugo currently integrates with over 20 different platforms, including Asana, HubSpot, Jira, Salesforce and Zendesk. Though the two have a well-polished sales pitch revolving around removing friction and reducing the number of tools a company needs, they realise the irony of Hugo being yet another SaaS tool for companies to sign up for.
A total “90% of the top 100 SaaS products are team-specific, not many are cross-functional. We’re trying to be the glue between all the other tools, and keep everything in sync,” Chait says.
“But the irony actually plays quite well into our pitch,” he laughs. “We usually use it as a bit of an icebreaker.”
Since launching last year, Hugo has been used in over 400,000 meetings and reduced overall meeting time by up to 40%. The company has landed some big-name partners and clients, with Aussie success story Atlassian being both.
Chait says the startup has managed to land such significant partnerships thanks to its agility and relative youth in the space, noting they’re one of the first SaaS companies to integrate with video conferencing software Zoom.
“More established companies couldn’t work as quickly as us,” he says.
Right now the two aren’t fundraising, though they have taken on a small amount of initial investment to get the company off the ground. Both the founders are based in Silicon Valley, a choice they made to help them expand quicker, but Chait says they’re keen to get involved with the Australian tech scene again.
“Australia’s changed a lot, there’s a lot of bigger tech companies there now, so we’re keen to keep steadily investing in more Australian customers,” he says.
For Lowy, a piece of advice he passes on to other founders is to not subscribe to the ‘build it and they will come’ mentality.
“There’s this notion pushed by some leaders in the space that if you build it, they will come. I learnt the hard way that this isn’t true — building a business is not just about the product,” he says.
“A lot goes into the product, but you need to think about how it fits into your customer’s workflow and lives, and how you can be 10 times better than the status quo.”