"Join over 25 million other readers that have been educated and inspired to transform their life and business"

Start Your Online Side Hustle
click here

How a Car Crash Inspired a Multi-Million Dollar App (Episode 19)

Joe Hoolahan is the Founding CEO of JESI, a global software business that manages the safety of remote or isolated workers. JESI is an anywhere, anytime tool solving the mobile workforce challenge of knowing where people are located at any point in time.

During the recent COVID landscape, JESI has provided clients with a critical platform to assist in the management of the teams who now find themselves isolated, remote, working from home or working alone on sites.

A champion of regional innovation, Joe played a founding role in developing an innovation center for the Townsville Region in Queensland Australia where JESI was founded and still has a presence. JESI also now calls Brisbane home.  

As testament to the ability for technology businesses to operate globally from any location, in 2016, JESI was the first regional business to receive direct investment funding from the Queensland Government under the Advance Queensland scheme along with their Co-investor Future Now Ventures.

Prior to establishing JESI in 2012, Joe worked as a business development and marketing specialist within the corporate training and sporting sectors. His experience includes working with established brands such as the North Queensland Cowboys and Tec-NQ with extensive connections throughout the regions of Queensland.

What you will learn

  • Why listening to your customers is your best investment
  • The importance of global markets for scaling your business
  • The fastest and cheapest ways to learn without going broke
  • Why automation is the best friend of business growth
  • Why you need an internal champion for Enterprise sales success
  • The two key skills needed to pivot a product during the pandemic
  • Why boring data can keep people productive and safe
  • The importance of nurturing relationships for long term business retention


Jeff Bullas: Hi, everyone. Welcome to The Jeff Bullas Show. Today we have Joe Hoolahan with me. I'm going to introduce him, and then we're going to hear a little bit about his journey as an entrepreneur. Joe Hoolahan is the founding CEO of JESI, a global software business that manages the safety of remote or isolated workers. JESI is an anywhere anytime tool solving the mobile workforce challenge of knowing where people are located at any point in time. During the recent COVID landscape, JESI has provided clients with a critical platform to assist in the management of the teams who now find themselves isolated, remote, working from home, or working alone on sites.

Jeff Bullas: A champion of regional innovation, Joe played a founding role in developing an innovation center for the Townsville region in Queensland, Australia, where JESI was founded and still has a presence. JESI also now calls Brisbane home. As a testament to the ability for technology businesses to operate globally from any location, in 2016 JESI was the first regional business to receive direct investment funding from the Queensland government under the Advance Queensland scheme, along with their co-investor Future Now Ventures.

Jeff Bullas: Prior to establishing JESI in 2012, Joe worked as a business development and marketing specialist within the corporate training and sporting sectors. His experience includes working with established brands, such as North Queensland Cowboys, (that's an Australian Rugby League football team), and the Tec-NQ extensive connections through the regions of Queensland.

Jeff Bullas: Welcome to the show, Joe. First question, what got you into building this software? Where did this all start? Because it's not something I would have thought of.

Joe Hoolahan: Yeah. No, thanks, Jeff. And thanks for having us on. Look, it all started from obviously being in North Queensland and being remote that actually came out of a real life experience with a good friend of mine who was effectively a traveling salesperson and was driving to Townsville to Weipa, which was his normal travel route. And unfortunately, one event turned his car over and was found... well, wasn't found for several hours. He was upside down, but only 10 minutes away from his destination. And it wasn't found until many, many hours later on in the dark of the night, and probably quite upside down, fading in and out of consciousness.

Joe Hoolahan: And when we all heard about this, we sort of thought, "Well, that's crazy. Why didn't anyone start looking for him? Or why didn't anyone know where he was?" And it really came down to everyone just gave up. Everyone just assumed that, oh, he must've stayed at Cooktown. Or maybe we got the days wrong, he wasn't coming through today. Or maybe he stayed somewhere else, and all the people waiting at the pub to have a beer when he got there just eventually just got on with what they were doing.

Joe Hoolahan: So we started investigating this and thought that's crazy. How, even with that technology, would we not know that someone has not arrived where they need to be? So that's where the concept of JESI Journey Management started, and we then validated that with the mining sector and some people that were used to having staff travel and being in North Queensland. And managing staff myself, we really understood the problem. We understood the problem that we do a lot of, "Jeff, give me a call when you get there." But what happens when they don't call or what happens if you forget and go on with your life, and that person actually does need you as a supporter or wingman to check that you're okay? So that's a very simple story of how it started, and it's gone gangbusters since then.

Jeff Bullas: So you had this experience, he was obviously found.

Joe Hoolahan: Yes, the guy's alive and well. Yes.

Jeff Bullas: Okay. And who found him? I'm just curious about the end of the story.

Joe Hoolahan: Yeah, end of the story, I think it was a passing trucker that found him. So a truck was driving by, and only because of his height, saw the car and the reflections in the culvert. So that was the good part of the story. He was found safe and well... Or wasn't safe and well, he had a concussion and a few minor injuries, but certainly today he's safe and well.

Jeff Bullas: So what you came up with was essentially you identified a problem that you had a personal experience with, and that's happened with the likes even of the starting of Uber. Uber was started because the original founder of Uber had trouble catching a taxi in Paris. So you've discovered the problem, and then you decide to... This is a piece of software, isn't it? So is that where it started? Tell us about how you... Okay, identified problem, now what are we going to do about it and how do we do it?

Joe Hoolahan: Yeah. And we thought through what the problem was, and if you think back to the time of 2011, apps were starting to become a thing. I probably didn't know a lot about those things called apps. All I knew I had a couple of my phone. But a good friend of mine and my previous co-founder was very appy. So I went to him and said, "I think I've got an idea to solve this problem. This is a problem, and I think we need to build one of these app things." So he went away and came back a few days later and said, "I think you're right. I've searched my phone, thousands of apps in all the market, and either the problem isn't known or the solution hasn't been found or developed."

Joe Hoolahan: So from regional Queensland, we started to find who knew how to build one of these app things, and that's really where the journey started. We need to become a software solution provider. And then we went in search of who could build this for us because neither one of us were technical to the point of being able to create the software or to build it. Certainly wasn't either one of our backgrounds. Both had interest in technology, but certainly not a technical ability.

Jeff Bullas: So where'd you go to get the software written for you? How did that unfold?

Joe Hoolahan: Yeah. And then obviously being in North Queensland, we tried all local resources and we tried working with the universities and obviously some known, I guess, go-to places. We didn't have any luck. I was fortunate enough through a good friend of mine, Cat Matson, and who at the time, or now is a Brisbane chief digital officer, was well connected in this space of tech and startups. I didn't know what a startup was back then, Jeff.

Joe Hoolahan: So we went to Brisbane and we met some connected people within a network, and we had ranging quotes from $2,000 to $250,000. And for some reason we thought that the 250,000 option was the one that we needed to build because through that investigation we worked with the first company called Speedwell, which is a digital agency, if you like, in Brisbane. And they were actually really excellent in helping us identify whether we wanted Apple, whether we wanted a whole of enterprise solution. And I think across a few days and different meetings, we really got clear on that it was much more than an app. It really was something that was going to be sold to the enterprises of the world and something that was going to sit there as a full scale product or platform. So that was where the first version was built, through Speedwell in Brisbane. And then there's been numerous iterations since then as well.

Jeff Bullas: How long did it take you to go from concept discussion and deciding, "Okay, it's a platform we need to build that can work across an enterprise"? So how long from starting the software development to launching? How long was that?

Joe Hoolahan: Yeah, it was probably the better part of two years, I think, by the time we really got into the early scoping of what this looks like, and then to actually launch. We actually launched the product commercially in March 2014. So that was the better part of two years to get it up and going in and having live and a paying enterprise customers.

Jeff Bullas: Right. Now this next question, which a lot of people want to know about, so how did you fund it? $250,000, it's a fair big chunk of change. How did you fund this? Is it a benevolent uncle? Queensland government? Who was the benevolent uncle?

Joe Hoolahan: Yeah, there's probably a couple of good benevolent uncles. Look, and like any startup, and again, not knowing what a startup was back then and the ecosystem being fairly immature, we sort of, I guess through my networks, were able to go and contact people who were willing to take a punt. And I think even the term angel investment was unknown. So we really relied on relationships and conversations and being able to sell the story to a few local people in Townsville and North Queensland. And we were very fortunate that we had very, probably technically speaking, unsophisticated investors be willing to back us. And we managed to raise approximately $450,000 out of that, probably that first tranche of early stage, super early seed investment. And all people that probably in some way understood the problem, or whether they'd be working in mining or construction or have always worked in remote areas. So they were, I guess, in some way, connected to the problem as well. So that was our first tranche of investors.

Joe Hoolahan: Thinking simply back then, I laugh because it's going to cost us $250k, so we probably need $250,000 to go out and sell it and then we're away. Like any software, it takes a lot more time and money. So that was 2013, '14, the funding. Then we did another round in late 2014 for another approximate $400k with... And I guess cheekily at the time, our first raise, we put a dollar on it. We said it's worth a dollar a share and there's two million shares available. So we had some rough, very, very raw thinking about whether we need to retain ownership of the company, whatever that means. So we were going to release 400,000 shares.

Joe Hoolahan: Second round we then thought, "Well, we've got a product now. We're a legitimate business. We've got more than just an ABN." So we went out to market and raised another $400,000 at $2 a share. And that got us through until approximately late 2015, 2016, when Future Now Ventures, our partner that had been along that journey and been... There was a connection from the original developer of Speedwell, [inaudible 00:10:58], who was involved with Future Now. We'd be known to each other.

Joe Hoolahan: And then the Future Now were going to invest at the end of 2015, about the same time that Queensland announced their Advance Queensland funding for the business development fund. And so I guess we were first in line with our hat out saying, "This is a great way to invest." So the way that fund worked was that the government would invest 50% and the co-investor would co-invest 50%. So that was done and we had the final funds through that in June 2016.

Joe Hoolahan: Yeah, so overall, and then we did another small round last year just to get us through, because we're in the middle of doing a series A round now again with Future Now Ventures. There was a mini round done last year in November that, again, approximately another $1 million was funded. So all up, we've probably raised around two, two and a half million dollars so far across the four or five years in probably more bootstrapping style than large chunks of money.

Jeff Bullas

Right. Now, you've raised this money, you're learning as you go, obviously. You haven't been to Silicon Valley, you haven't been working with Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Bezos. You're basically leapt in where angels often fear to tread, which is a lovely cliche. Because you had no experience at all, had you?

Joe Hoolahan: No. What we knew how to do was, I guess, promote and understand and, I guess, share a topic that was familiar to people. Around that time, probably a key person named Kathy Wilson joined the organization, and Matthew my co-founder and I at the time were still full-time working elsewhere. So there's no one actually working full-time in the business. Kathy was the first full-time employee. On the back of some Commercialization Australia funding we were able to then further prove the model. And really, that became a validation. The first validating was going to the market and asking really what was this problem, and if it was a true problem and if people were prepared to pay for it.

Joe Hoolahan: So the learning was very old-school, business development, very old-school understanding and listening to the market. There's certainly a lot of talk around, again, early stages from this ecosystem that I started to become familiar with and involved with was very clear about this global scale, and you have to go big or go home. And Australia's a small market, but the world market is what we want. So we really wanted to make sure that we were building a product that was scalable.

Joe Hoolahan: Our first instance was a great Mack truck, and it didn't move very fast and it didn't go around corners fast, but it was solid, but it was not scalable. So our second iteration of having to rebuild the product after spending a considerable amount of money was to actually make sure we build that scalability. And that's when we also then recruited more people to come and work internally as our own development team. So a lot of trial by error, a lot of listening to people who had done it before. I think that was really important. Being wary of not listening to people who hadn't done it before that had a lot of, "I reckon," and, "I think you ought to," and, "What you should do," is probably the best advice I can give anybody is stick to the people that have actually done it before and ask as many questions as you can. So plenty of learning.

Joe Hoolahan: And being remote, it probably, it did force us to reach out a bit more as well. And I'll say remote being North Queensland. There's a lot of amazing business people in Townsville. They gave us plenty of support and advice, but to find that next level of who actually did this as a digital technical solution, as a scale up or a SaaS product, there weren't too many around in our network at the time.

Jeff Bullas: That's interesting. You mentioned a word which is an acronym, SaaS, also known a “Software as a Service”. So you said you moved from a product that wasn't scalable to one that was. Was that one where it was software that you had to go and download it, put it on someone's computer, versus launching a software as a service product that actually could run in the cloud?

Joe Hoolahan: Yeah, we were running the software in the cloud from day one. The non-scalability of it was more around the architecture that was built very much instance by instance. So it was a very labor intensive process on our backend to bring on a new client. It was cutting and pasting and creating new instances. So it wasn't automated, it wasn't automated growth or scale. It was more that the backend that was the manual part. Certainly, we were very early cloud probably from day one, it was certainly built in the cloud. But again, that non-scalable instance created a huge cost in the early days of having to host all those instances as well.

Jeff Bullas: Right. So you've built it, you know about old-school business development, obviously, so you've been able to sell the concept to investors. Now the next part is selling it to potential buyers. Who was your first customer?

Joe Hoolahan: Yeah, well, our first customer was... There's been a couple that all came on at the same time. Probably from a community point of view, a great little organization called Act for Kids, who deal with abuse, child trust, and children in some really awful situations. They had people going in and out of homes. They were a local Townsville division of that company, and they were a very early adopter. TAFE in North Queensland at the time were going through change where they had staff traveling between Cairns, Townsville, and Mount Isa.

Joe Hoolahan: Probably the biggest ticket that we like to talk about was everything we did was through digital marketing and our first client that came knocking through that was Rio Tinto (one of the largest mining companies in the world). By September Rio Tinto had 200 people on the system. And to Rio Tinto's credit, as an organization back then they had a concept called Not Built Here, and encouraged people, I guess, on ground level or operational level to go and find products that could actually improve the business services or practices. So we're very lucky that a group in Perth found us by social media. And really, we worked hard to hang on to that client ever since.

Jeff Bullas: Right. So that's quite a brand name, because Rio Tinto is one of the largest mining companies in the world, isn't it?

Joe Hoolahan: Yeah, it is. And it's interesting, it's been such a journey because the key thing with enterprise selling is finding that internal champion that really owns the product inside a business. It's one thing to sell to a person, but having that person to champion that product through the enterprise is super important.

Joe Hoolahan: It's not just about Rio, but any enterprise through that period, we launched a product at the top of the decline of mining. So great time to launch a product when the mining is tanking. But that also, probably through the changing of people, probably more people got exposed to JESI. While we didn't have that one champion, it sort of got hand balled around a little bit. But that period also provided us an opportunity to really look at our brand. Back then it was very black and fluro orange and very blokey and very, very industrial. And suddenly our market that was geared at mining and resources was going downhill.

Joe Hoolahan: So the opportunity to rebrand and to look at our actual positioning of our brand and look at other areas like health and community and education that still had the need to monitor and work with their mobile workers, that was probably a chance for us to reassess where we were in the market at that stage. So it was good and bad about that time, and luckily we also had some great people that hung on really tight for Rio, and we maintained that client through the whole way as well.

Jeff Bullas: Well, that's very, very cool. Can you tell us a bit more about... We're in the middle of some really crazy times with the pandemic COVID-19, and your product's about keeping workers and remote workers safe. So can you tell a bit more about what that entails, that landscape? Keeping workers safe in what ways?

Joe Hoolahan: Yeah. Well, every, I guess, jurisdiction around the world has some form, whether it be legislation or duty care about workers' safety. Whether it be traveling to and from site or OH&S in general. Keeping people working safe through COVID is... Unprecedented is a well used word at this time. But it's understanding where your people are, understanding that they're okay, understanding that someone's now working independently for eight hours.

Joe Hoolahan: So you'd think during COVID, a product that was relying on journeys would really struggle. And certainly we saw a very big decline at the start or mid March. What we worked with our clients on is to become more relevant in that we actually showed them a way that they could look after their working from home people, people working on site by themselves, people still traveling by themselves. So there's a large percentage of the organizations that had never used JESI before that suddenly came on and went, "Wow, this is actually a way that we can keep check with our staff." Not keep an eye on or keep Big Brother like, but actually know that they're okay.

Joe Hoolahan: We've had some great examples of clients that have used JESI as a log in, log out system for the whole day. And what it's actually done is, yes, there's a duty of care there, but there's also a productivity element that clients have actually told us some information, where their clients or their staff use it as a deliberate, "I'm signing off at 5:00." Because what they'll find, especially within the community and healthcare areas is they're amazing people that would probably work till midnight if you let them. So suddenly being there, it was an absolute disconnect where they could go, "Now I'm actually finished."

Joe Hoolahan: The other elements that are provided with a company like that was not deliberately calling people if they were already in some other task. So the activity about JESI became very important. So the activity could have been working at home, the activity could have been going to visit a client who is a high need. So from other dispersed workers, they were actually able to see where their teammates were and whether they should be calling them or whether they should just maybe let that ride and we'll call them later today. So it actually helped with their productivity as well. They allowed people to get on with the task. At the same time, always having that safety net and that solving the peace of mind if they're okay.

Jeff Bullas: So what you're saying essentially is it's not only a safety tool, it's a productivity tool as well.

Joe Hoolahan: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And pre-COVID and during COVID, and some of the data that we now see coming out of the system is amazing. You're able to see like a, I guess, a heat map, if you like, of where the journeys or activities are. And organizations could use that to say, "Well, you know what? This is where our people actually live, or this is where they work. Man, we're getting these people to travel two and a half hours every day. How much productivity are we losing during that day?" They also can use it like a, I guess, an inward run sheet, if you like, or a manifest to see who's coming into the office today, who's not coming in the office today, allocating space, allocating resources. So it becomes a much more complicated process than just keeping safe. It certainly becomes a productivity tool as well.

Jeff Bullas: So that raises another question, which everyone's actually talking about now is the future of work, and you must be gaining some insights on where you think that is potentially going. I'd be interested in your thoughts on that.

Joe Hoolahan: Yeah. It's going to change the world, isn't it? I think no one can deny that the world will be different. Some of the insights we're seeing is that, and you probably see a lot of them on social media, is that the Zooming and everybody being connected was great and it was novel. I think there's still always going to be that element where people still need to get face-to-face and sit across the table and be a part of that social environment. I think there's no doubt that for an element of the population, working from home will be fantastic, but I think there's still that element where people are still looking for that social interaction around their workplaces.

Joe Hoolahan: So I personally don't see that it's going to become a totally remote space. I certainly think that large office spaces of hundreds and hundreds of people per floor will be very different in the future. I think they'll be maybe more rostered, I guess, like an advanced hot desking, if you like, where people might come out on certain days or only come in for meetings or planned events. I have heard organizations saying that once upon a time, you had to ask permission to work from home. Now you actually have to ask permission to book an office and go into a meeting. So I think that the resources are going to be used differently.

Joe Hoolahan: It will raise, I think, an interesting discussion down the line when we start talking about the negative side that may come out of it about the future of work around what responsibilities and liabilities an employer have for their people now working at home. And the simple part about ergonomics around desks and chairs and trip hazards and all those other things that come into it. What we've seen is that every single person working at home is now... That's a workplace. I don't mean to just sort of bash on about the legislation, but that eventually, unfortunately there'll be something that'll set a precedent that will change that for everybody. It'll make that very different. The first accident or first incident to be reported is going to be really an interesting time to watch to see how that flows through the rest of the community as well.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah. My riding buddy, who runs a business in Sydney and has a lot of his workers working from home now, he said to approach the insurance companies going, "Well, what are the implications for insurance for workers?" And a lot of this is uncharted territory because it was an occasional one-off. Now it's like 80% of the people are actually working from home or more.

Jeff Bullas: So the evolution and transformation of many industries is going to be profound, and we've never been here before. The thing I've sort of likened it to sometimes is this is like a war time event, except the foe's unseen. But on the other hand, people still going off to work, it wasn't an issue. Whereas today, this is a completely different event that... And as we're talking about, when we were having a little bit of an intro chat before we started the formal part of this, but this is unprecedented, we just don't know how it's all going to unfold and everyone's got their own opinions of it. So it's going to be a journey, it's going to be an evolution, and a lot of the time we're guessing.

Joe Hoolahan: Yeah, I couldn't agree any more. The part that we've really noticed is that there is so much unknown and it is uncharted territory. And where we've probably looked at somehow we can support our clients is helping mitigate that risk and saying, well, the easiest way that we can do it at the moment is to do a risk assessment of the person's workplace and that can be done digitally, and that's fantastic.

Joe Hoolahan: And I totally agree with you and your comment from your friend about it is so uncharted. We don't know yet. I think all we can do is if you're managing people that are working remotely or in isolation or alone is to best mitigate the risk like you would if it was a workplace. We've seen the lighter, more human side of people with kids in the background, Zooming and things like that. At the same time, you think of the situation that as a parent, when you're one eye on the work and one eye on the kid, you just hope that we manage the process right when it doesn't go well. I hope human being and the nature of human beings step up, not litigation.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah, I totally agree. Hope some common sense overrides nonsense, frankly. We're seeing a lot of nonsense around the world. Sometimes it's known as fake news, whatever you want to call it. Now, what's the business model for you? Is it a monthly subscription model? Is it a seat model? What's your business model?

Joe Hoolahan: Yeah. So obviously our focus is on enterprise clients, so that provides a monthly subscription and a sign-in fee for the company and unlimited users. What we then move them to is we talk about a price per journey or a price per activity. So that can range from, at the earliest low entry, $6 through to, who knows, down to $2 depending on volume. So it's a bit like an old Telco plan. So you're buying a subscription and then you pay on consumption of journeys.

Joe Hoolahan: Have played with that over time, and in the early days it was per user. The conversation then when you're dealing with a large enterprise and everyone wants to see that you've got a Rio Tinto with 60,000 people or 40,000 people, you just get five bucks off every seat. I think the change in that world is that enterprises are now aware of the, I guess the leverage that SaaS models provide. And also that it becomes a discussion of, "Do I really have 100,000 people using this or do I only need 20 people using it?" So we decided two years ago to go to the price per journey model. And therefore, if they're not using they're not paying, but we do have that baseline entry per month subscription that can be around $750 a month onwards.

Jeff Bullas: Right. So what do you mean by journey?

Joe Hoolahan: We see journeys as A to Z. So a journey can have checkpoints, so it could be leaving home, going to the airport, flying, getting off the other end, driving to site, getting to work, getting to camp. So a journey can have multiple checkpoints. But in our definition, a journey is from your A to B or your A to Z if you're home safe or you're completing that journey. And journey, I probably need to catch myself there. Our language really is moving to activity. An activity could be working from home, an activity could be working on site, an activity could be flying. It could be a meeting, could be stationary. So the journey is now about the activity. And that can change. You could have a journey, you could have an activity, you could have a meeting, you could have a work alone all as part of one fee journey.

Jeff Bullas: Okay, right. So you've obviously had a few challenges along the way. And he nods very knowingly, for those of you can't see his face. Because we're actually recording this video as well as audio. But Joe just nodded and smiled knowingly when I asked him that question. Because as we all know, a successful entrepreneurial journey comes with its challenges. So what are some of the biggest challenges that you faced over the years?

Joe Hoolahan: Yeah, probably, and one of the hardest ones we've been through is actually probably the human factor of having to part ways with a co-founder and a co-founder stepping out of the business and all the fun that that brings from a legality point of view and a disruption to team and process. So that was certainly a tough process that I wouldn't wish upon anybody. And especially when it's a friendship and it's a business relationship as well. We wouldn't be the first and we won't be the last to go through that. But that certainly is a very large challenge that there's not a lot of experience or anecdotal evidence on how to deal with that from a shareholder point of view. So that was something that we had to learn a lot of hard lessons about.

Joe Hoolahan: The other part is that putting a new product into a very traditional marketplace with traditional procurement processes, a client knows they want it, but then it's got to fit on a budget line somewhere. It's got to fit into a planning budget process somewhere. So enterprise sales processes are very long. And probably anyone going to sell B2B to a large enterprise would love to think someone likes it, they see it, and you get a purchase order the next day and it's viral. Large enterprises, they're great to have as logos on your customer list, but they're also very complicated businesses. There are many, many businesses within a business, and it's to get that top up or bottom down, how do you get that whole business using it is a challenge. And that's something that probably, I don't think anyone really has great answers to. And if they do, I'd love to hear from maybe someone of your listeners or followers. That'd be a great thing to hear.

Joe Hoolahan: And probably, I think the rhetoric around innovation versus adoption is something that does frustrate me. I think we talk about why we need more innovation. I don't think we need more innovation, particularly in Australia. I think we've got a lot of innovation. I think what we lack is innovative decision-making. I think there's a challenge where you can see an internal champion that wants the product, loves the product that probably needs a little bit more ground cover from their executive or their management to say, "Yeah, okay. Well, sandbox it, go and have a crack at it. Let's trial it and let's get it going and see if it works." And then the actual challenge then of a really good process to have that product ingrained in the business. It's very easy to sell software to a business, and if nobody uses it or uptakes it it's the software's fault. So that onboarding and having people really engaged in the process is super, super challenging and something that we've worked really hard at. And we probably put now as one of our key priorities when we engage with an enterprise client.

Jeff Bullas: Yeah. You mentioned the phrase “internal champion”. And in strategic selling, one of the books I read, gee, 30-odd years ago, especially for enterprise sales, because I used to be in enterprise sales, and it's complex, it's messy. It's like dealing with a matrix, like wrestling with an octopus because like you said, you wish you'd just show up, "Oh, it's obvious you need it. Where's the purchase order?" "Yeah, we need it." Then the arm wrestling starts, doesn't it? The internal politics and the internal champion, which is the person that believes you so much they're willing to knock down walls and run through them to get your product working because they see it as so important. Did you find one in Rio Tinto? Obviously you did.

Joe Hoolahan: Yeah, we have. And to really apply credit where credit's due is it's come from great account management through Kathy Wilson, but also the internal people that we've met along the way. And we've been very fortunate even through, and not speaking poorly, but as companies go through redundancies, we've been fortunate enough to have such great relationships with people that as we've been walking out the door, they've been ringing us saying, "Look, I've just been made redundant, but I've put your file in so-and-so's desk and they're you're new contact."

Joe Hoolahan: So there have been many, many good supporters in that. And they're the real champions of innovation. I think creating the innovative product is one thing but people that actually can see the need and embrace, and as you say, run through the walls to get it in. And that takes its own level of perseverance and resilience as an internal purchaser of a new product, that sometimes it could be when there are big decisions are made, could be make or break for their career. I certainly don't take that lightly at all, but understand that I think if businesses really want to adopt technology and particularly move forward, I'd love to see a little bit more ground cover for those guys to make brave decisions or innovative decisions.

Jeff Bullas: Right. So just to wrap it up, you've built a software as a service business, you've done it from a remote city in Queensland, in a, not a large country, Australia, and you started without knowing much about software. So what are some of the main lessons and tips? What are some of the tips you could share with our audience that you think they could take away and to think about, whether they're an existing business or whether thinking of starting one?

Joe Hoolahan: If we played bingo today we'd probably both have an empty sheet. But I think resilience is such an overused word, but an underestimated word. I think resilience in regards to knowing that it's not going to be easy, that it's not someone else's fault of not buying your product. I think there are going to be mistakes, and mistakes sometimes cost money. Having a team that is focused and set on the same prize is really important because, again, development versus sales, there's always going to be tension in there between which one runs again.

Joe Hoolahan: And I think that the key thing is that there's no rule book, there's no path. I can look at companies that look and sound similar to ours, but we're both gone on different journeys. And I think that's the important thing is to not get pushed into comparing yourself with another company. I mean, we grew up right next to safety culture, which is a fantastic story in Australian software. And there are companies with an amazing CEO that is focused, but a very different story to ours. And there's some things you could pull out and say they're the same, but I think if you get focused on looking at someone who looks like, sounds like, I think it's a dead end path, and that comparison can be gut wrenching. And I think that's also the hard part when you then talk about raising capital is that somewhere you're always trying to be forced into some sort of go gauge, no-go gauge. And that might not always work.

Joe Hoolahan: So I think the key part for me is being resilient, being able to listen to markets, being willing to change. And we probably, through COVID, we didn't quite pivot. And I probably don't like using the word pivot in that case, but we certainly looked at how do we actually stay more resilient and more relevant? How do we actually listen more? And how do we just not always just say that we know best? We need to listen to the market and know that no one's going to do it for you. You have to get up every day and do it again.

Jeff Bullas: Right. They are very wise words, Joe. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

Joe Hoolahan: Thanks, Jeff.

Jeff Bullas: It's been a fabulous story to hear with its twists and turns. And look forward to hearing more about your future success as you try and take on the world. And I think maybe your product's very well positioned to do that. Thank you very much for your time.

Joe Hoolahan: No worries, Jeff, and thanks to everybody for listening and watching in. Thank you.

Jeff Bullas: Just one other thing before I leave, how do people find Joe and your company?

Joe Hoolahan: Yeah, that's always a good plug. It's JESI, J-E-S-I.io. So website's up there and you can certainly link through to all the appropriate products and find us through that way. Or myself on LinkedIn, Joe Hoolahan. So yeah, I'd love to hear from anybody that's interested and would love to be able to help provide some solutions. So JESI.io.

Jeff Bullas: Great. Thanks, Joe. And look forward to hearing about how you're keeping people safe working from home or traveling. And all the other options and solutions that you offer in this very strange time in the world's history, which is going to be okay, it's just a tough time. All right. Thanks, Joe. All the best.

Joe Hoolahan: Thanks, Jeff. Stay safe.

Traffic Guide

Free Download

The Ultimate Guide to Website Traffic for Business