Technology virtuoso SafetyCulture is undoubtedly one of Townsville’s – indeed, Australia’s – biggest start-up success stories. From a garage in Mt Low five years ago, the company has grown to a global entity valued at $440 million thanks to its health and safety mobile app, iAuditor, and its most recent funding round, which closed a mammoth $60 million from US and local backers.
The latest round of investment drew in big names from across the world like Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar and was led by big-time New York fund Tiger Global Management – which has previously invested in some of the world’s most successful companies including Facebook, Spotify and LinkedIn.
“There’s been plenty of moments we’ve pinched ourselves and thought, ‘is this really happening?’,” Founder Luke Anear said. “But there’s also a lot of hard work in between those moments. It’s not easy, it’s the hardest challenge of our lives and hopefully it has a big impact on the world.”
The recent funding will allow SafetyCulture to further revolutionise the development of its technology and delve into the marketing of its products. “We’ve brought in James Vincent to help with that (marketing). He led the branding of Apple for 12 years with Steve Jobs, he also created the Airbnb tagline ‘don’t go there, live there’. We’re now able to bring in world leaders to help us go to the next stage.”
Luke said finding the right investors was critical to the growth of the company. “I’m looking for a partner that has experience with the stages that we are likely to now move to. We’re not tech entrepreneurs who want to start a tech company and then sell it and then start another one. This is our life’s work. We’re looking for partners that share our long-term vision; who had a track record of backing founders over extensive periods of time, and that’s what we found with Tiger.”
There are now 15,000 organisations using iAuditor globally and the growth of SafetyCulture has been swift to say the least. With offices spread all over the world including Townsville, Sydney, Kansas City, Manchester and Manila, Luke explains that thinking on a global scale is now the norm.
“People around the world really aren’t that different. The problems that someone faces in Townsville, Perth or Tasmania are often similar to that which someone faces in North America , Canada or Germany. The greatest challenge we see with the next generation of entrepreneurs is that they don’t think big enough, when often the problem they’re solving could be applied to many other regions of the world. The old distribution paths have now been replaced with digital distribution paths and much more efficient paths to market. You no longer have to build something physical and send it on a ship across the world. You can now build something that can be sent instantly digitally and 3D printed at the other end.”
For SafetyCulture and many other local businesses looking to scale up, going global goes far beyond just the logistical side of things, with Luke agreeing that mindset and the ability to adapt has a significant impact. “The fixed mindset that we were all taught to have in school, where you learnt how to do a particular job and then repeat those skills every single day, they no longer apply. We need a generation with a growth mindset, not a fixed mindset. One where the skills you have today will need to be replaced with new skills tomorrow. It’s a different way of thinking, and that’s what I see people struggle with the most, the feeling of uncertainty. The discomfort that comes from not knowing how to solve a problem is unsettling for people, at first, they soon realise that it’s ok not to have all the answers. There’s plenty of resources these days to find the answers, experimenting is part of your job. That mindset will be part of our global success.”
Making a global impact requires employing an extensive team, and the growth of the SafetyCulture staff has been exponential.
“Our team has grown from 85 last year to 218 this year, “Luke said. “We now have 350 million responses a year collected through iAuditor and that creates infrastructure and scaling challenges that we need to solve. That’s a daily challenge, how do we continue to scale.”
It’s unsurprising really, given the name of the company, that Luke’s focus has shifted from the importance of the product to the importance of the culture, emphasising that in such a competitive workforce, employers need to build a culture that attracts the best and brightest employees.
“I understand that without a great culture of high-performing teams we’re just not going to achieve our goals,” he said.
“It’s something that we focus on every day; we make it a priority. We have a people team that are constantly working on improving our culture. We’re constantly investing in our people and making sure that our teams are emotionally connected to the problem we’re solving. I believe if you put smart people in front of a big problem that they’re emotionally connected to, then that’s when they feel compelled to do something about it.”
SafetyCulture has also recently launched its new app, Spotlight, for real-time incident notification that compliments the iAuditor experience.
“What we’ve found is that customers who were using iAuditor for inspections had the same requirement to alert customers when something had gone wrong or was broken,” Luke said. “We noticed that our customers had a very messy communication loop were people used email, they used phones, they used text messaging they used a variety of communications to alert their team members of a problem which then made it very hard to track what had happened and who had responded. Spotlight centralises all of the incident communications into a single feed which makes it very easy for teams to respond to an incident in real time.”
So where to from here for SafetyCulture? “We’ll continue to keep scaling our team to reach more customers to put safety and quality in the hands of every worker in the world,” says Luke. “Someone dies every 15 seconds from a workplace incident or illness. 350 million people a year are injured as a result or workplace incident or illness. We’ve got a long way to go, and we need to continue to push ahead.”