Buzza looks for silver lining

15/04/2014 - 13:50

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A Perth technology entrepreneur has bowed out of a booming company in attempts to achieve his dream.

IN THE GAME: Nathan Buzza hopes a third crack at commercialising technology to change the healthcare system will be successful. Photo: Attila Csaszar

A Perth technology entrepreneur has bowed out of a booming company in attempts to achieve his dream.

Nathan Buzza co-founded Commtech Wireless in 1993 armed with a vision to revolutionise healthcare across the globe.

Although that goal remains elusive, the 2003 40under40 First Amongst Equals hopes selling his 12 per cent stake in Perth-founded company Azure Healthcare and moving on to Adelaide-based healthcare electronics start-up, Clinical Decision Support Middleware, will make it third time lucky.

Mr Buzza had already achieved some significant milestones by the age of 21 – he had taught himself software engineering when recovering from brain surgery, sold a computer game to New Zealand-based electronics giant Philips and another to U2 front man Bono.

Then, after a couple of years as a software engineer and director of Perth company Austco, Mr Buzza decided to co-found another company with fellow entrepreneur Zane Lewis.

The plan for Commtech Wireless – a Business News Rising Stars award winner in 2004 – was to develop technology that could recognise alarms from patient monitoring devices and allocate them to the most appropriate members of staff.

Mr Buzza told Business News Commtech Wireless was on its way to achieving that goal and had deployed early-stage software in more than 7,500 sites when US-based Amcom Software approached with an offer in 2010.

“We didn’t reach the final ‘mecca’ of solving the healthcare dilemma,” Mr Buzza said.

“I think we almost got there, but then Amcom came to the table and said ‘here’s a cheque, you won’t have to work for the rest of your lives, your children won’t have to work for the rest of your lives’.”

Needless to say, Mr Buzza took the cheque.

When the non-compete clause put in place during the Amcom Software acquisition lapsed after two years, and despite his best intentions to retire, Mr Buzza returned to the healthcare electronics market by partially underwriting a rights issue for Azure Healthcare, which was the renamed Austco business at which Mr Buzza cut his teeth in healthcare.

His involvement came about a year after Austco founder Robert Grey returned to the company (mid-2011), having stepped away from the business when TSV Holdings bought it in 2007.

When TSV’s Australian subsidiary went into administration in June 2011, Mr Grey returned to run the company and renamed it Azure Healthcare.

Mr Buzza said investing in Azure Healthcare through his investment firm Allure Capital, and taking a 12 per cent stake, presented an opportunity to revisit his healthcare mission.

Over two years he’s held roles from chief operating officer, marketing manager, development manager and interim chief executive.

During that time, Azure has expanded from its focus solely on technology used to call nurses to incorporating other technology and devices within the hospital environment.

It was a strategy Mr Buzza said attempted to replicate his success at Commtech Wireless.

Azure’s revenue has increased from $18.2 million in the 2012 financial year to $16 million in the six months to the end of December 2013, a result of organic growth in the healthcare market and increased marketing of Azure’s products, according to Mr Buzza.

Azure’s share price has rocketed 930 per cent from around 3 cents per share in 2012 to around 34 cents currently.

Mr Buzza said it this high valuation was part of the reason he decided to divest his 12 per cent shareholding, making a handsome profit, and leave the company.

The decision to move on, however, means his business goal remains unfulfilled.

“I thought with Azure that it would be the perfect vehicle for me to enact my vision for healthcare … and after I’d done that I could hang my hat up and say I’d done what I set out to do 25 years ago,” Mr Buzza said.

However he no longer believed Azure was the right business to achieve that vision because of differing opinions over the company’s future direction.

Instead, Mr Buzza is about to become involved with Adelaide start-up Clinical Decision Support Middleware, which is working to commercialise a complicated technology of its own.

“There are some very, very smart cookies in that company, they’re extremely well qualified,” Mr Buzza told Business News.

“It will involve taking a section out of the Commtech Wireless playbook, a section out of the Austco playbook, and trying to commercialise that technology.”

Mr Grey told Business News he was reluctant to comment on Mr Buzza’s exit from the company, which he said was performing well given the positive turnaround.

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