US group guides Perth entrepreneurs

22/04/2014 - 11:19

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SPECIAL REPORT: The Springboard program nurtures selected WA start-up leaders to think of their concepts and potential earnings in global terms.

US group guides Perth entrepreneurs
AIMING HIGHER: Sharon Grosser is looking to the global market. Photo: Attila Csaszar

The Springboard program nurtures selected WA start-up leaders to think of their concepts and potential earnings in global terms.

Perth may be alive with start-ups and events, but examples of companies that have gone global from here, and remained here, are few and far between.

“It is especially hard for women to be able to take their business away from their home town, due to their other commitments,” Wendy Simpson, chair of Springboard Australia told Business News.

“When I saw how Springboard was running in the States, I was also trying to raise money for my own engineering company.

“I lobbied the chairman to bring the program to Australia. They had never taken the program outside the US.”

Springboard is a US-based venture catalyst program for women, which was established in Silicon Valley in 2000, but is now in its second year in Australia.

From an initial 56 entrepreneurs, eight were chosen, three of who are from Western Australia.

The WA participants are Wanida Chua-anusorn, from health play MagnePathSharon Grosser, from education software company SEQTA, and Louise Daw, of MiPlan, a mining technology provider.

Each entrepreneur was put through an intensive ‘boot camp’ in Sydney in February. Over the next few months, they have access to US-based mentors who can provide access into global markets.

Wanida Chua-anusorn, Sharon Grosser and Louise Daw

MagnePath

Wanida Chua-anusorn moved to Australia after studying medical technology in Thailand. MagnePath is a healthcare app that can convert MRI scan data into a ‘fat map’, which can map the body fat of a patient.

With the current health awareness promotion around ‘toxic’ fat, the timing could not have been better.

“X-rays are not so good at looking for soft tissue,” Ms Chua-anusorn told Business News. “MRI scans are better at this and involve no radiation.”

The app can be applied easily into existing MRI scanners. The results are available in a couple of minutes, providing a colour-coded map of the problem ‘fat’ areas inside and on the body.

“It’s not about whether someone is fat or thin, it is more about health – there is good fat and bad, toxic fat, and this technology allows you to find it and show it easily.”

Rather than invest in expensive machinery, the scans can be performed quickly and payment is on a per-use basis.

Ms Chua-anusorn is also using the same idea to develop a joint map (to show sporting injuries) and a muscle map.

SEQTA

SEQTA was started on the kitchen table by husband and wife team Grant and Sharon Grosser.

Grant was a deputy principal of a local school and was continually developing software to help in the administration. Other schools began asking for the system.

Sharon was an English teacher and both were parents, so together they decided to create the all-in-one software system that could connect parents, children and teachers.

That was 2006 and today the business is a public (unlisted) company.

“Someone had to create software to cover all that a teacher does and that whole workflow,” Ms Grosser said.

“Everything from attendance to marking, to incidents, to reports.”

The business serves 270 schools, which has tripled in a year. Most of the schools are in WA, so the business is ramping up its presence in the eastern states and looking to grow from there.

“We’ve just hit the ‘hockey stick,” said Ms Grosser, referring to the typical J-curve growth explosion many high-tech companies long for.

MiPlan

Louise Daw was a software developer and project manager and her husband, Robert, was a surveyor and mining engineer.

“Most of the software we were using in the resources industry created more problems than they solved,” Ms Daw said. “I believe software should be self explanatory.”

Ms Daw got her brother involved in 2010 and they approached mining companies, which backed them to create the products, giving them their first customers.

“Our edge is that we work off live data, not warehoused data,” Ms Daw said. “Data that is coming in from many sources but can be interpreted in real time.”

As the resources industry is concentrating more on productivity and cost control, such systems become important.

Meanwhile other solutions are, as she puts it, “legacy systems with lipstick”. Ms Daw wants to triple her MiPlan staff numbers and expand quickly.

Each of the three entrepreneurs report that they have learned a great deal from the Springboard program.

It has helped raise their amibitions for their businesses and made them think in the billions of dollars instead of the multi-millions.

“I think too many of us feel we cannot do it, and we focus too often on our weaknesses. I think we need to go for it more,” Ms Grosser said.

Ms Daw said: “My main take away is to think more positively about what we have developed. We need to promote ourselves better and not be afraid to do this.”

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