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Online management with Rob Phillpot and Leigh Jasper from Aconex

Managing information online simply made sense to Rob Phillpot and Leigh Jasper. And so they founded Aconex, an online information management and collaboration service which services projects with a combined value of AU$200 billion across 44 offices worldwide.

When it comes to the beginnings of their Aconex business, Phillpot says: “We were two young guys with a business plan, along with that youthful naivety that we could actually pull it off.”


DB: What risks did you have to take?
RP: When we started, we were just the ‘new kids on the block’ and a lot of our competitors were fairly new too, so there was a lot of competitive risk surrounding us. There was always the chance that we could have developed a product using the wrong technology, or a product that wasn’t stable, or that we might not have got our first couple of sales. It was a rollercoaster of emotions back then; you were either going to the fridge to get a beer because you were happy or because you were depressed.
DB: What has been your biggest challenge?
RP: Probably our second capital raising in late 2001. Once we’d built the product and done the proof of concept to go to market, we went out to investors the week before September 11 and sent out the document following the fall of the twin towers. That was probably our near death experience as what we expected to take two to three months to raise, ended up taking us nine to ten months. We had to lay off staff, cut back costs and just survive really and luckily we did.
DB: Any lessons learned along the way?
RP: If business relationships go sour it’s not just the cost of unwinding that relationship that proves most expensive, but the actual cost of dealing with it. Make sure you do business with people you trust and have a good working relationship with.
DB: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
RP: Make sure that whatever you do, you are not only good at it, but passionate about it otherwise, you might as well give up. The way you feel about your business rubs off on everyone else. If you’re not passionate no one else will be and you’re just not going to succeed. Be brutally honest with shareholders if you get them in. Communicate with them regularly and communicate the good with the bad, don’t try and spin it. If you’re honest, they’ll trust you and that pays off later.
DB: What gives Australian entrepreneurs an edge?
RP: We have a reputation around the world for being hard workers, really innovative, and giving everything a fair go.
DB: What is you focus now and for the future?
RP: Our focus now and always, involves controlling the rocket that we’re sitting on as well as making sure our culture is intact and our people are happy. We find that if you get the basics right, everything else follows.


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