Thanks for making time to sit down and do this, and your diary is particularly crammed. How do you manage it all?
I don’t know anyone who’s not busy. I’m lucky to have two great teams.
My wife Lisa and I work in lock step as a team raising Jack (5) and Eva (4). We have the same juggle every parent has. We try and plan our weeks and months out as much as possible and while there are late nights and early mornings, we always make sure there is time where we are present for the kids and each other. It can be tricky, and I can occasionally be a tired grump, but they let me know to snap out of it pretty quick.
Then there is the Red Fox team. We are currently investing strongly in growing new and emerging leaders amongst the group. It is something I believe strongly in and is not always valued highly enough by executives. Not only does the team feel more empowered because they’re trusted, but it makes my job easier and allows me to focus on the bigger picture.
We are also a very flexible workplace. I am not a believer in needing to be in the office for the sake of being in the office. We have never had an issue with productivity by being more flexible, as the team has strong trust in each other.
You’re now a CEO of a tech company. Was this always the plan?
It probably couldn’t be further from the original plan! I grew up in Melbourne’s outer suburbs in a place called Mooroolbark, about 50 minutes from the CBD. Mine was a typical childhood for a 90s kid - family, friends, school and sport. Being a football caller on the radio or the head curator of the MCG was my early dream.
You described it as a typical childhood, but there must be some clear values you learnt back then that helped set you up for where you are today leading the SwiftFox team?
Reflecting back there were two that really stick out.
1. The value of hard work. My parents both worked full-time and had four kids within three years of each other, so life was always crazy busy for them, but they never made it seem that way for us kids.
2. A strong sense of social justice. Prior to starting a family, Mum and Dad were a nun and a priest which was a somewhat unusual love story! The values they carried – the universal right to love, care, dignity and respect no matter your background, always looking out for those struggling, a strong sense of empathy– were always present in our home.
How did you become interested in data?
I was obsessed with both AFL and cricket as a kid. My footy team is St Kilda, and they were very ordinary, so I used to study footy stats all week to try and work out how there was a path to a win. And then summers were spent reading as many cricket stats as possible to predict how the Australian and Victorian cricket teams would perform.
Growing up I turned that love of data into something slightly more meaningful. I was drawn to working in politics thanks to my social justice upbringing. I saw how often the best policy outcomes would come from analysing and understanding data.
People naturally assume political parties are good at analysing data to work out how to win votes, but that’s a very simplistic view. When understood properly, datais a powerful tool in identifying where community pain points are and what the best policy solutions are to help. From my experience data-led decision making always trumped instinct or “gut-feel” and made for better outcomes for the community.
Politics and Tech – these seem like fairly divergent paths. What made you change route?
I am a big believer in renewal. I had great years working as Chief of Staff to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews but by late 2016 it was time for a change, and to reconnect with family and friends (and sleep!).
I started a data analytics company because data-led decision making is just as valuable in the private and not-for-profit sectors, as it is in Government. Understanding what makes a client, customer, member, or stakeholder tick allows you to respond to concerns or develop an offering in a very targeted way.
The problem in many organisations is time and money. Data analytics is seen as too expensive and too hard to understand. This has created a real gulf between the haves and have nots with data. Big companies and well-funded NFPs have internal data teams and expensive technology. Everyone else doesn’t. Therefore, the big organisations get bigger, while everyone else keeps battling to stay ahead.
So,we developed our SwiftFox platform for the have nots! (The haves are welcome too!!). It is a powerful database for organisations to store all their contact data, communicate with their audience, and then have data insights provided to them so they can both help run their organisation better, and deliver a better experience to their clients, members, supporters or stakeholders.
Our mission is to democratise data and make powerful analytics available to everyone, not just those who can afford it.
How do you think SwiftFox has changed since 2022?
It has been a massive year. Putting the list of achievements together for the Christmas Party presentation made my head hurt! I called it the ‘Year of Growth’, which I think sums it up. I think we’ve all noticed the shift from a start-up where everyone did everything, to people maturing across the company and becoming leaders in their own space.
This has required Tim and I to work hard on thinking about and implementing structures, processes, and professionalism across the board. Pleasingly many team members put their hands up for more direct responsibility, and we have also recruited amazing talent too.
What are you most excited about for 2023?
2023 promises to be the busiest and most exciting year yet. For SwiftFox, we will be releasing a series of transformative features in the first half of the year, as well as introducing artificial intelligence and machine learning into SwiftFox – but I’ll hold off on making announcements on this for a little while.
Another key highlight will be continuing to partner with our wonderful clients as SwiftFox helps them achieve their goals. That sounds very corporate, but it’s not. Having our software involved in issues ranging from the Voice to Parliament and other important social causes, to helping accounting firms with global expansions, our client base is very diverse, but we are very proud to partner with all of them.
The most important aspect of ‘what’s next’ though is the continued development of our team. I take seriously our responsibility to our clients, and through our own growth we can continue to be innovative in our product, and make sure that our user experience is intuitive and just make an easier path for our clients to achieve their own vision.
And hopefully we can all keep having fun in the process.