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From Australia to Silicon Valley: Leigh Jasper’s Amazing Journey with Aconex (Part 2)

Posted on Friday, Nov 2nd 2012

Sramana: Let’s talk about the beginning of the company. You said you went out to raise venture capital in 2000. Was your proposal based on a prototype or just an idea?

Leigh Jasper: Back then it was very hard to build a prototype. Today there are a lot of tools you can mash together to build something quick. Back then we raised $1.8 million based on a vision, and we used that money to build the first system. It was a lot more expensive to build a system than it is today. We went and raised money from a lot of high net worth individuals who were associated with the construction industry. I think there was a bit of luck in our ability to raise the money because we were able to meet the right people.

Sramana: What was the status of the VC industry in Australia in 2000?

Leigh Jasper: Even today the Australian VC industry is nowhere near as developed as the U.S. market. We really raised our funding from friends and family. We did not go to a single VC company. It was closer to a friends and family angel round here in the U.S. Our first institutional round was with a U.S. firm four years ago. We were able to raise $28 million up to the point of taking on our first institutional round in the U.S.

Sramana: How long did it take you to get the product ready after you raised the initial $1.8 million?

Leigh Jasper: It would have been about 8 to 9 months.

Sramana: Tell me about your first customers.

Leigh Jasper: We had three initial projects. One was a shopping center in Melbourne which was worth a couple hundred million dollars. There was also an airport in in Adelaide and a high-rise residential building in Melbourne. These were all over $100 million, certainly not the largest projects you will ever see but they did have some size to them. These projects were struggling to manage a complex process. We provided the system to manage the flow of correspondence.

Sramana: How did you find these customers?

Leigh Jasper: We went out and sold to them. We looked at upcoming projects while we were building the project. It was important to have clients using what we developed as we released it. It was hard to prototype back then, so we were really selling a vision. We delivered the system as promised.

Sramana: When you finally launched the product, you had those three initial customers?

Leigh Jasper: Yes. It was tough going in those initial days. We launched the product and had a number of users brought into the product. We supported the projects very closely.

Sramana: How much money did each of those clients pay you?

Leigh Jasper: They were $50,000 to $100,000 deals.

Sramana: How big is the market in Australia for a product like yours?

Leigh Jasper: There are tens of thousands of projects per year in Australia. Today we are doing $30 million in revenue in Australia alone. We saw a big opportunity to grow the business in Australia, but we also saw the potential to grow the company into a global entity.

This segment is part 2 in the series : From Australia to Silicon Valley: Leigh Jasper's Amazing Journey with Aconex
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Founded in back in 2000, raised $28m, four years ago a US VC round for a further $107.5m but only running towards $50m revenues this year…? Something is wrong with this story….revenue growth of such a well-funded and long-running SaaS business should be much higher than $50m p.a. by now.

Rahul Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 3:05 AM PT

Rahul,

When companies bootstrap the early part of their journey, growth is always slow.
Once a business is validated, funding comes in and growth accelerates. It is very common with non-Silicon Valley companies that do not get early funding in big chunks.
Also, in this case, the private equity round has been to buy out some early investors.
Read the full story. It is discussed.

Sramana

Sramana Mitra Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 12:07 PM PT