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Building a Silicon Valley Style Company from Australia: ROKT CEO Bruce Buchanan (Part 7)

Posted on Tuesday, May 27th 2014

Sramana: One of the things I really like about your platform is that because you are sitting in the transaction, you have a very rich value proposition. You are also able to engage with people who have their credit card out. The Internet is full of free riders. You have filtering those out. Targeting on a media site that is full of free loaders is one of the worst things you can do.

Bruce Buchanan: I agree. We will benchmark against add tracking technologies used by media agencies.
When we benchmark it against a standard pixel and third part cookie which is what everyone else uses, we get a 10% to 20% match. Using our technology, we get an 80% match. That is the power of using PII data to understand who the consumer is.

Sramana: What about your team? You have the co-founders who came up with the concept and that you now have 50 people, primarily in Australia. What is the composition of the team?

Bruce Buchanan: There are about 20 in sales and 20 in engineering. The global head of sales is based in New York. Our engineering lead is based in Sydney. We have a small partnership management team, a small marketing team, and a small operations team.

Sramana: How easy or difficult is it to find strong engineers in Sydney today?

Bruce Buchanan: We are fortunate to have a strong proposition. We debated about moving out of Sydney for a while, but instead, we have used that as a recruiting tool. We will sponsor employees and bring their families to Australia. That has been a great tool for us. We have a bunch of Korean engineers and quite a few that have come out of the US. It has been very successful for us.

Sramana: How would you contrast the cost structure with that of the US?

Bruce Buchanan: It is very similar. Recruiting and engineering in Sydney is very expensive. We do get very good quality. I also think it is very important to have the core product team together, so we don’t outsource that or off shore that work.

Sramana: What does the Sydney startup community look like today?

Bruce Buchanan: It did not exist in a big way until very recently. There are a few people who have had big successes. There are a couple of businesses that are doing incredibly well. I would consider 99Designs to be a good example. They were funded by a traditional VC firm. We have been able to get a few people out of Google. Having Google here makes it easier to attract more people.

Sramana: Typically, you need one or two big companies to set up there to get a critical mass of employers. That helps get trained employees and an overall ecosystem established that is friendly to entrepreneurship.

Bruce Buchanan: I completely agree. Google has a massive engineering team in Sydney. Now, we are seeing people coming through the pipeline who have great skillsets. They are incredibly capable people. Some people are very hard to get. The key guys on our optimization team were working for a smaller company that got bought by Accenture. They wanted out of the big corporate world and that skillset is very hard to get. It is very hard to get multivariate factor based optimization and self-learning skills. There are a handful of people around the world who can do that stuff.

Getting access to those people are very tricky. We have a guy who is based in LA and that is why he is still based in LA. The good thing about running your own company is that you have flexibility. Big corporates struggle with that.

Sramana: That is a great story and it is very nice to see things happening in Sydney. I love the approach you have taken and look forward to following your continued success.

This segment is part 7 in the series : Building a Silicon Valley Style Company from Australia: ROKT CEO Bruce Buchanan
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