Sramana Mitra: What year does this bring us up to? What year were you thinking of starting a company of your own?
Dave Peters: I started in 1998.
Sramana Mitra: You were based in Paris at this point?
Dave Peters: Yes, I was in Paris. Everyone’s got email and computing is starting, but we’re a long way off the iPhone. Nokia is dominating the mobile phone world. I came back from Paris to Australia to relocate. My wife and I had our first child. That year, I changed countries. I started my own company, had my first child, and bought my first house. That was a pretty big year. I would not recommend doing that at all in one year, but that was what I did.
Sramana Mitra: When you decided to start the company, what was in your head? What kind of company did you want to start? What would that company do?
Dave Peters: A big problem that I saw first-hand from inside the telecom operators at that time was this thing called churn, which is basically customers moving from one carrier to another. As telecoms deregulated and customer bases grew, it became more and more competitive. Churn was just this perennial problem where the carriers and operators would try to acquire a customer. Then, the customer would leave. Even today, it’s still a problem for telcos. I thought there was an opportunity to offer some marketing solutions, which was all about engaging with the customers with the right offer at the right time in order to keep them.
The original idea was with the problem of churn and managing customer value. That was the original plan and that was what got me started on Emagine. In 1998 when I came back, I started with a consulting business. I was a one-man show at that stage. At the same time, I knew from my experience inside the telcos that there wasn’t really any software platform, which was designed to manage these processes. We custom-built something when I was in Paris to help and try to do this. I ended up thinking that there could a be a business in this. That was the start. We’re still operating in the telecom sector. We’ve now got clients globally and everyone of our clients has got our solution and they take services in the form of managed service to address this problem.
Sramana Mitra: This is the same company that you started in 1998 that you’re running still?
Dave Peters: That’s right.
Sramana Mitra: To start the company, you went back to Australia. You didn’t start it in France. You started it in Sydney?
Dave Peters: That’s right. The headquarters is still in Sydney. That’s where I’m based. We’ve got offices now in Dubai, Johannesburg, and Nigeria as well.
Sramana Mitra: We are in 1998. You were doing consulting trying to help telcos manage churn. What happens next?
Dave Peters: I was pretty successful for a year or two on my own. I was getting a lot of work in Europe. I was travelling quite a bit. At the same time, I had a young family. In fact, I was looking at my options around how to grow the business. You really have two tracks. One is to create a consulting company. It seemed to me that you’re employing people at hour rates, and that’s your revenue level.
The other option is to invest some money into software and grow that business. That looked to me to be much more scalable. A lot of the decision was personal. I didn’t think that being away from home more than half of the year wasn’t going to be very good for my family. That’s an important part of my life. I made a decision around the software company. That was the first major decision in terms of building the company.