Megan Avard answers the phone with the sound of trucks barreling by in the background. The founder of Brisbane project and risk management tech company SurePact has just lept from the back of an Uber and is bustling between meetings, the first of many for the day.
Darting from appointment to appointment is a lifestyle to which she’s become accustomed in the past four years. That’s the time it’s taken to drag SurePact from being an idea written on the back of a folder in her previous corporate job to an enterprise-focused software company that many of her customers say they couldn’t live without.
Add to that the fact SurePact has just received $2 million from investment manager Future Now Capital, and Megan sounds truly buoyant, if not almost relaxed, over the phone.
“The feeling about that was relief,” she says.
“Not because I needed the money, because we are cash flow positive. But it was a relief because everything that I’d been saying and driving and pushing, a bigger group of people said, ‘She really has got a good idea, and we’re going to help her.’ ”
Her “really good idea” is a technology solution that takes the nightmare scenarios that derail most large construction and development projects – such as procurement, cost blowouts, workflow and user management, budgets, grants, and contract variances – and turns them into easily manageable and fully transparent processes for everybody working within any project, at any time.
Local councils in regional areas and large government departments have taken to the software with gusto. Where before hundreds of spreadsheets, endless emails and even wads of printed paper once slowed projects to a disastrous crawl, SurePact has injected bulletproof processes, accountability and huge cost savings into its clients’ projects – and they are addicted.
It’s proven so effective that many of the clients Megan considered early adopters are just about to renew their deals for a further three years. Maintaining and renewing loyal, happy customers is an incredible milestone, and something that she says is worlds away from those early days.
“I took a photo,” Megan says.
“I’ve still got the photo of the first subscription payment from a client. It’s like a little kid who’s just got their first bit of pocket money. It’s a euphoric feeling.
“Today I sent out contracts to some of my current clients who I’m retaining and going on to the next three years of subscriptions, and it was just as exciting this morning to push the button and say, ‘They’re on for a second three years.’ It’s exhilarating.”
Brisbane’s role in SurePact’s growth story
Megan’s voice changes when you mention the state of Brisbane’s business community. You can hear the smile on her face as she’s talking.
And yes, we’re well aware this is the Brisbane Business Hub so we are already slightly biased, but clearly Megan is an advocate of building her business here.
However she also makes it clear that your geography is no substitute for a tonne of hard work and community building.
“I love the fact that I can talk about being a Brisbane and a Queensland startup,” she says.
“We have probably the best ecosystem for technology in Australia. And Brisbane being a little bit smaller means it’s a little bit more tight, close-knit, and you can get access to people.
“I do think Queensland is a little bit more helpful, and I think they’re willing to jump in and give support.”
Megan says one of the great things about building her business in Brisbane was the willingness of contractors and consultants to meet her on price when it came to getting her business off the ground and growing.
Many – despite her operating on a shoestring in the early days – happily came to the party in terms of her budget constraints, or showed her how to get the most bang for her modest buck.
“So many came to the party and supported me in the best deal that they could, and they’ve continued to do that. That’s what I’ve seen a few times,” she says.
“It’s that ecosystem of support. They actually want to see you succeed.
“I’ve also found that Queensland is very supportive of female founders. I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere, but that’s just what I’ve found here in Brisbane.”
Despite the glowing review of building SurePact here in Brisbane, Megan does have one bugbear for doing business here – but it also shows the importance of scaling beyond our borders.
“We don’t seem to have the same ecosystem of investors that I’ve seen in other states,” she says. “My investor is out of Sydney and while I think we do have investors here, I just don’t know that they’re available to us as readily as in some of the other cities, and I’m not quite sure why that is.”
Despite this, SurePact’s investment from Future Now Capital has nabbed her not just financial support, but a brains trust of business-focused investors who are there when she needs to bounce around ideas, reconsider strategies and just generally talk things out.
“I actually love talking to them,” she says. “They’re strategic partners. They’re a little bit in the operation, but they’re not too much in the operation. They’re constantly asking where I need assistance and they’re helping me get in front of people that I wouldn’t normally get in front of.”
And, Megan says, the years of bootstrapping and building a product with a lot of blood, sweat and tears was all worth it when that fateful $2 million phone call came.
“The phone call I got, I can remember it was a Friday afternoon. It was quarter past five. It was from the investment manager that was my sponsor in the presentation, and I actually did cry, but I think that was more exhaustion, relief, excitement all in one,” she says.
“And if anyone else actually tells me ‘It’s just another couple of million,’ in this first stage and they don’t have those feelings, then I don’t really think they probably invested really in the magnitude of what they just achieved.”