Value creation through building a unicorn with Sean Diljore

Hosted by Jason Atkins
President & Co-founder, Cake Equity
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Join Jason Atkins and Sean Diljore, the visionary behind simPRO, as he talks about his journey in creating a unicorn in the newest Startup Equity Matters episode! 🦄

🚀 Sean shares insights on raising money and scaling your startup, all while staying true to your vision.
💼 Explore Sean's newest venture, VentureOn, a game-changing venture capital company reshaping the entrepreneurial landscape.
🎧 Get to know more about the candid conversations with Sean in his podcast where founders share their learnings on their startup and scaleup journeys
🌟 Get inspired by Sean's origin story, starting as a lawyer and ascending to the helm of the startup unicorn, simPRO


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Transcription to follow!

Jason: Ready when you are. Hello and welcome to today's Startup Equity Matters, a podcast about how to create value from startup equity. I'm excited today. I think it's my first guest who's led a unicorn and not an overly hyper unicorn either, like a serious business with serious eight or nine figure ARR. We'll dig into that a little bit as we go. So pretty cool. You know that this podcast is for early stage founders and their teams to help them see inside some of the best minds and best businesses in innovation. We need to share and unpack what equity success looks like to be able to help speed up and de-risk new ventures. Yeah. So today we have an incredible guest, one who's a friend of mine. We live in the same suburb. and he led one of Australia's most successful startups, Simpro, to unicorn status, Sean Dujour. So most recently, Sean has also launched a VC to help fund and help startups scale from C to Series B and also has a new podcast. So this should be a really interesting episode. The topic today, value creation through building a unicorn.
Sean: Welcome, Sean. Thanks, Axton. Thank you for having me, as always, and thank you for the intro. Every now and then you're unlucky and you need guests like me. I spend my time now living in the early stage world, so looking forward to sharing some tips and having a chat about the journey that we went on as a team. Hopefully, people can dig some stuff out of that that helps them go on the same journey.

Jason: You're a very humble and down-to-earth dude, which is why I think we get along so well, but you've achieved a huge amount of things. We're very grateful to have you on to dig into a little bit of that today. So look, congrats on the success of Simpro. You weren't a founder, but went through most of the journey and experienced most of the founder journey. So talk us a little bit through, I guess, you know, how Simpro and how it all went, what your role was there.

Sean: Yeah, happy to. Look, I was lucky that the founders of Simpro, Curtis Vaughn and Steve, were super strong founders. They built a really good business. I was a lawyer back in those days and did legal work for the team. And there was an inflection point in everyone's journey where they're like, look, we need to strengthen how this business is running. And I joined the board at that stage. So I was on the board for a while. So I've done the journey as on the board and operate. I've done both sides of the coin at Simpro. When you're working with strong founders, the job was really easy in the early days. Steve Curtis and we hired in other people that came in. They did a bunch of that grunt work early on.

Jason: How old was Zimpro when you joined?

Sean: So I joined the board just when it went SaaS, but it had already been around for four or five years by that point in time, but more on-prem at that point in time.

Jason: Gotcha. So more services-based or… No, it was just on-prem software. Old school, I get it.

Sean: Yeah, totally.

Jason: And then you went SaaS in the cloud and so you joined around then?

Sean: Yep. And then took over just after we, took over as CEO just after we raised A. So I drove the Series A raise when we did that. That was in 2016. That was the first time we really went to raise money. So we raised a little bit from the internal founders, but it was bootstrapped. And back then going from SaaS, it was all bootstrapped. And so when we raised, we raised a pretty big round raise once at 30 million US and had a pretty good valuation back in those days. And that was really to leverage and find growth. A good chunk was secondary, but growth into the US market at that point in time.

Jason: Amazing. Let's definitely dig into that in a minute. But first, you're doing a couple of super interesting things at the moment. I think the majority of your time is on Venturon, your new VC. So tell us a bit about that.

Sean: Yeah, I'd love to. So Curtis, who's one of the founders, Steve, who's the other founder of Sympro, the two of us, myself, Ricky, who was my chief revenue officer, Graham, who's worked in Innovation Bay and run his own software companies that we've all banded together and launched a little, I guess, venture capital firm for want of a better term. But our thesis is really simple. We've got a bit of money we put together and we're going to invest in five or so software companies. and get in and help them run their businesses and go on a similar journey to what we did in Symbra. I don't want to go all the way to 100 million ARR, billion dollar thing again, but help them build those building blocks early on to get to Series A and potentially Series B, guide them on that journey, upskill them on the things you need to know to run that software company, to be in charge of revenue or IT or software, whatever it may be, and then help them get the right people, the right investors in for the next part of the journey. That's the key. We want to help four or five people go on the same journey we went on But if you get it right, it's a hell of a lot of fun.

Jason: Yeah, an amazing journey and huge amount of aid creation for the founders and the team and everybody involved. If you can go from sort of C to series B, wonderful amount of wealth being created there. And then you also have a podcast, mate. You're challenging me on the airwaves. I'm really honestly kidding there.

Sean: I wouldn't call it a challenge, mate. You've listened to some of our podcasts.

Jason: What's going on? Brilliant name for a podcast. Brilliant name.

Sean: It's all Ricky. Ricky Scepter. He leads that podcast. It's his idea. It's his baby. But similar to what you're trying to do, right? So we've spent a lot of time in the US. We've built a pretty big business. And so we've got a lot of people we know that have done very similar things. And so the idea really was, can we have a podcast where we drag some of these people from a mixture of low-level or beginning founders who are just starting the journey, founders in the middle of the journey, and then some people that have run gong and sales assembly and all these massive American organizations. And we've got some European ones coming on. And just give people tips of what everyone's gone through, different stages of the journey. Because sometimes that's all it takes, right? You listen to something and you're like, oh, wow, they went through that. And that gives you the confidence to keep pushing through. And that's all I'm hoping people get out of it. If they listen, they have a laugh and learn about what peanut butter people like, that's probably the key behind the whole podcast.

Jason: You ask about peanut butter, nice. I've got two types in the fridge. I've got the terrible Kraft one that's really sweet and amazing that I shouldn't eat and then I've got the nice one that doesn't have any extra sugar or salt in it.

Sean: I've got one of those too but I've never opened it. Smooth or crunchy, right? That's the question.

Jason: Smooth or crunchy, yeah.

Sean: I've got both. If they answer it wrong, I'd double it over so they give the answer I want. So that's fine. There's a lot of Americans who speak as well. What is the correct answer? It's definitely crunchy. The correct answer is crunchy. Okay. Well, I have peanut butter. If you don't want peanuts in it, it doesn't make sense.

Jason: Let's wrap this up there. I think we've solved the problems of the world and no need for any more podcasts ever again. Done. All right, very good. Look, great to have you here. So look, Simpro is a major Australian tech success story. Like, let's be, let's be fair. Based out of Queensland, Queensland punches above its weight when it comes to unicorns. Simpro and Go1 at the moment is Safety culture. Only a handful. We still claim safety culture, definitely, even though I think they hang out mostly in Surry Hills these days. They do, but they started here.

Sean: Is there a Townsville?

Jason: I think Townsville can. Good, good, good. Let's claim those. So look, Amazing to see, you know, northern part of Australia delivering so many great, great businesses. But I want to take a step back. People love hearing origin stories. You said you're a lawyer. So where did it all begin for you in business?

Sean: I mean, I was a lawyer, but I was probably not the best. I was not the best lawyer. But what I was good at is helping businesses organize and scale, right? And so I'm not technically minded, but understanding how to put a thesis together a business, how to scale that business, how to get the pieces to work together. And then more importantly, I guess, I think the biggest part of scaling businesses is leadership, right? It's being able to inspire and bring people together so that they walk, you know, lockstep. And if you get 90% of your team going in the same direction and they're inspired to do it, you'll win. I did that a lot in mining when I started, and that's sort of where I went to. And then I met Steve Curtis and Vaughan and started working with them. And it just organically was the right path for me and the business to go down. It definitely wasn't something I was driving to. I temporarily stepped in when I did step in, when our previous CEO had departed. I temporarily stepped in and just ended up being a 6-year journey and going from the $10 million-odd to $100 million in ARR USD and $1 billion and just Surround yourself with amazing people and even someone like me can drive a billion-dollar business, right? But it's never a singular person. I think that's the most important thing to realize. It's never Elon Musk who drove all the growth. It's not a singular person. There's a team of people. There's a lot of people that go into building it. At Simpro, we were blessed that Now, doing business in Queensland is awesome. You get a huge amount of awesome people that come and work in your business. And we had really good executives join. We had really good partners that we raised capital from that joined this business. And getting those decisions right, when to hire good people, promoting internally. We did a lot of internal promotions for a lot of years. That was really powerful for Simpro. That's a huge part of what brought us success and my journey.

Jason: So digging into that then, I can see that people is a big part of your passion and skill set. I, you know, while working in London, I had a massive realisation that, I guess it's a common saying, if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, you know, you have to go with people. And I think that was a huge, huge lesson for me, you know, in my mid career. And it sounds like you cottoned on to that some point along the way as well. What were some of the major highlights in building that team, you know, that you can share, whether it be individuals that had a massive outsize effect, perhaps it was kicking off a new team in a new country, you know, Maybe share just a couple of the great moments in building this team with people I'm sure.

Sean: Expansion overseas is probably the highlight. The numbers are numbers, but being able to go from Australia and building successful businesses in New Zealand, the US and the UK and now Europe and Singapore, which the team is continuing on post my exit. That is awesome. Being able to go into another country and spend the time and understand their culture and how they're operating and how their tradespeople work and then being able to unify that and grow it. I think that's always been a highlight and watching people move to the UK or move to the US and spend time there and the personal growth they get when they come back to Australia or some have stayed there longer and moved to other careers. I've always really enjoyed watching people leave Simpro and grow, right, and do something else and do something new and take new and newer steps up. And there's been a huge amount of people over the last 20 years that have left our business and are running successful stuff. I know people who are sales people who are running successful electrical companies now. And that part, I think, is the bit that inspires you to keep going. Watching people grow, for me, has always been what's exciting. And my team in particular that I had, my executive team, a lot of my fondest memories are with those people. having to solve problems in the U.S. and how you're going to scale the business, spending three days locked in a room, throwing things at each other and getting angry at each other and then going and having dinner and having a beer and calming down and working things out and building strategies around how you're going to do that and then going to implement, you know, fixing things that went wrong has always been a highlight, right? Being able to make a mistake and then go, okay, that was a mistake and come together, you know, with huge amounts of people and work out how you're going to solve it. Those are the things, I mean, that always stick out to me as a highlight.

Jason: I love that. I really can feel and, you know, ever since I met you, I can feel your genuine connection with people and care for people and your team. It's always come through in our interactions. And it's a really wonderful trait and probably was, you know, a big part of, you know, the long term success. One of the slightly quirkier practices you had was your daily stand ups with your leadership team all around the world, like pretty much every single day. I personally love the connectivity of that. Do you want to share a little bit about that practice?

Sean: I'd imagine they're all pretty happy I'm not there anymore and they don't have to do that. But part of, like I said, I'm a big believer if you get people walking in the same line and they all believe what you're trying to achieve and they're all building a good relationship, then you're going to be successful. And to foster that as we scaled and we couldn't all be together in Palm Beach or in Australia and you got people in the US and in New Zealand and Australia and the UK, we met every day. And so Saturday for me was a Friday for the US, so I met on Saturdays. Right? Every Saturday morning, my kids hated, but my wife probably hated, but every Saturday morning, we'd have a meeting. And it wasn't always two hours or an hour. It could have been 20 minutes sometimes. It could have been 30 minutes. But the point is, every day, we spent a bit of time together, guaranteed, in a room, talking about something. So if there was a problem that occurred overnight while I'm asleep in the US, The next day when I'm up, we're having a meeting. If a problem occurred on a Sunday, the next day we're having a meeting. It gave us immediacy to solve things that went on. Nothing festered. Nothing festered in the background where someone dwelled on it and got really upset. And when that did happen, just people, human nature means sometimes stuff does get shoved down, then I could get angry. I have a right to be like, as we meet every day, you shouldn't be holding on to stuff. We should be dealing with it. We should be talking about it. We should be solving it. And it forced tighter connections between people. And to be successful, you need to bring a lot of different people with different personalities together who maybe aren't best friends and don't want to hang out all the time. And you need to get them to find a common ground and get them to gel so that when things go wrong, and I have, maybe I'm not very good at what I did. There were things that went wrong all the time. You can have real robust conversations without upsetting anyone and you could point fingers at each other and you could get dirty and get angry and solve it and know that you're going to catch up with them again in 24 hours and be cool and have a great conversation. And so that's why I drove that behavior every day.

Jason: Super, super interesting, man. Thanks for sharing. Let's switch a bit to the equity side of things, you know, equity pod. Let's crank that up a bit. So you raised some pretty awesome rounds. I don't know how many rounds you were involved in, perhaps two, Series A, Series B. And was the Series C when you exited or was that Series B?

Sean: We've only done A and B. We've done A and an A add-on, A plus, I call it. A, A plus, and B, that's all. So I imagine we'll do a C set. Yeah, plenty. Look, I guess we raised capital in 16. It was a really cool process. We were doing well. We had money. I didn't need it, right? And I always say, I've done a lot of talking around about raising capital. I like to raise money when I don't need money. And so we had a successful business that was scaling well. I had a good thesis I could pitch to people on why putting money in SIPRA was a good idea. And the process we ran with the then CEO and CFO is we went to the US twice. And we went and visited a whole bunch of private equity companies and venture capital companies. And we pitched them a little bit about, this is the journey, this is the vision. And then we went back We made the three we like take us out for lunch and dinner. It's like you're going to get married to these people. And so you need to know that you can hang out with them and talk about something that isn't your business. Because if all you have in common is the business, your bond is going to be the business. And when things go bad, then the thing that's your bond has gone bad and it's going to be really hard to recover. So we went and hung out with all these people and then when term sheets were going through and I'm doing the deal and I'm working through, I didn't take the best term sheet we got offered. I took the best deal for the business to scale. And so it wasn't the most money. And it wasn't the biggest firm. It was the right people. They were the right people who I knew could take us from where we were to 100 million, which obviously worked. So I got right on that one.

Jason: What were they offering? What was it that they were going to bring?

Sean: They were the people that we could sit down and we had a long conversation. We had a few beers with them and we got along really well and we looked forward to this conversation. Their insights about how they thought about business and how they think about life resonated with how we think about business and how we think about life.

Jason: It wasn't necessarily that they were going to do introductions for you or give you advice, it was compatibility. You can go on the journey, you can have the conversations you needed to have, you could work through problems together.

Sean: Every private equity venture capital firm in the world is going to tell you that they will introduce you to stuff and they're going to help you and they've got this and that. I'm telling people every day that, like I intend to be in businesses. daily. And that's our point of difference. I'm like, Hey, I'm going to come in and work with you all the time. Because every private equity company says, we're going to help you. We've got all these operating things, and you'll see them. But whether they had value or not, I can't tell you. What I looked for back then wasn't that. And that's not what they were offering. They had it all, but it was the way they think about dealing with problems, business, our business, their personal lives, our lives, the things that give them enjoyment. There was enough compatibility there that I knew that if something went wrong and stuff went wrong, instead of it being a pure numbers-driven decision, they would be like, hey, this is how we deal with this problem. So how about you guys have a go at fixing it? And if you don't get it right in a period of time, then we're going to do the numbers-driven solution versus problems. I like that because part of what drove Simpro's success is we had a go at stuff and we didn't always get it right. We still do that, right? And I think that's powerful to scale, right? You've got to have a goal. You've got to be willing to take risks.

Jason: Oh, absolutely. How do you disrupt if you're just constantly thinking about risk management and the bottom line and every little minute detail? You've got to be going for it, going for it, going for it.

Sean: And the bigger you get, the harder that is, right? Because at some point, you'll have built a machine that works and it will scale and it will do what it needs to do and you'll be able to grow 30 plus percent year on year. For me, the time to move on was when at the end of the day, if every year you're looking at and going, hey, I'm growing this thing 30% year on year, but I don't really know how to get it to 40, that's when you need some new leadership company who can drive that sort of decision-making because it gets harder and harder to take those risks when you've been somewhere for a long time.

Jason: Nice. Hey, who'd you raise from, Series A?

Sean: level equity in New York.

Jason: Level equity in New York, yeah. Did they do a bit of investing in Australia or you went up there and spent some time up there in the US to get to meet them?

Sean: We did, but they invest here. They had Instacluster, which was really successful. They've got a bunch of other ones that I've only met a few, but they've got a bunch of investments here. And I think they're I think like most American PE firms, they realize that if you invest in stuff out of Australia, like we build real businesses that are generating revenue and are built, I use the word sustainably, which is not the right word, but they're built really well. We build businesses well.

Jason: We don't build them as much boom and bust as they do in the US, like all or nothing. Most of the businesses coming out of Australia have more stable fundamentals, I would say, on average.

Sean: I think so. And so a lot of all these guys, a lot of them, they're all looking down here because it's a good… Software companies out of Australia are awesome. They are awesome. We build good stuff.

Jason: What was that? Level up? No, what did you say?

Sean: Level equity.

Jason: Level equity. There you go, everyone. Level equity. Keep them in mind. If you need to meet up, maybe hit short up. Happy to. Cool. And then, like, how did you handle things like common stock, preference stacks, you know, all that sort of thing? Are you able to share much around that?

Sean: I don't know much detail. Look, I'll say that I was lucky I was a lawyer, A. B, I was lucky we picked the right people because I definitely misread the really complicated American legal stuff. So we did the deal and there was preference shares in it back in those days. Everyone did. in the first deal and it was complex and I kind of got it. I thought I had it right. I had other lawyers involved to make sure. I don't think they picked it up but Level called me and said, hey, the way this is written is not what we agreed. This is actually better for us and works for you. It should be this, basically. So, I guess my advice to people always is, look, that preference stuff is complex when you get to the US. The way they write it, they don't write legal stuff like we do where it's straightforward. It's complex in general. I mean, you're a lawyer.

Jason: I'm an accountant. Every time I get one of these documents, I'm like, Oh my God, there's 20 things in here. Each one of them is complicated. And half of them you've never seen before when you first see it.

Sean: Yep. There was no cake around to help navigate any of this stuff back in 16, right? So we just did it by ourselves. Again, like I said, we picked good people. right? And that helped us get it right. But it's preference shares, then you had to deal with the fact that, hey, we got a target now. You have to hit that number to make them an ordinary shareholder. And so that was a definite target on our board. We knew the number we had to get to, valuation-wise, for that preference to disappear. It was too big. So That was a target. We stuck it on the wall. We knew where we had to get to and we drove to get there. And the way we looked at it is, okay, we gave them a preference, but as far as we're concerned, it's an ordinary share deal because we're going to drive hard to get to that number and then it'll be fine.

Jason: Nice. Yeah, I understand that. Because the preference stack is normally liquidation preference and that's only really relevant if the company is under a certain value. Once it reaches a certain value, then the preference stack sort of becomes… Disappears.

Sean: Yep. Becomes ordinary. Yeah. So we did that. And the second deal I did was all ordinary. No preferences.

Jason: Did straight. That's one of the really impressive things about you and learning from you, being able to have a common stack and get a couple of really big rounds done. That's pretty epic. Have you got any advice for people looking to have a more common share structure than PrefStack?

Sean: You will get less, clearly. PrefStacks are about risk management. So if you want to do a clean deal, just expect your valuation won't be as high. So when you go read AFR and someone's like, I raised $2 billion, and you'll be like, shit, I only raised $1 million. If you don't have preference, you're going to get less. And it's just a choice you've got to make, right? And it depends on the direction of your business and where you're going. Like I raised it right in the middle of COVID, right? So it just made sense to make it as clean as you could. The world is different now, so you might think about it differently. So it's just understanding what you're going to give up. Like you can drive a slightly higher number if you're going to give someone some protection, and that's what preferences are.

Jason: I was also wanting to touch on the multiples and valuation as well. I'm pitting some of these things you told me in private, so please feel free to tell me to piss off if I'm overstepping. But I mean, I think it's really awesome insight. And I think one of the risks as a founder is you just go for the big value, you go for the big round, you sell a huge story, then you're going to spend the money. And if you fuck it up, then you're going to get just belted and you kill your whole company. And we can all learn from still creating a lot of value, but a little bit more of a slow and steady approach without so much risk.

Sean: I can speak better from two points. One is, as a general partner of Venturon, there's awesome companies with really good people that we can't do a deal with because their value is so high already just based on the early angel stuff they've done that I can't manufacture a deal that doesn't hurt the founder because they end up with not enough to make it worth them going on the journey. And that's counterproductive to what we at Ventureon want to do. We want to take people on a journey. If you end up looking at they only own 1%, they're not really going on the journey. So we've walked away from deals where the valuations are too high. They're really giving up so much. We just can't make it work. We're actually going to help them be successful. And the amount of hard work and blood, sweat, and tears they put in is going to make sense. So I would be wary of that sort of stuff. We raised it at five times and then at 10 times, round numbers. I never did any at 15, 20. I never did any, even though I raced in the peak fricking oil, basically, where people were demanding big numbers, I raced it at basically steady numbers, clean, pretty much, or close to clean, and then straight clean both times I did it. Was it a good idea or not? Can't tell you whether that was a good idea or not, probably not. Some people race in pretty big numbers with just a little bit extra in there. Maybe we should have pushed it a bit harder, but we wanted to build a steady, strong business that lasts forever. Symposium Machine, now that's still killing it, doing its thing. I don't look back and regret.

Jason: I'm a big fan, man. You hear on the All In pod and those other publications out there, 90% of unicorns have you know, had 50, 70, 80% write downs. And if you raise it the right price, and you've got the revenue, and you got the growth, and you got the great business, then you don't have to, you know, deal with all that craziness. And look, you know, I guess people might be able to take some huge money off the table in those peaks. But that's possibly a little bit dodgy as well without trying to get into telling people what to do or overly fucking, you know, virtue-seeking. But look, I think the lesson here is let's, you know, build great sustainable long-term businesses and be smart with the terms and evaluation and learn from great people that have done it before.

Sean: I'm cognizant of when you're doing it. I did it right in the middle of COVID. We wanted to make sure that what we paid out to our founding shareholders and stuff was not able to be clawed back and it was nice and clean. I just didn't know what was going to happen with the world at that point in time. I always think raising capital is something that you should build a plan, build a really good plan, know why you're doing it, what you're trying to achieve, go Meet bunches of people. Find the ones you really like. Build a relationship. You should be doing it early so you know the people you like. The rest will fall into itself. If you know you like the person, they're going to help you be successful. That's half your battle.

Jason: Love it. Hey, one thing I love is hearing about is secondaries. I love hearing people getting some money out of startups. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears and money goes into these things from angels and employees and founders. Would you be able to talk us through any, you know, exits that were done along the way, as much as you can share? Of course, there's, you know, other people's, you know, details involved. So whatever you can share, it's wonderful for people to hear these success stories.

Sean: Yeah, all general, like we did secondaries in both Series A plus and B, right? So we did secondaries each time people got to take a drink. I'm a big fan of people getting to take a drink, right? You put a lot in, if everyone gets to take a little drink, you know, you're getting that, you're de-risking. The way I looked at it was de-risking. That's the way we all looked at it. So we did a little bit in A and that de-risked everyone, everyone was okay. And then we did a very, like most of what we raised for B, we did a lot of secondary in B. Both for the private equity company level we've been for a while and for the other shareholders, you wanted the option. So everyone had an option in B to take a good chunk if they wish to. Not everyone did, but you know, plenty of people did. So, from a full employee perspective, it's post B that we actually brought in our employee share scheme. It's something I wish I did way earlier. It's probably my biggest regret. One of my biggest regrets is we didn't do it earlier, but it is in place now. We've got super talented people running Simpro now. So, I know all of our employees now are going to see that growth of capital and reward post my exit.

Jason: Yeah, so I wish Kate was around in 2016. I think we've massively helped, and not to be arrogant, I think we've massively helped the Australian ecosystem understand ESOPs and get them in place. And I'm so excited for five years down the track when there's more Sympros coming through and we have 50 or 100 or more Aussie tech people. you know, getting great equity out of these big B rounds. So something we can all work towards. And not to criticize you, you know, like it was almost impossible back then to do one in Australia. No one knew how to do it. No one knew what they were. There was no platforms. So, you know.

Sean: And it's something you've got to think about when you raise capital because you've got to build it into your deals. And like we built a little one in Series A and we, you know, executives and the senior people got some, but we didn't have enough to build a broadband one, which is what we did in B, which was part of Part of what I pitched the deal in was to have that broadband to be able to do that sort of stuff. But again, we use Cake, obviously, we brought you guys in to help do it. And trying to do it across the globe without something like Cake, we probably would have just ended up giving up because it was hard work.

Jason: I think Simpro is one of our biggest customers now. And so we really appreciate that. And I'm pretty sure from feedback, we've been mega helpful in helping roll it out all around the world. So stoked to be able to help.

Sean: And it was post my time there. So, it was all work you guys have done with Simpro and the new leadership team as they're driving out. So, it was something that was my baby. I just wanted a broadband solution. It's getting in place for all of our people. But it still took us a few years post doing the deal to actually roll it out. And without Kay's help, I think we would have been a lot longer to actually get it to that point. We used to do monthly town halls and meetings. The way I ran the business was ask whatever you want. If it's non-recorded, I'll answer it as bluntly as I can. If it's recorded, I'll answer it as politically as I was allowed to. Then it was a question we were asked every meeting. Where is our inflationary scheme? In every meeting, we're like, it's coming. It's complex to build across multiple. Once I met you and got to know you a bit better and then introduced you to the team to run that out, that accelerated our ability to roll it out.

Jason: I'm excited to hear that. Appreciate it. And look, congrats again. You know, we need to congratulate and champion, you know, our great business leaders in Australia. I think we suck at that. We've got the tall pocket syndrome. And I know you're a humble dude and you don't want to take any of this stuff, but congratulations. It's an amazing result and it's something that can inspire us all. And look, being based on the Gold Coast, we love having a leader like you here is something that inspires me and other people to build great companies. So good job, mate, as much as you're going to hate that. And so let's talk a little bit about Venturon. What's coming up for Venturon? What's keeping you excited for the rest of 2023 and 2024?

Sean: Well, yeah, we're going to close our first couple of deals. So that's super exciting. We hopefully close out the rest of our capital raise early in the new year. We've extended it because there's just so much good software in Australia. And my model is limited. I can only do between five and seven deals because we want to be in these businesses pretty much all the time. So there's only seven partners.

Jason: Who do you want? What sort of startup? What niche? What stage? Who should be hitting you up?

Sean: Look, we're looking at people in that sort of 1 to 5 million ARR mark, preferably in construction technology or property technology, bar the fact that I continually chase cake. But really, prop tech and construction tech is where most of our background sits, where we mainly are playing in that 1 to 5 million ARR space that are looking to expand, particularly if they want to expand geographically. That's what we're looking to do because we've made all those mistakes and burned a lot of money doing it. If we can get in and help someone go on that journey, we think we can be super helpful, especially if they want to scale go-to-market. So we've got a big go-to-market engine that we've built out inside Venturon that we can use to help onboard people's sales teams and scale out their go-to-market motion and model. So that's where we really want to lean in.

Jason: I can't think of a better way, you know, to get from sort of seed series A to series B than have an experienced team like this that not only brings capital, but it helps you day-to-day to build out your go-to-market function, especially if you're trying to expand from Australia to the U.S. or other countries. That stuff is like legit, ridiculous hard. It's like being underwater with a blindfold on and a Rubik's Cube in your hand. So having someone that can at least steer you in the right direction, I think, you know, is just absolutely wonderful. I really can't wait to see who you get and how it all goes. I'm championing for us to partner up at Cake as well. We've got to get the timing right on that. So fingers crossed, we can at some stage announce that too. But look, I think, look, wonderful to have you on, excited to see. what's happening with Venturon. Sassy Talk, I guess that's on like Apple and Spotify. People should be getting on that. Founders, if you're growing a company and you're watching Netflix and you're not listening to Sassy Talk, you are a fucking idiot. Get on there. Excuse my French. But let's listen to these legends and listen to how to scale and learn from them. It's almost guaranteed to help you grow your company faster.

Sean: So definitely get on that. And reach out. There's platforms now that didn't exist as much when I was doing this. Find us on LinkedIn and go, dude, I want five minutes of your time. That's the whole purpose of rolling back into something like VentureOn and not taking another CEO gig. I haven't had enough of it that I want to fully retire, but I don't want to go and do it by myself all over again. And that's where Venturon came from. We can still get our hands dirty and be inside businesses, driving them every day, but not have to be the people holding the bag and driving it. And so yeah, people should reach out. Ricky, myself, you, Jason. We're all here to help people drive their business to be successful. I think people get a bit shy about doing it sometimes, but the worst you'll ever get is, oh man, I'm busy for the next two weeks. Can we do it in three?

Jason: Yeah, I very rarely say no to people, and so many people have helped me, and I'm sure you're the same, and we know how hard it is and how lonely it can be. So, you know, definitely hit us up. I normally finish with a creative, healthy lifestyle question, which when I warmed you up on this one, you were like, no, I don't have that. You know, so at Keg, we care about our health, health and mental health, and we invest a lot in that with our team. We see it as a core pillar for building great businesses, being creative. I'm sure you do something or other, but you were saying to me, no, not really.

Sean: Look, on the mental health side, I'm a massive supporter. It was the major charitable endeavor we had at Simpro was generally around mental health and mental health for trades and people in the trade industry. I'm hugely supportive of that. And there's some amazing people doing cool stuff in that. I do. I guess if you think mental health, if you're running businesses like we run and you're doing this, burnout is a real factor and it can happen, right? And especially as you add time zones and you're working 20 hours a day. So the two balances, there's three that I had, right? I had footy, daily footy, West Coast Eagles. No matter where in the world I was, I watched every game. No matter what time in the morning it was. I watched footy even when I was in the U.S., when I was in the U.K. I watched the Lions beat Melbourne last year in the U.K. in a tiny pod.

Jason: I remember watching them play Sydney Swans in a final at 5 a.m. in the morning in a pub in the U.K.

Sean: I've done a lot and it keeps me sane. It's the turn off, brain not working, I watch football. I've met lots of famous people and other stuff. I remember when West Coast won the 18 grand final and they were walking through the airport and I went, I took my family and I'm standing there as they all walked past me and my wife's like, go on, go say stuff. And I couldn't say a freaking word. I stood there mumbling and holding my kids and shoving them. Yeah, it's the bit that I can completely deal with. I love to play video games if I get time and then the rest of my time is devoted to my kids and my family. You know, family has been a huge part of what's kept me sane. It's my mental health to check out. Between footy and family, a bit of air games if I get lucky, that's my balance. And as you can tell, fitness-wise, I'm clearly going to the gym like 15 times a day.

Jason: I'm going to get you on some walks and runs and gym sessions with me, especially when you get back into palming at the end of the year. That's going to happen, man. But look, I really appreciate it today. You're an absolute legend. You've done so well in business and I think you've got fantastic future header. You can't wait to see what you do with VentureOn. And yeah, look, thanks for joining us.

Sean: Pleasure. Thank you for having me. I love it. I appreciate the invite and the chance to share a bit of wisdom.

Jason: Thanks, everyone. Thanks for listening in. That's the end of Startup Equity Matters for today. Catch you soon, Sean. Catch you out there, founders and everyone. Good luck with your startups. Awesome. Cheers, Ed.

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