Alex Hartman started his entrepreneurial life at the age of 17, creating software from his Sydney bedroom which became the user interface for Bigpond.
His business, Amicus software, is said to have made him $1 million.
Now he’s 34 and is running an ASX-listed company, Newzulu, a global news syndication business which gathers the output of citizen journalists, verifies it and delivers feeds to mainstream media outlets.
“I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I’ve done some things alright,” he told Business Insider.
“I’ve learnt from those experiences and I am pleased that I have because this is a really incredible opportunity.
“It seems a long time ago when I was working with Bigpond and the like when I was 17. I am happy that I am now working on this opportunity. It’s one which has real scope to be an important part of the media landscape globally.”
Alex is the son of Keith Hartman, obstetrician to the stars who has delivered the children of many well known Australians. His brother John hit the headlines for insider trading and is now working for charity.
Alex Hartman’s world is now Newzulu, a platform for crowd-sourcing video news and freelance journalism. It has deals to supply many of the world’s key news agencies, including Agence France-Presse from whom Hartman bought the company, originally called citizenside.com, in 2006.
Hartman now lives in Paris while running, as executive chairman, an ASX-listed company.
He’s just acquired Canadian social media software company, Filemobile, for CAD$5 million.
Filemobile has a roster of major white-label media clients including USA Today, Fox News, Wall Street Journal, and Hearst TV, iTV, CTV, CBC, The Weather Network and Scientific American.
From this Hartman plans an assault on the US, establishing editorial offices across the country.
“It’s a great step forward for us,” he says.
“We sell photos and videos through AFP and other newswire partners we have. And we’ve just launched a live streaming service for broadcasters. It saves them sending satellite trucks to news events.”
Newzulu has a global editorial team of 50, working in both English and French. Within half an hour they validate and fact check video and photo material and it goes down the wire.
“As media outlets try to reduce their fixed costs of news gathering, it’s (Newzulu) playing more and more of a mainstream role,” Hartman says.
“You get a photo or a video while the fire is still burning rather than when your photographer gets there and the fire has gone out.
“It’s also more cost effective than having a satellite truck or a team of staff photographers waiting for something to happen.”
Hartman says he’s pleased about having the benefit of all the experiences he’s had over the years and being able to apply this to his new acquisition.
“I am more strategic and more focused on the technology,” he says.
“The idea that the company is bigger than any one person is a maturity that I didn’t have at 17.
“You are the sum of all your life experiences and I am grateful to have started in my bedroom. I am enjoying being the chairman of a publicly listed company, operating in seven countries. I am a little humbled by that and by the obligations.”
Hartman says running a public company can take a lot of time and he sometimes wishes he could go back to day-to-day operations.
“But this is always what I wanted to do. I was always interested in the media,” he says.
“I am delighted to be able to have the opportunity to do something which is not only commercially rewarding but is having a major influence on world events.”
He likes living in Paris.
“My girlfriend will tell you that I don’t speak French very well at all,” he says.
“I am getting better, improving. Unfortunately I can’t sell the software in French. I am much more useful is English speaking territories.”
When he’s back in Sydney he stays with his parents. “Dad’s been a great friend to me as well as a great mentor,” he says.
Newszulu backed into an ASX listing in August via PieNetworks, raising $6.5 million. It’s now looking for another $5 million plus some working capital for the Canadian purchase.