SafetyCulture's Luke Anear on building a global brand and making sure your Sydney HQ doesn't look like a Facebook campus

SuppliedLuke Anear

  • SafetyCulture is looking for a Sydney HQ location.
  • Founder and CEO Luke Anear wants the new office to be open and inclusive to the surrounding community.
  • Over the next 12 months he says the company will grow into the capabilities necessary to deploy the new capital effectively.
  • He says it still has some way to go to strengthen its global brand awareness, but the funding will help.

SafetyCulture is going from strength to strength.

Having just sealed a $60 million investment deal (in 90 minutes, no less), the Australian startup is now turning its focus to setting up local digs and ramping up capabilities to spend its series C funding round.

Speaking to founder and CEO Luke Anear following the deal, he revealed the search for the perfect Sydney location still continues.

The company has been looking for a local HQ site since it pulled out of San Francisco in May last year.

When discussing what he was looking for, Anear revealed his main concern was making sure it’s open to and integrated with the surrounding community.

He recently visited Facebook’s new campus at Menlo Park, south of San Francisco, and said while it may be “a little controversial” to say, “it felt like The Truman Show”.

“They’ve built a huge compound with a very big fence around it and 10,000+ employees working inside it with restaurants and laundry service and hairdressers, but it’s all created by Facebook.

“It feels kind of like a city, but it doesn’t have the diversity and variety of a city. It has this kind of monotone flavour to everything because it was created by the same kind of people with the same vision.

“When you’re building a campus of that scale, they’ve got this challenge of trying to find more space to build it which means you’ve got to put it out in the middle of nowhere.

“As Australian tech companies grow up, we’re going to have the same challenges. How do we provide a great space for people to work in everyday but have it integrated with the community around it and not build a walled community that becomes its own bubble.”

He added: “Google in the past has had open campuses where people can come and go, but Facebook has a completely closed environment.

“Some of this has changed recently because of the shooting at YouTube… but there’s something we can take from this — how do we create work spaces for our teams to interact with the community around them, and have an organic community grow.”

He said if you have limited location options and have to build in an area far away from CBDs, “then build it in a way that a restaurateur could come in and set up a restaurant however they want, and have the natural, organic community unfold not a prescribed community”.

“What we’re looking for is a building that allows us to flow in and out of the community,” he said.

“We’re still in talks and still trying to find something [in Sydney] at the moment.”

SafetyCulture/ Supplied

When asked whether we was still happy with his decision to pull out of San Francisco, he said: “100%. I’ve never looked back.”

“It was the right thing to do,” he continued.

“The Kansas city team has grown from strength to strength, growing from eight people to 30 in the past year, and they’re continue to grow.

“San Francisco has got issues. It’s got homelessness, drug addiction and mental health issues on the streets and people stepping over them to get into tech community to try to work out how to Tweet… the whole thing feels like a dichotomy that needs to be solved.

And for that reason, “we’ve got no plans to go back”.

When announcing the recent raise in May, Anear said that a lot of people still don’t know what SafetyCulture is.

“In the last year alone, over 100 new staff were hired to support the company’s growth. However, most of the world don’t know we exist; they’ve never heard of SafetyCulture.”

Anear told us this latest cash injection will help change that, as well as allow the company to continue to build new products and grow.

“I think we have a long way to go but it will. I would say, from our past three rounds experience, it takes us about a year after the funding, before we grow into the capability of deploying the capital.

“When you’ve got $500,000 in the bank, you think differently about how you solve a problem to when you have $5 million, to when you have $50 million in the bank. You can approach the problem differently, you have think at a bigger scale, and you can execute at a bigger scale.

“What I have noticed is that we create an opportunity that attracts investment and then we grow into the capability in order to deploy the capital effectively.

“Over the next 12 months you’ll see us grow into that capability, we’ve never been a growth at all costs company. We measure twice, and we cut once. We experiment and then we double down on what works.

“As our capability keeps increasing, then we’ll deploy more capital and start to spend more. But we’re still adjusting and getting our heads around it.

“It was only a couple of months ago we had the money drop in the account, so we’re starting to think differently now and scale up teams, building out our leadership teams.

“It’s still really hard to find people with tech leadership experience, we’re looking at drawing from other industries as well, where people have leadership skills but haven’t necessarily had tech experience. And we’ve got a few other things we’re playing with there.”

He said The New Hustle, a documentary he recently produced on the Australian startup industry, has helped in a small way with this sort of recruitment.

“It’s definitely raised awareness across the community and certainly brought more people in contact with us… It was the greatest thing we’ve done to raise our profile to date.”

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