SafetyCulture, the startup Atlassian founder Scott Farquhar has taken under his wing, is opening a US office


SafetyCulture founder and CEO Luke Anear has done what many startups only dream of. Not only has he built a tech company with global reach and market acceptance, he’s attracted the interest of one of Australia’s top tech minds, Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar.

SafetyCulture’s biggest market is the US with 28.5% of its users based there, followed by the UK with 26%.

Recognising the strong US demand, SafetyCulture is about to open up its first US office in Kansas City. The first employee will be a former app user and fire brigade lieutenant Josh Yeamans.

The company is now searching for a number of support staff and will look to ramp up sales and marketing efforts in the US in coming months.

Anear said one of the benefits of opening a Kansas office is that the overheads are much lower than San Francisco and it has Google’s fibre-to-the-premises service.

Also on the books is Atlassian’s fourth employee Anton Mazkovoi and the billion-dollar tech company’s former CFO John Bruce Smith. That brings a wealth of experience from building one of Australia’s most successful tech companies to the startup.

“It gives us confirmation that what we’re doing so far that we’re heading in the right direction,” Anear said. “We have such a long way to go; we’ve just released one app and we’ve got plenty more to come.”

Anear isn’t sure why Farquhar chose his company but he is thankful he can draw on him. He has previously told Business Insider Farquhar has turned up to work in the company’s Townsville office but now it has a Sydney office, which was opened in December, Farquhar visits them there.

“It’s been surreal, this was an experiment that got out of control,” he said. “Now we have this responsibility, I always feel that we’re not doing this fast enough.

“There’s so much data that’s been collected that this has become a big data play.”

Anear said being able to go to Farquhar for advice on practical, granular details was a privilege not many startups have the opportunity to do.

“You couldn’t ask for a better investor,” Anear said, adding the input he gives the company is of higher value than that of traditional investors.

At the moment, SafetyCulture’s checklist app iAuditor allows people to identify problems but Anear sees the game changer in opening up the API and enabling users to correlate activity with things like weather data or asset data, making the process simple and almost ubiquitous.

“Collecting the data is only half the problem, the other half is how you make sense of it,” he said.

“We’ve nailed the ability to collect data in the field, the next step is to give them context.”

SafetyCulture released its cloud platform which was built on Amazon Web Services in February. One question the team was battling with was at what point in the user process should credit card details be entered. Farquhar drew on his experience at Atlassian and SafetyCulture listened — you’ll now get asked for your credit card upfront.

Not only has SafetyCulture picked Farquhar’s brain, it has also leveraged its position as a regional startup to get ahead.

Every 10 weeks the startup flies in all its employees from around Australia and the world for a one-week intensive session in its Townsville office. Anear found that strategy helps solve communication issues which come with having a decentralised model.

“We’ve invested quite a bit of that – it used to be every eight people every six weeks,” he said. “We put on 21 engineers in 10 weeks last year. We were bringing people in from Italy, France and Sweden and put them on 457s and provide accommodation.”

Being based in Townsville, rent is cheaper than places like Sydney and so the company has leased a number of apartments for staff to stay in when they visit.

Among its almost 500,000 users, the company’s safety audit app is now used in 760 Coles supermarkets and on a number of Rio Tinto’s open-cut mines as well.

Anear said someone in Coles found the app in the app store, downloaded it and it became one of the fastest tech rollouts in the supermarket.

“The app economy has changed that, giving people who normally rely on an IT department freedom,” he said.