Shark Tank tech investor Steve Baxter still loves paper-based systems

Shark Tank judge Steve Baxter.

Shark Tank investor and tech entrepreneur Steve Baxter says he’s only read about 10 business books in his life, didn’t finish school and joined the army when he was 15 years old.

The Queenslander struck it big time with Pipe Networks, when he and co-founder Bevan Slattery, sold the company to TPG in 2009 for $373 million.

“If you want to make more money than selling dark fibre, I suggest you sell drugs,” Baxter said at Blackbird’s Sunrise event in Sydney today. “Lots and lots of good margin business in that one.”

But despite his tech-heavy background, working for Google in the Valley and launching his own startups, Baxter revealed he still loves a paper-based system.

“My favourite system is a paper manual. As long as it’s written down, you can get repeatable, processing quality every time,” he said.

Baxter’s need for documented systems and processes came from his military training.

And while he recognises manuals always change, at least if someone goes on holidays another person can parachute in and do their job.

“With good systems, manned by good people, using common procedures we managed to service 36,000 people using 6 help desks,” he said about his days at Pipe. “It can actually cut your costs.”

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