Craig Gee doesn’t necessarily want to take over the world from his armchair in rural Perth, but he might be helping to build the next app that does.
Speaking to Business Insider from his home office, the founder of website and app development company GetYourApp says he’s built his business on the belief that, in a digital world, “all businesses are equal”.
This is a double-edged sword for entrepreneurs, as Australian small businesses are fighting it out on the same battlefield, with the same opportunities and pitfalls, as their global competitors.
Writing in the ‘Small Business, Big Thinking’ report commissioned by nbn™, demographer Bernard Salt notes the availability of the nbn™ broadband access network “is changing the game for small business which can be run from anywhere in the country and which can now access markets internationally.”
“Changes in technology are breaking down the barriers to entry for entrepreneurs.
“Business capabilities and extensive geographic footprints that were traditionally reserved for medium-to-big businesses are now available to small-scale start-up entrepreneurs,” Salt writes.
Gee said that while a good idea is no longer constrained by location, too many entrepreneurs fall at the first hurdle by not validating their business idea before pouring in capital.
“People actually come to me with app ideas [but] they haven’t even done their own research, and it takes me five minutes to do a quick search and come back to them and say ‘look there’s already five other apps that already do this. If you spend $50,000 or a $100,000 developing this app, you won’t actually get off the ground,’” Gee said.
There are almost 800,000 small businesses (1-20 employees) currently active in Australia, but data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that more than 60 per cent last less than three years.
These failure rates certainly aren’t stopping people having a go at their own small business though, with the ‘Small Business, Big Thinking’ nbn™ report showing the micro and small business sector is the fastest growing sector in the economy.
“Digital disruption and globalisation combined with the end of the mining boom do indeed appear to be displacing workers who may be reinventing themselves as one-man-band consultants or contractors,” Salt writes.
This was very much the case for Gee, who worked in the mining industry in Western Australia before deciding to follow his passion full time.
“I got into this field because my passion is in technology and the digital industry, and I was looking for something that was future proof.”
Gee hopes to help others future proof their business models online, which is why he’s focused on ensuring their ideas stand a chance from the get go.
“I’m not going to just take their money, develop an app and then put it out on the marketplace for it to fail, that’s not what we’re about.”
Gee recently built an app for a local café that wanted to launch a delivery service but needed to mitigate the risks of having their drivers doing huge round trips for little profit.
“The app was a very tailored app for what they required. With [geo-location settings], you can limit it to a 2km radius, so you can’t get someone that’s 10km away ordering a coffee,” Gee said.
Since launching the app, the café has won a small business award, and sales have risen sharply. Gee attributes some of this success to the app’s ability to improve the customer experience.
“When people order they sign up within the app, so we can not only get the information as to who’s ordering, how often they’re ordering, but you also notice that once they get the app, it’s a daily order because they find it so much easier.”
Gee has seen his own customer service model improve with better and more reliable access to the internet.
“With this type of business it’s an armchair business and that’s where having the nbn™ access network has really helped, having those fast upload and download speeds, especially when you’re dealing with large image documents and things like that.”
“With initial consultations with website or app development if [the client] not local, we do Skype sessions or screen-sharing, where we really need a good internet connection.
“It’s been fantastic, since connecting to services over the nbn™ access network it’s become easier to connect with worldwide customers through video conferencing … it has helped to break down the barriers exponentially.
“Instead of having to drive 2-3 hours to see a customer or client and then drive back, we can just have a Skype session.”
Gee also regularly participates in the online support network run by Business South West to meet other small business owners and get advice on how to grow GetYourApp sustainably, after an incredible 300 percent growth in the first year compared to the initial six months.
nbn™ is launching the Glocals Mentorship Competition to help give more Australian small businesses the opportunity to be mentored by some of Australia’s leading professionals and take their local business global.
“Anyone can do business in the global online space… it creates a level playing field.”