Aussie entrepreneur: Adrian Di Marco

Australians are a resourceful lot. Who would have thought that one of Australia’s largest public software companies in Australia would begin life in a demountable in the car park of a hide factory?

From such humble beginnings, ASX-listed enterprise software company, TechnologyOne, has grown to employ more than 700 people and post revenues of $122.5 million. The company has more than 800 customers, competing with the likes of Oracle and SAP to deliver high-end software to enterprise.

Adrian Di Marco has been there every step of the way. The founder and executive chairman, who also chairs the advisory board for the Queensland InQbator and is the director of the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation, cut his honeymoon short to win a contract to computerise a hide factory in Brisbane. Di Marco’s work ethic and positive approach didn’t go unnoticed.

“The idea was to build enterprise software,” Di Marco explains of TechnologyOne’s beginnings. “I did the normal rounds trying to get venture capital. But nobody wanted to back me, which is one of the problems with venture capital in Australia. People didn’t think it was a good idea to back an Australian company against a multinational.”

Thankfully, an angel investor stepped in, providing the initial capital to start the business. Unbeknown to Di Marco, the hide factory owner had taken a keen interest in the implementation.

“The job was a lot more complicated than we thought but I worked weekends to finish. I didn’t know he was the owner but he was watching me. And he saw I was prepared to do Aussie drive whatever it took — which is a very important ingredient. Your reputation is very important.”

Nobody’s going to implement software because it’s Australian

Fast forward 20 years from the hide factory car park and TechnologyOne is among the largest public software companies in Australia with a suite of competitive enterprise products. And while Australia may be the flavour of the month in Hollywood right now, it’s a completely different story when it comes to software.

“Nobody’s going to implement software because it’s Australian,” Di Marco says. “They buy it because it is better software.”

Conviction and passion are driving forces for Di Marco, both in the products created by TechnologyOne and it’s Australian heritage. Aussie talent, he says, doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

“We typify what Australians can achieve,” he says. “We now have more than 400 people working in RD. We, as a country, don’t tap into that.”

Much of the company’s success, he says, comes from giving developers the freedom to create better products, even for those that are typically thought of as mature, such as customer relationship management, or inherently complex, such as business intelligence.

“When we dug in deeper, we saw the same problems over and over again: It is expensive, it’s cumbersome, it’s not user friendly. So we made our software simpler and user friendly. We made it work out of the box.

“Take talented people, back them and build products. Sometimes it’s really successful. Sometimes it’s not successful. But they will get there and that’s the main thing.”

Di Marco says he never started the business with the idea of listing on the stock exchange and making money. It wasn’t until a US company approached him about a possible acquisition that he began to think about what the company was worth.

“I think with a lot of Australian companies that are really successful, money is always the secondary issue. It’s about doing stuff that’s innovative and new.

“But I realised how important it was for us as a company to be valued correctly, to list on the stock exchange.”

The rest, as they say, is history. TechnologyOne was one of the first Aussie tech companies to list and make a go of it on the stock exchange, weathering the dotcom boom and bust. And it continues to change and strengthen in 2010.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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