The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

Interview: Sydney local, Andrew Rogers, web entrepreneur and founder of Anchor — November 25, 2013

Interview: Sydney local, Andrew Rogers, web entrepreneur and founder of Anchor


Andrew Rogers is a Sydney-based entrepreneur that has lived to tell the tale of the dot-com era. His startup, Anchor, is one of Australia’s top web host service providers and now they’re going global. Here’s a snap of Andrew literally knocking down office walls to increase team collaboration.

You started your host company Anchor Systems in 2000, what was the web industry like then? Any shareable memories from the dot-com days?

We planned to get into hosting whilst the dot-com was going crazy and then it all fell over about the time we started. There weren’t really any hosting companies to speak of so we looked at the ISPs who were being valued at thousands per customer and decided we’d have a million dollar business in no time.

I hear stories from other people that worked in big companies in the dot-com era about the parties – we missed all that because we were chained to our desks 18 hours a day getting a bootstrapped startup off the ground. I remember eating pizza six nights a week at my desk for way too long.

You announced green web hosting services in 2011 – what’s the response been like? What do you envision data centers of the future to be like?

We actually launched it as a paid option a couple of years prior and the response was pretty much non existent. We probably didn’t market it heavily enough but yeah – a few passionate customers bought but that was it. Our industry uses a huge amount of power – we constantly use the equivalent of well over 100 households and we represent less than 1% of the space in one of the data centers we operate from.

In 2011 we decided we’d just pay for the green power ourselves and give all of our clients green hosting automatically. It was important to us so it was just something we decided to do ourselves in the end.

We’ve done a fair bit of work to reduce power consumption and over a period in which we’ve more than doubled the size of the business we’ve reduced our total power consumption. Unlike the green power we did this at a net cost benefit to the business, it has saved us a lot of money. Data centers are full of computers – these are the bits that change rapidly and have short lives so in the near future this is where I think all the change will occur. Surprisingly the industry feels like it’s been slow to move in this direction so there’s a lot of opportunity.

The buildings take a long time to build and recover costs and are very hard to change so I think the evolution will be much slower in this area.

We used to spend a lot of time in the data center upgrading and tweaking machines. These days we spec them up, turn them on and then everything happens remotely – mostly due to virtualization.

You’ve been working on a new tool called BuiltWith – what is it?

BuiltWith is very exciting. We track the technologies (think content management systems, advertising platforms, shopping cards, analytic tools) on 100 million of the busiest sites on the internet. When then turn this into a big data set and make it useful. For any website we can instantly tell you what it uses – at Anchor we’re often asking our clients if they use WordPress or do they have Google Analytics and a lot of the time the businesses just don’t know – with BuiltWith we don’t need to ask the question. The other thing we do is sell lists. We can compile lists of all the sites using say Magento – or any technology a company is interested in – such a list of their competitors customers. This has been the exciting bit because it’s helped some great startups like Optimizely grow and has brought on big clients like Google, Microsoft, eBay and Twitter.

What’s your ethos around building a cool company culture at Anchor?

There’s one really simple premise – recognize that there are things that make work fun for me and then try and ensure everyone has similar such things in their job. It’s just about looking after people. The environment is one part of it – flexible hours, an open account at the coffee shop, everyone chooses their workstation setup, comfy chairs. But the work and skills development probably more important – providing interesting projects to work on, employing and developing great managers, giving people the chance to move around and develop new skills.

You’re a mentor at Startmate and have supported community conferences like SydStart – do you feel you had the same level of assistance when starting your company?

I had a few relatives with businesses that I’d call for advice – they worked with wardrobes, airports and export grants. So it was a bit different but we still had help, advice and mentors – people who had started business and most importantly would listen to our challenges. I’m really excited about things like Sydstart, Startmate and Pushstart as they’re all great opportunities to repay that debt that I owe other people who helped us get started.

What Australia startups are you keeping your eye on?

It’s hard because it’s easy to be biased towards the ones you know more about. I’ve seen BugCrowd executing amazingly from the start of this year and I think Kinderloop have a chance of owning their space. I really love the Airtasker service so I’m super keen to see them succeed so I can keep using it.

What community meetups and industry events do you recommend our readers check out?

It’s not one regular thing anymore for me, just keep hunting out the quality events and people, be prepared to take timeout from work to discover something new – set aside time for an event each week – it’s the only way to stumble on the good experiences.

What are you favorite suburbs in Sydney?

Not quite suburbs but the amazing parks that always feel so empty considering we have millions of people in our city. The headlands around Balmoral/Mosman, Botanic Gardens, the Spit to Manly walk and Centennial Park.

About our contributor // Kate Kendall is the founder and CEO of The Fetch. She regularly blogs about startup life and advises businesses on the role of marketing and community. Follow her on Twitter via @katekendall

Image credit: Anchor HQ

Disclosure: Anchor has been a financial supporter of The Fetch throughout 2014, which increases

Interview: Sydney local, Tim Fung — November 10, 2012

Interview: Sydney local, Tim Fung

This week, Delphine Vuagnoux chats with Tim Fung, the founder and CEO of Airtasker, a start-up dedicated to making your life much easier.

Name: Tim Fung
Twitter: @Airtasker, @AirtaskerSYD,

Airtasker looks to be the ideal solution when you’re too busy to juggle chores. Can you tell us more about it?

The idea came to me about one and half year ago: I was just moving houses and I was overwhelmed with assembling Ikea furniture and packing and unpacking dozens of boxes. It took me weeks to be ready to move and well settled down. I didn’t want a professional service but rather an extra help. I realised that there were hundreds in my situation who could use some extra-help. So I decided to meet this need by creating Airtasker (with co-founder Jonathan Lui). We launched last February and since then, more than 35, 000 people have joined Airtasker community.

Airtasker is an online and mobile marketplace that connects people seeking to outsource everyday tasks and errands with reliable people who can complete those tasks, aka the runners. After a first starting in Sydney, Airtasker communities are now present in Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane.

What’s the hardest challenge you’ve had to face work-wise?

Reliability. We are an open platform: anyone can join and offer one’s services. Trust is crucial to ensure the quality of the service and to provide the best customer experience possible. So far, runners created a profile and they were reviewed by the client  once the job completed. We realised that we needed to improve the quality of service our platform provides for our users. Which means being able to screen more in-depth all runners.  Our question was: how could we grant them a PRO status without spending an incredible amount of time or money?  We met another startup, RecruitLoop through the Sydney startup community last August and together, we have partnered to create AirtaskerPRO program, that recognises the status and reliability of some runners by giving them a badge, after screening them thoroughly.

Any new plans before the end of 2012 that you’d like to share?

We just launched a Business version. We realised that that 50% of tasks posted are for small businesses. They’re looking for people to do small tasks, from data entry,  to hand out promotional flyers or complete mystery shopping projects. Others include letterbox drops, office administration or call centre tasks.  As being in a mobile market, it seemed obvious to develop our App, available on the App Store since a couple of weeks to all our Droid users, we’re almost there!

Who do you think is doing cool stuff in our industries? In terms of collaborative consumption?

Personally, I really like Airbnb…It’s a community marketplace for unique spaces. The idea is to connect people looking for a house tree or a flat or a room and people looking for renting these spaces…all around the world. Three years ago, no one knew them and now they have a huge community behind them.

I think people are more and more comfortable with all the resources available around us: there are plenty of information and data; people come in a community market, a platform and a transaction occurs which provides more data… Once it becomes viral, success is ensured. It may take a long time but every transaction makes the system stronger and more powerful.

And collaborative work?
I believe in collaborative work, in partnership that benefits both parties like what we did for AirtaskerPRO. I think that startups can help each other grow, by staying connected in the community. For example, our office is a part of Tank Stream Labs, a co-working and entrepreneur community located in the heart of Sydney CBD. And it’s absolutely great to be in such an inspiring work environment!

What is the most funny or weird task published ever?
Clients asking for runners to queue for the iPhone 5 release. The bids were from $50 up to $250. That shows that in a community marketplace, there is no limit to imagination!

What advice would you give to a young entrepreneur just starting off?

Something easy to say but not easy to do: to think from all angles. To be the bigger picture guy, to make things happen, you need to think through all the little chunks, end to end.

From my personal experience, I’d also add: relax two days at week. During the six first months following the launch of Airtasker, I breathed Airtasker, talked Airtasker, ate Airtasker. I was so focused on the work that I couldn’t do anything else. You may think being so committed to your work is an advantage but actually not at all. You are so stuck to your work that you can’t learn any new things. You can’t have any new ideas. So take the time to relax!!!  Oh and stop looking at the numbers every two hours… doing it on a daily basis works much better.

About our ambassador // Delphine Vuagnoux is a community ambassador for Sydney. She is passionate about innovation and social change and a communications manager at All Together Now. You can find her on Twitter here: @delphinevuagnou.

Event Review: Opportunities for Startups — August 30, 2012

Event Review: Opportunities for Startups

Nick Healy from DEC Communications recently attended Opportunities for Startups, a Young IT Professionals Forum that explored the opportunities for startups in Australia.

The Sydney start-up scene is alive and kicking in 2012. In the past few years kick-starter style outfits, incubators, coworking spaces, accelerators, angel investors and venture capitalists have emerged as driving force behind innovation and entrepreneurship.

No longer known as the domain of eccentric entrepreneurs with ‘big ideas’, founding, funding and growing a business from a start-up to something more is increasingly an open book to anyone with the drive, determination, smarts and professional network to make it happen.

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) this month hosted a captive audience of Sydney’s hopeful start-up community and start-up curious for an in-depth 3+ hour workshop and panel session that covered some of the “A-B-Cs” of Opportunities for Startups in Australia.

The Commonwealth Bank’s (very slick) open plan offices at Commonwealth Place played host to Opportunities for Startups. A fitting surrounding for such a forum with a space designed to promote freer flow of work and ideas.

Among forum panellists were some of Sydney’s startup and innovation notables (see below) all there to frankly and openly share their experiences and war stories of working to take an idea and turning it into a successful business model.

Opportunities for Startups panellists included:

  • Kim Heras – Co-founder at PushStart, one of Australia’s top startup community accelerators.
  • Anoop George – Senior Director and Country Head at MindTree Australia
  • Natasha Rawlings – Direct Marketing pro, Founder and CEO at StreetHawk, a mobile shopping startup
  • Philip Takken – Audit and Assurance Senior Director at Deloitte’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications (“TMT”) practice in Sydney
  • The night was facilitated by Jenny Bhuiyan, Event Convener at the ACS and head of the Women of Entrepreneurs Sydney Chapter

Revealed early by speakers in sharing recipes to startup success was that not one seems to be the same. All had learned things the hard way and offered the audience insights into what worked for them, what didn’t and what others can learn from their experiences.

Perhaps most intrinsic to all panellists was an emphasis on speed and pace when moving in the startup space. When asked for their top tips to share with anyone considering/contemplating jumping into the startup game, the following pearls of wisdom were shared:

Startup Tips Shared by Panellist over the Evening:

  • “Fail Fast”: Find out what doesn’t work quickly
  • “Learn Fast”: Learn quickly from your mistakes
  • “Understand your profit model”: Passion will only get you so far
  • “Always have a financial buffer”: Be prepared for a considerable period of time without income and all the psychological pressure that goes with that.
  • “Pick your co-founders carefully”: You’ll be spending a lot of time with them
  • “Spread the word about your business”: Share your information and ideas with people outside of the business
  • “Sell from the Start”: When you’re trying to sell to someone – that isn’t your friend – you will find our very quickly what people really think of your business and products
  • “Persevere or Pivot”: Keep going but be ready change and recalibrate very quickly
  • “Keep your business plan simple”: Complexity can kill
  • “If in Australia, be prepared to spend time attracting investor dollars”: Australian investors generally require a working profit model before making a commitment
  • “Learn how to do things yourself”: Whether it’s basic HTML coding, sales and marketing, you can’t afford to pay people to do everything

About Ambassador // All about Social Media, PR and travelling, Nick is big on any form of written, verbal and visual communication. By day, Nick is a PR and Social Media Consultant at an independent PR and Communications based in Sydney, @DEC_PRConnect with Nick via @NickHealy

photo: cc license, basheertome

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