Melbourne entrepreneur James Cattermole was enjoying the success of his technology consultancy when he saw an opportunity for his clients to improve their internal processes. The cloud-based solution he created has taken him from Melbourne to the world.
"When it's a services business you're locally-based, whereas with the product being cloud-based you can literally be anywhere in the world," says 35-year-old Cattermole, who has just returned from his third visit to Silicon Valley in three months.
Cattermole founded the IT strategic consultancy JadeLynx six years ago, working with government departments and corporates, building his team to 25 staff.
It was through his consultancy work that Cattermole noticed many of the organisations he advised were struggling with effective decision-making.
"One of the things we've seen in big organisations is they have a process for everything, whether that's purchasing or procurement. But one of the things that has no process is decision-making. It's just whoever was in the room at the time.
"So what then happens is they have very little recollection of why a decision is made. Two years later, or even six weeks later, they might want to know why they made a decision, and no one can remember."
Eight months ago, Cattermole appointed a small team of his JadeLynx staff to start developing a cloud-based software solution. The business has now been launched as its own start-up, Hexigo, and is already being trialled by the AFL, Cricket Australia, Pact Group, two multi-national consultancy companies and a Victorian government department.
Cattermole received such interest in the product when he visited Silicon Valley in October last year that he has returned twice since then with a fourth trip scheduled for next week.
"In the limited time I've been in Silicon Valley there's a much more friendly and positive attitude to new technology than we have here," says Cattermole, who is excited about the reception he's received in the United States.
This has meant a shift in business approach for Cattermole, who is now opening a US office for Hexigo, whereas his original business is focused on working with clients much closer to home.
"We want to start tackling the North American market and you can only do that from America. The first thing they do is jump on your website, and unless you have an American address and phone number, they don't want to talk to you," he says.
The reason for the excitement over Hexigo is that it takes collaboration software and systems one step further, by driving productive outcomes and tracking and recording the way decisions are made by a business.
Cattermole says Hexigo captures four key elements in the decision-making process.
"The first is that we make decision-making accessible – anyone in the organisation can now be involved in making decisions, it's not just the three people who are sitting in the room.
"Then, we give accountability to decisions so that people know who was involved in the decision and why they decided to do it, rather than the vagueness that tends to happen with a lot of the decision-making in organisations," Cattermole says.
"The third thing is traceability – to really review and trace the decision-making process, to understand how and why the decision was made. And finally, it's about reusable decision-making … Before you go into making new initiatives or new strategies, you jump onto the central repository [of Hexigo] and ask, 'Have we done this before and what did we decide to do?'."
Cattermole says Hexigo helps businesses move away from the endless stream of meetings and messages.
"Having communication is easy, there are no shortages of ways for people to stay in touch and communicate. What is needed is productivity gain, which comes through making good decisions and driving outcomes," he says.
The experience of launching a start-up has given Cattermole the opportunity to reflect on all that he's learnt during his time as an entrepreneur.
"When you start your own business the first time, you really don't know what you're doing – you follow your nose and hope you don't stuff up," he says.
Learning how to motivate and reward was a steep learning curve, he says, which he's put to use in the intense pressure of a software startup.
The other lesson he's learnt is the importance of taking risks in business.
"The biggest lesson of all is just being willing to take the risk. There have been those agonising moments: is this a smart idea or really stupid? Are you risking an existing business for something that's speculative?"
He's made the decision to proceed with gusto and Hexigo might be just the solution he needs one day to decide whether his own decision-making processes paid off.