The story of tech start-up, PlantMiner, is one that embodies the true, turbulent nature of the start-up sector. A concept was created, the vision proceeded, and through hard work, a bit of luck, a great team and a relentless pursuit for success, that initial concept has evolved into an operating business. PlantMiner is now a recognised tech platform, a one-stop hire shop for plant, equipment and subcontractors in the construction and mining industries.
Co-Founder and Co-CEO of PlantMiner, Michael Trusler, was a civil engineer in Central Queensland in 2012 who saw an opportunity to do things better. Alongside his business partner Mike Davis, the pair grasped an idea and have shaken industry norms, embraced technology and challenged traditional methods of doing things on a national scale, just three years on. Trusler took the time to give a small insight into the PlantMiner journey, plus give his views on how he sees the tech start-up sector.
Looking back on the early days of PlantMiner, Trusler admitted that there were a few things that fell into place. “We were very lucky, we got seed funding very early,” he said. “I see there’s a couple of things that kill start-ups, the wrong seed investor, no access to capital and teaming up with the wrong people, but if you can get those things right you’re on a much better trajectory to success. Thankfully, we got those things right.”
Today, Trusler is seeing different challenges particularly related to his workforce, not only in attraction, but also in maintaining that entrepreneurial spirit for retention. “To tell you the honest truth we don’t know where we’ll be in the next two years,” he admits. “We think we’ll know but in the end it’s a prayer to our employees that we’ll be here. In the end we sell the vision and we have from day one, you have to as a CEO, you’ve got to sell where this company’s going and if people buy into that, it makes the job a lot easier.”
He’s taken on some advice from America in this regard and offers his employees something that’s not too common in the Australian business landscape to hold onto his top performers. “We have an employee share scheme now which locks up the best talent as they’re now equity holders in the business, they have options and they can see the value of the business go up and their shares go up,” he said.
From an industry perspective, Trusler is clearly excited about the evolution of the tech start-up sector in Brisbane and Australia. “If you were to ask me two years ago about tech start-ups, I’d say shocking – there was no infrastructure, no support, it wasn’t cool, no-one even knew what a tech start-up was,” he reflects. “Now obviously with some good success stories, there’s five or six Australian start-ups that have gone to America and got listed, plus the stories from Silicon Valley. What you need for culture is for it to be cool and for it to be seen as a successful industry where people can make a lot of money, so now I think it won’t stop growing.” He goes onto say that a community is brewing and everyone is leaning on each other to assist in the industry’s growth. “I get approached by multiple people starting start-ups and it almost seems like everyone is doing it, it’s really going to grow. Some of them won’t be successful but some of them will and it’s going to grow through the roof not just in Brisbane but everywhere,” he said.
Furthermore, he is seeing collaboration and increased competitiveness on a global scale. “I’ve got a message from the consulate in France who’s based in Sydney and he said let’s have a meeting because we want to launch your type of business in France, like their government has a mandate to absolutely launch and start successful technology businesses.” But in light of this, he acknowledges the government is laying the right platform for the industry to sky rocket in Australia. “Michael Turnbull does it all as a bit of a façade sometimes but he’s onto it in the way that there’ll be a boom. We’ve got smart people, we’ve got a good government, we’ve got a good tax system,” he acknowledged.
Moving forward, Trusler stresses the importance of education and attraction of software development in Australia. “It is going to be a market leading industry in Australia and the world and people get poached from everywhere around the world, because in the end, the technology platform is your product and these guys are the ones building it. I think it will grow into a beast of an industry and I cannot believe that universities are not pushing it harder as a subject looking at the demand of software engineers and developers around the world,” he said.
To register your interest in attending the Fireside Chat on May 18th please email RSVP@stellartechnology.com.au. Michael Trusler is speaking alongside Wayne Gerard of Red Eye Apps at River City Labs hosted by Chris Titley (Host of the Morgans Start-Up Series Podcast).
Interview by Trent Clulow