After selling SolveIT Software in 2012, Adelaide entrepreneur Matthew Michalewicz had no plans to start another business but the Adelaide–based software guru soon realised he missed working with big business.
After selling SolveIT, Michalewicz wrote a book (Life in Half a Second) and was on the speaking circuit but the lure of working with executives, innovating and solving complex problems meant he wanted to start another company. Together with his father (Zbiginiew) and business partner Constantin Chiriac (the three founders of SolveIT) the trio discussed what to do next. “ That was early 2014 and we didn’t have an idea at that point,” Michalewicz says. “We are market-driven entrepreneurs. We engage with the marketplace and big business. We see what kind of problems they’re dealing with and we try to find a problem we can solve.” The trio met with big businesses for six months until the idea of Complexica emerged to deal with problems the businesses were facing. “We probably had 200 meetings over a six-month period in all cities in Australia at the very big end of town, whether it was banks, mining, telcos, infrastructure, agribusiness, manufacturers or utilities. We wanted to understand how the world was changing, what problems they were dealing with and why those problems had not been addressed. So the idea emerged through market research.” From these meetings, they discovered that businesses were looking for technology that could rapidly analyse complex data. “Just about every business talked about how much data they were collecting, how it was a priority for them to use that data to either be more e fficient or make better decisions in the market. To try and use that to engage with consumers or customers,” he says. “ That whole concept of transforming data into actionable insight was an absolute recurring theme. The underlying problem was that they were unable to do it or they had made attempts that were producing very poor results. They were hiring people who were analysing data and the results weren’t great. The idea emerged: ‘Wouldn’t it be great if there was a software application that could do it automatically’. That’s how it happened.” They spent a year-and-a-half to develop the software. “We signed up two foundations customers to go on the journey with us at the beginning of the business,” he says. “One was food distribution giant PFD Foods, the other was Liquor Marketing Group, which has more than 1,400 retail outlets across the country. We opened an o ffice, hired almost 20 people and spent 18 months developing it.” The company they founded is Complexica, a provider of Arti ficial Intelligence software to help businesses. Complexica’s flagship product is Larry, the Digital Analyst, a software robot that uses automated analytics to provide answers and insights for businesses. While plenty of companies use AI technology, it is mainly used to be a digital assistant such as Siri on the iPhone. “We’ve created a software robot that is an analyst,” Michalewicz says. “It actually does a job, analytical tasks. at makes us unique but only for the time being. I’m sure there’s going to be plenty of competition that emerges in the months and years to come.” Based in West Lakes, Complexica employs just over 10 people at their Adelaide base as well as 10 people in Moldova, where Chiriac lives. They are targeting Australian business before looking to expand globally. “ The strategy for us is: secure your home market first. And our home market is Australia and then potentially some surrounding regions, whether its New Zealand or Singapore, and naturally expanding into Europe and the US.” SolveIT was sold after growing the business to almost 200 employees in seven years, but Michalewicz wants to grow Complexica more rapidly than that. “The SolveIT journey started with the three of us in Adelaide and grew to almost 200 people. We have similar aspirations for Complexica but hopefully to do in a shorter period of time. SolveIT grew over a seven-year period. I think we might be able to achieve that same level of growth in half that time for Complexica. For several reasons: every time you build a business you learn more, you learn how to do it more efficiently, and I think this area we’re in – automated analytics and providing automated insights – is so red hot and in-demand that there are tremendous tail winds that we’re going to have.” complexica.com This article is sponsored by