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OurPatch - Regional And Rural Business Directory

In our ongoing coverage of startups coming out of Australia and interviews with CEOs, Media Personalities, Philanthropists, and VCs, to gauge the innovation and startup landscape in Australia, today we showcase our interview with, the co-founder of OurPatch - Regional And Rural Business Directory, Simon Wyk.

I did this interview to learn more about OurPatch, its offerings, its progress and what it means to the regional and rural business of Australia. Let us explore what Simon has to say about the progress of OurPatch and the state of affairs in this domain in Australia. This is what he has to say:

• Please tell us about yourself, your background and interests?
I was born in South Africa and came to Australia in my mid-twenties. I started my career in marketing. Initially for a chemicals company and subsequently for a home improvements company.

I then found myself in Interactive Communications and built the first commercial CD-ROM in Australia. We migrated from commercial CD-ROM to CD-ROM titles and I co-founded Brilliant Interactive Ideas which later became Brilliant Digital Entertainment. I left BII to found Hothouse a web development company. Our first client was Microsoft. We also worked for Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Telstra, and Lexus. NineMSN, I7.

I co-founded Stuff Auctions. We outlasted GoFish and sold but finally could not get past eBay.

I’m interested in my family, horse riding, Burning Man, kayaking and the Internet.

Please tell us about your venture/company?
The industry buzzword fanatics would say it’s a local search play. We think it’s a little more than that. We’re focused entirely on rural and regional Australia. We’re a directory of local businesses, we have community groups and events and we’re creating a community with our blogs and forums. We think we’ve made a start on the local paper for 2008 and beyond

Who are the people behind this and how it started?
Patrick Cusack and I had been tinkering with ideas for some time. We both had a passion for rural and regional Australia. We found a model in the Southern Highlands run by Steve von Kohorn and started with that

How long it took before it was up and running?
We started work in April 2007 but we were still working full time and it took until November before we had a working model. We launched officially on Australia Day 2008.

What is the main objective/mission behind your venture?
We’re trying to connect businesses and customers in rural and regional Australia

What services it provides for consumers or customers?
We provide listings for business and community groups. We have a fully functioning jobs board, we have a comprehensive events calendar and we have community tools, forums, blogs and groups. We’re adding dating. All of this functionality is available down to the postcode.

What type of customers you are targeting?
Rural and regional Australian businesses and community groups.

How many people are using your services?
We launched the site on Australia Day with the Patches. Orange, Bathurst, Blayney and the Southern Highlands. We now have 38 Patches and the traffic grows every week. We’re pleased we’ll catch up with some of the established players by the end of July.

What sort of marketing you are using to spread the word?
We are using search and PR. We’ve done over 100 interviews on regional radio.

How are you measuring the success of your venture? Are there any special mechanisms/tools in place to monitor the progress?
We have 4 measures of success. We have three separate systems delivering these numbers. It’s not perfect but it works. It’s simple and pragmatic and we know where we are going.

What is the monetizing/revenue model? Is there any new model, which is being tried?
We are monetizing our site with advertising and premium listings. We’re also implementing a range of new services all with a fee-for-service model, Jobs, dating, coupons and other services all have well-established business models.

Which are the main competitors or major players in this market segment?
Yellow Pages are the key competition here.

What are the main technologies used behind this venture?
We have built the platform using Ruby-on_Rails

What has been the easiest to use, out of the box and helpful technology?
We use many of the 37 Signals products. We have people scattered across the country and we needed an easy way to keep them all across the progress and issues. It had to be easy to use. These products all fit the bill, I’d swap a few enterprise products for their products anyday.

Are you using a lot of open-source tool sets for this?
Yes, the entire platform is open source.

What is your operating environment (operating system) and what type of database you are using?
Linux and My SQL

How often do you catch up with others trying similar things and where do you catch up? Do you have dedicated communities in your city?
Yes, I know quite a few people in the same space trying to do similar things. We all share war stories. It’s motivating and helpful

What’s your thought on being an entrepreneur? How tough it is to start a venture in Australia?
It depends on what you want. If you want the status and security of a big job with a big company it’s extremely difficult. If you’re prepared to give it a go and put up with the uncertainty that goes with a start-up, the lack of status and structure it’s not that hard. I’ve managed to raise money for a few of these now.

What do you think of the digital revolution that is breaking the conventional business model for media houses & music companies?
It’s an exciting time. Those of us who work in this industry are extremely lucky. This type of change does not happen very often and we won’t see it again for a long time. We’ve lived through a revolution and it’s not finished yet. Simple things like email have been transformed over the past year. You could now run an enterprise on email services that are outsourced and cost nearly nothing. A year ago every enterprise needed Exchange or Notes and a huge cost for the infrastructure. You can get started with a collaboration space for $40 per month two years ago you had to buy Sharepoint or Vignette. And on it goes. It’s amazing to be part of this.

Do you think Telstra is the major player for the future growth of Australia in a digital economy?
No, I don’t. They missed out on the search, in real estate, in auctions and on job classifieds.

What do you think of new ventures and innovation coming out of Australia? There is a lot of interesting work going on in Australia. You scratch the surface and you’ll find a lot going on. We have a smaller population so it’s harder also our mindset is a little local, we’re a long way away from the rest of the world. The people that get it right have to work twice as hard so you have to take your hats off to them.

Do you think we can create an entity like Google in Australia?
Yes, we have the smarts but Google had luck and timing on their hands. That’s not always easy to replicate. They have implemented well but there was a point it could have gone either way. Luck played a huge part. Geocities could have been Ning, Facebook, etc but it was too early. should have been YouTube but we were not ready.

What Government resources have you used to help your business? And have they made an impact? Have you sought any funding?
I don’t have the time to deal with the government. They have no bearing on what we are doing.

Do you have any advice for people who want to start their venture?
Yes – just do it. There are so many reasons not to give it a go, but when you do you’ll find the learnings are amazing.
Thanks, Simon for sharing your thoughts with us. All the best for the future.

For coverage on other Australian startups, innovation, and tech trends check this out our coverage on interviews can be found here


Anonymous said…
Always good to see Australian directories to serve the local market. Simon, I wish you and your team all the best!

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