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Colin Goudie from Social Pinpoint

Apr 27, 2021 | Founder, Hunter Central Coast, Male Founders, New South Wales, Newcastle, Podcasts

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EPISODE PROMO_Social Pinpoint

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Hello and welcome to a new episode of Welcome to Day One, the podcast for Aussie founders, startups & the organisations that support Australian entrepreneurship. Welcome to Day One is brought to you by the City of Newcastle’s brand new innovation platform, Newihub.

Today on the show you’ll hear from Colin Goudie the co-founder of Social Pinpoint.

Social Pinpoint’s a software as a service platform aimed at the community engagement space. Most of its clients are councils and large infrastructure projects that needed to create a place for the community to collaborate with them.

Now, let’s go back to day one, where this story begins…

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MUSIC

Colin: I missed a family holiday to Gold Coast so like they went up to dreamworld and I stayed at home for three days and just coded, coded, coded, got it to a point over probably a two week period that we were able to demo it. And it, overall, it was about six week period between when we really kicked it off and then it was ready to go.

Adam: Hello and welcome to a new episode of Welcome to Day One, the podcast for Aussie founders, startups & the organisations that support Australian entrepreneurship. Welcome to Day One is brought to you by the City of Newcastle’s brand new innovation platform, Newihub.

Today on the show you’ll hear from Colin Goudie the co-founder of Social Pinpoint.

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Colin: Hey, I’m Colin Goudie from Social Pinpoint.

Social Pinpoint’s a software as a service platform aimed at the community engagement space. Most of its clients are councils and large infrastructure projects that needed to create a place for the community to collaborate with them. 

Adam: But first I’d like to tell you about another organisation that is helping startups succeed in our region. 

The City of Newcastle is a big supporter of entrepreneurship in our region and has recently launched a brand new digital hub called Newihub. Newihub is a growing and vibrant community of Newcastle’s startups & founders. It’s a central hub where you can learn about what’s going on in our ecosystem, with events, available jobs and other resources.

Welcome to Day One is brought to you by the City of Newcastle and the brand new innovation community digital platform, Newihub.

Now, let’s go back to day one, where this story begins…

Colin: So originally its Social Pinpoint was purely a mapping tool. So basically, giving a way to communicate Geospatially. So, putting a place or a, you know, a spot to your concern or your suggestion for councils and government.

Basically an advanced survey. So rather than just filling in a survey or throwing an idea or a suggestion to the council, you can actually pinpoint, that’s where the name came from, Social Pinpoint being a very map-based, location-based collaborative tool. 

Adam: Before starting Social Pinpoint, Colin worked for a mining company, pretty much straight out of university. 

Colin: I went from developer to team leader, at this mining company that worked with before that I was at Uni.

Adam: And, that is where Colin met his co-founder, Charles.

Colin: Charles and I met in 2002 at a mining software company. So he was on the technical sales side and I was in development and that was my first job out of university as a developer.

Adam: Colin went out on his own, using his skills that he had developed as a coder to help businesses implement software from a little company you may have heard of, Atlassian.

Colin: I’d gone into the Atlassian consulting space. I spent about six to seven years, you know, remoting into different people’s businesses, implementing Atlassian software for them. So that’s my background.

Adam: Having been exposed to the world of software as a service through Atlassian and just the rise of SAAS businesses around that time Colin & Charles we’re excited by the opportunity presented by such a business model.

Colin: I mean, we were looking for a way to get into the SAAS business.

We wanted to build a web SAAS tool that we could sell.

Adam: Colin & Charles were looking to build a SAAS business that they could sell, Colin told me he really just wanted to build the business simply to see if he could do it. An opportunity was just around the corner through a personal relationship that one of the founders had, they were excited to build a product that could be built once and service a large number of customers.

Colin: And that ideally had a higher annual fee, like, you know, like a higher license that we could deal with fewer clients because we’d come from the mining sector. So we knew that it was easier to, at the time, easier to support fewer clients with high value and sort of went after that niche. And that’s why when we saw that proposal, we went, hang on, we could do this just as well as, I guess we saw the tool that Port Stephens had bought. And then we went, we could do that. There’s no reason why we can’t build that. 

Adam: That was the opportunity, a tender from Port Stephens council. They wanted a tool built to help them engage with the community. 

Colin: I think more and more councils are realising that the most vital source of information is people. People like not in a, not always just engineers, you know how to build infrastructure. It’s actually the people who are going to be affected by it.

Adam: They didn’t end up winning that business, but a short while later, another council, Lake Macquarie, wanted a very similar product, which really made the Social Pinpoint team think…

Colin: Hey, this is actually an interesting idea.

And that’s where we decided we could build this tool and actually do it as a SAAS product and sell it. So that’s, that’s what we did. 

MUSIC

Adam: So, Lake Macquarie had approached Colin & Charles to build the software they were looking for.

Colin: I think at that time we were known as software implementers, a little bit that we could build software.

Now that’s where the cool, and this is, I guess, part of the relationship-building is, you know, they gave us a go, you know, locally we told them, we’re upfront. We said we’re going to charge you an annual license for something we don’t actually have yet. But this is what it’ll look like. We did all the mockups and all that.

Obviously, the tool looked nothing like the mock-ups by the time we sat down with Lake Mac and went through with them all the bits they wanted. 

I missed a family holiday to Goldcoast, so like they went up to Dreamworld and I stayed at home for three days and just coded, coded, coded, got it to a point over probably a two week period that we were able to demo it. And it, overall, it was about six week period between when we really kicked it off and then it was ready to go.

Adam: After they finished the initial build in mid-2013, of what would be the first version of their mapping product and demoed it to Lake Macquarie Council the guys decided that would be a good time to start the company.

Colin: So we registered and formed the company on the 1st of July just to make it easy for The tax well, not tax, but yeah, just the financial year. So yeah, the original tender was even through Charles’s consulting company at the time, but then we switched everything over to Social Pinpoint proprietary limited and from that date, I think 1st of July, 2013 was when it took off. 

Adam: So, even though the company was formed and they were off to a great start with a customer, it was a slow build.

Colin: Charles and I were not full on this for… I mean, for years, probably it was always something that was, I wouldn’t say on the side, but I mean, we, we were at the stage of life, Charles is a little bit older than me, but where, you know, you’ve got to make money and you have a mortgage and you’ve got all this sort of stuff.

So there was never an option to go full into this thing. It was, it has to work alongside us generating whatever revenue we had on the side. I just continued to do the Atlassian consulting for years after we started Social Pinpoint. But obviously, it just went, you know, flicks over at some point where then you become full-time on your startup because you’re making enough money.

As I mentioned it was a slow build, and that’s the approach that Colin took. That’s how he saw it, and it’s a great approach. One brick a time. Not leaving the first stepping stone until one foot is firmly placed on the next.

It’s like, I think if you guys read the barefoot investor, they talk about, I think it’s the trapeze or something thing where, you know, never let go of the other one until let go of the other. And that’s like, I agree with it. Like, yeah, you can. I mean, look, if you really love an idea and you want to throw everything at it, go for it, especially if you’re young, but when you’ve got yeah responsibilities, it’s pretty risky to do that stuff. And I don’t think you need to, you don’t need to be a millionaire at 25 or whatever it is. Yeah. You got decades. It’d be nice. But yeah. There are decades of time to, you know, do five different businesses, you know, so don’t rush it. 

So even though they were being smart about it, taking one step at a time, the guys had a good idea pretty early on that they were on to something. 

Like we knew this was something that had some legs, but were we a hundred percent committed early? Like we were still trying to work out, is this the product we want? Or is it something else? Like, but it was pretty evident a year or two in that there was something there, you know, and then we went through that Slingshot program and that sort of helped us align priorities.

 I think it just reaffirmed that we did have something there. So then let’s, because at that time we were totally remote all that. We just got a little office at the Business Centre and said, let’s hire someone there. And it wasn’t too long after that, that we actually moved offices again. But there was a period where we just, I just, I guess, set up shop and started to try and do it a bit more seriously.

Adam: For the last few years Colin hasn’t really touched a line of code in the business, but for the first few years Colin was doing all the coding and product development. When they were in a position to make their first hire, it wouldn’t be a programmer, it would be for another really important role. 

Colin: So I probably haven’t touched code on Social Pinpoint for about two to three years, maybe for the first two or three, yes. I was pretty much the sole, either the sole coder or the main person who would, you know, I guess, sign off and deploy releases or things like that.  So I definitely didn’t hire, the first hire we did was not a programmer.

Our first employee was a customer success person, got her in and I think in that next year we doubled sales. Just having another body there.  

You’re trying to find someone who is really friendly and open and can take a lot of that burden. So like customer success is basically, I mean, I’m yet to see where you’d lose money with customer success person.

So you’ve got something you can sell. Then if you have someone who can support that help. Keep someone renewing and or expand their use of your tool, then that person’s going to pay for themselves pretty quickly. 

Adam: Following on from that great first hire, the team just continued to grow from there. 

I told you the complexity now because we have sold, so there are more people, but the actual Social Pinpoint side would be, I don’t know, Nearly 30 or something like that, but the whole company, because it’s been bought by another one is in the sixties or something, sixties or seventies. 

The Social Pinpoint team is strong today, but how did they get there? Cold outreach was one of the main strategies the team employed early on. 

Colin: Cold outbound email. Yeah. Basically the great thing, and this was before we used tools to do it was, you know, load up every council in Australia and start sending their front desk the simple question was “can I please ask who’s in charge of community engagement” or it was something to do with basically it sounded like a public member, someone from the public just wanting to know about their community engagement.

So they’d respond. Generally, the community engagement officer responds cause they’re like, Oh, what’s this inquiry. Bang got them. Let’s talk.

I mean, that’s how we started to grow from all the initial clients would have come back from that, that those discussions. Now, when I say great, it’s not like we scaled to a hundred clients, there’s, you know, there are 600 councils or whatever it is in Australia and I think maybe two or 300 might be in the position to use our types of tools, so you’re still trying to, and there are some bigger players in the market.

But I even looking back the other day and some of our clients now were ones that we originally emailed and that list, you know, that they originally came back. But it was very manual at that time. And just sending it out. 

 You know, we had a pretty healthy conversion, or like if someone came to us wanting a map, there wasn’t really any other options, like our biggest competitor who is from Newcastle at that time, didn’t have a map.

Adam: Alongside outreach, Colin and the team made an early decision to invest in content marketing.

Colin: One of the things that I think helped inbound is we made a conscious choice to content market. So that was one thing we did. So we, and it was for a period of six to nine months or something where we put out a blog every week or whatever it was twice. I can’t remember the exact cadence, but it grew our site, you know, word count and everything.

And there’s some that even now that still rank, some of those articles were better quality than others, but at the end of the day, it gives you that, that page and that domain presence years later, which still, you know, you reap benefits from it. I think I mentioned to you before, I mean, half the battle with startups is loving business and then staying in the game, not worrying too much about don’t get in love with the particular solution or anything like even the problem space. Cause you can be, you’re going to be wrong most of the time. 

Adam: And the last piece of Social Pinpoints early sales and growth strategy was getting out there and meeting people at conferences.

Colin: It was in the first year probably was if not, it would’ve been, the second was starting to go to conferences and community engagement. So our first one was in Adelaide. We flew down, met a heap of people. And I mean, that is, if you talk about why we, I guess, stuck with it, I think one of the other things we’re talking about was there any hard times and things like that or something like that?

There wasn’t, but I’d say the thing that affirmed what we, yeah. That we liked, what we did is the customers. I mean, the space, the community engagement space is full of people, I’m not, I’m an introvert. I’m not a massive people person as such, but these people are all communication people and marketers.

And not only that, they’re there in that space of trying to make positive change in the community. So they’re just really good people. We’d come from, this is going to sound bad, but we were coming from mining. So it’s a big change when you’re doing software that potentially is, you know, Quote unquote, hurting the environment in some sense, in some areas, but even the people that work in mining, nothing against them, but it’s a different clientele.

I mean, you know, and then to go to that, it was just, this is awesome. So we had so much fun, like in the conferences, even now, the culture that we built in Social Pinpoint, I believe flows into, our brands are known for being fun and stuff in that sort of environment. And really being a leader of trying to keep it fun and relaxed and lightweight.

Like every email we use, like we’d send in our language and stuff and it’s how I’m talking now like we’d never, this is how I dress, it, walking into a council building, you know, we didn’t, we just went where. Software techie company. We’re not like your IT staff again, nothing against IT staff or the IT vendors they’d be dealing with probably is more appropriate.

And then that was one of the selling points too, like for them to do a website update, and it can take weeks to get through IT and how it does it, where now we want to give them a platform that they have full control of their security in council can’t get in the way as such, cause they’re not in it.

It’s outside their, yeah. So providing, they have the ability to use another platform, which they do once you have to get through some loops and yeah, obviously you have to have the data stored and in certain areas and all that, but once you do that, then you know, it was a really good selling point, especially back then, because everything moves slower in government.

Adam: It was conferences that landed Social Pinpoint their first client in North America.

Colin: Our biggest growth right now is in the States and the first clients we got were through conferences that we went there and got the client.

It wasn’t like years. It was,  we got a few Australian ones, a fair few councils. Like I can’t even when Newcastle came on, but it was fairly early, some Sydney ones and then I think we got one or two first sort of American ones, north American ones.

The mapping always evolve, some of our biggest features were added because of, I think it was the port of Vancouver in Canada that they needed some, say, we thought we’re going into a quiet Christmas and we spent like weeks doing all these new advanced map stuff for them.

Cause they were putting huge things around there their Port at the time that we wanted to support. 

Adam: And entering overseas markets was always something Social Pinpoint was looking to get into.

Colin: Australia is like 20 something at the time, 22 million or whatever it was people, 24, or whatever it was then. America’s 300 million then whatever we’re doing here at that time, you know, your first year you hit 50,000 and say, okay, well maths tells you, then this should be a half a million-dollar business if we’d started over there, like that’s sort of the simple math. 

Adam: So the Social Pinpoint team have come quite a long way in the last 7 or so years and have grown in team size, customers, revenue and features.

Colin: And even today, we’re still known as the map people. And I think we do have the best mapping tool but we’re not just a mapping tool anymore. We’re a full platform in which people can set up websites and do all stuff.

Adam: Colin wanted to build a business that was profitable from day one.  

Colin: I’d say all the time from when we started to close the finalisation of selling the product is profitable. And I guess that’s what we did with Social Pinpoint and it’s not always the right thing that we felt like that was, I don’t know, it’s just in keeping with Newcastle culture bit as well, that, you know, if you’re making money, you’re less stressed.

Adam: I really enjoyed sitting down with Colin to talk about Social Pinpoint, the last thing I asked was what advice he would have for new founders.

Colin: If you love business and how to start a business and run it, and especially if it’s a SAAS business or whatever, all the tools you use, all the financial modelling how you do all that. It’s relevant to pretty much 99% of any other business. So you can apply it to anything and you don’t get fixed, but you won’t get as down when things don’t work for your particular solution, you’re happy. You’re easier to pivot into something slightly different. And you can stay the long I just think it helps you stay a bit more even-keeled for the long game rather than go, Oh, I really love this niche. I’m going to go at it. Oh, it didn’t work, I’m going to kick it in and stop. 

And I guess that’s what I see when the messaging of fail fast, it’s sort of true, but it’s also like, Hey, a lot of the solutions would have probably lasted if people just kept at it a bit longer sometimes. Depending on what it is sometimes it’s just about staying in longer.

Adam: Thank you for listening to the story of Social Pinpoint. I hope you enjoyed it. Everything that was mentioned in the episode today is on the show notes page on welcometodayone.com.

These incredible founder stories are made possible by our supporters. We can’t do it without them, and I’m just incredibly grateful for their commitment to our local startup community and in helping us spotlight these amazing founders who inspire me and I hope who inspire you too. 

Next time on welcome to day one, Mike McKiernan from Deckee.

Mike: I wouldn’t say I was necessarily interested in business. I definitely was interested in creating and building things, I suppose.  Designing things that sort of evolved then into, well let’s create and design something that’s useful for people. And then at some point, I guess there’s a realisation there where you go, okay, well maybe this is something I can do for a living.

 Hello, my name’s Mike. I’m the founder and CEO of Deckee. 

MUSIC

Adam: The City of Newcastle’s Newihub is our major sponsor and I’d just like to take a second to express my gratitude for their support. Newihub is a great new initiative from the team at the City of Newcastle. It’s an online community to keep up to date with what’s happening in our region from an innovation perspective and a hub of great resources. I encourage you to check it out and sign up to be a member. 

You can learn more by clicking the link in today’s episode notes at welcometodayone.com or by going to newihub.com. 

This episode was produced by me, Adam Spencer, with scripting and audio editing by Natalie Holland.

Information about everything mentioned in this episode can be found on the show notes page at welcome to day one dot com.

Music by Lee Rosevere, full attribution on the welcome to day one website.

If you’d like to support this show, please consider leaving us a review or supporting us on Patreon.

I’m Adam Spencer, thanks for listening.

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