No place like home for hugely successful Pocket Casts pair

Adelaide app developers Philip Simpson and Russell Ivanovic’s climb to the top of the tech game is the stuff of entrepreneurial dreams.

In 2008 the two work mates built their first app, Pocket Weather, as a side gig to their full-time day jobs.

A decade later and their Adelaide-based company Shifty Jelly and its hugely popular podcast app Pocket Casts has been snapped up by four of the biggest radio and podcast creators in the United States.

But despite the recent international investment in the South Australian tech company, the humble pair say they have no plans to move from Adelaide.

All development will stay in the city, with the Pocket Casts team based in a small office on Ebenezer Place in the Adelaide’s East End.

Their space is modest and shows no obvious signs of flashy success, although the duo joke that a Silicon Valley-style ping pong table would probably fit nicely in the corner and be welcomed by their small but soon-to-expand team.

“They were talking about wanting us to go to New York, but from the early days we said we wanted to stay in Adelaide,” Russell says.

“They could see that we’d make a successful product and they could have a level of trust in us so that even though they can’t be here all the time, they know our team will still deliver.”

Pocket Casts app developers and I Choose SA ambassadors Philip Simpson, left, and Russell Ivanovic. Photo by James Knowler/JKTP.

Since the acquisition earlier this year by the Americans – NPR, WNYC Studios, WBEZ Chicago and This American Life – Pocket Casts is knuckling down on its ambitions for the future.

I Choose SA ambassadors Philip and Russell say they hope to hire at least another six staff members before the end of the year, adding to their small team of five.

Weekly they Skype their new CEO, former iHeartRadio senior vice president and general manager, Owen Grover, who is based in New York.

Pocket Casts is a premium podcast listening app allowing users to access and manage more than 300,000 podcasts on Android, iOS or web devices.

It was launched a few years after Philip and Russell had quit their day job and started their own venture, Shifty Jelly, a two-man operation which grew to include a designer and support and admin staff.

Pocket Casts has been downloaded more than 100,000 times in Google’s Play Store and in 2015 the design was recognised by the internet giant at the annual San Francisco developers conference.

A recent ABC survey shows that almost 90% of Australians aged 18–75 claim to be aware of podcasts which allow users to download and listen to episodic audio files on electronic devices.

Pocket Casts was one of the first of its kind on the market and even came before Apple’s own podcast app.

Philip says having the backing of the US consortium means the team now has more flexibility and financial security to grow Pocket Casts’ features.

“We can be more flexible now … before we were always profitable but were restricted with money,” he says.

“Now we can expand more and put on more developers to help with the features we’ve been wanting to do for years, it’s very exciting.”

The popularity of Pocket Casts wasn’t Philip and Russell’s first brush with success.

Before launching Shifty Jelly in 2010 the pair’s first app, Pocket Weather, was released in 2008 and was an immediate hit.

Within one day of its release the weather app, showcasing live weather data from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, shot to number one in the Australian Apple App Store.

“It was amazing because we didn’t expect that, but we didn’t really know what it meant either,” Philip says.

“We were earning more money outside of work than we were at work, so we decided to take the jump with Shifty Jelly, and it was definitely worth it.”

Both Philip and Russell agree Adelaide’s creative industries and technology scene holds real job prosperity for graduates and job seekers.

“There’s plenty of work coming out of Adelaide if you want it, there’s the defence sector and the start-up thing is also happening,” Russell says.

“There’s almost no reason to move to Sydney or Melbourne, you’ll be paying five times more for housing, transport and everything else.

“If I was coming fresh out of uni, I’d definitely be getting a job in Adelaide.”

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Adelaide innovation firm finds solutions in the digital age

Digital innovation firm Enabled Solutions began as a two-man, home-based operation and is now celebrating almost 20 years in the game.

The Adelaide business and its team of 16 designers, software developers and business consultants, has taken on clients as close as down the road and as far as around the globe.

Over the past two decades it’s built relationships with some of South Australia’s most renowned businesses, helping bring them into the digital age by developing apps, software and digital experiences.

In 2016, Enabled celebrated a successful development with Adelaide-based Coopers Brewery involving the world’s first fully automated home brewing machine.

Through the BrewArt home brewing kit, home brewers can monitor their batch anywhere and at any time via a smartphone app.

Enabled also marked its place in the digital innovation space through its works with a string of other local companies, including Seeley International, Clipsal and the RAA.

The southern suburb-based agency developed the RAA’s app, myRAA, removing the need for members to carry a membership card and allowing benefits and competitions to be more easily accessed.

Enabled Solutions CEO Grant Hull says Adelaide’s size makes for great networking and business opportunities.

He also says the city is a perfect breeding ground for tech start-ups and entrepreneurs and that it’s becoming increasingly renowned for the sector.

“There is a tremendous amount of opportunity wherever you are in the world, but in SA there has always been enough work for us at Enabled,” Grant says.

“There seems to be a reputation building in SA and it’s reaching a point of substance.”

Adelaide’s brightest thinkers, budding entrepreneurs and innovation leaders are set to bring their ideas to the table in July through the city’s Entrepreneur’s Week and Hybrid World.

The Enabled Solutions team at the Malvern studio.

Grant co-founded Enabled Solutions with a university classmate in 1999 with little more than a desktop computer.

Their client base grew, as did their reputation for being one of the first movers in app development and mobile technology.

Grant’s brother Craig joined the business after some time and Enabled has since gone on receive a number of accolades in the tech space.

Recently, its internal culture book won an award of excellence in Corporate Communications Category at the 2018 Communicator Awards.

Grant also has strong ties to SA’s three universities, the University of Adelaide, UniSA, and Flinders University.

For the past four years he’s been a lecturer at the University of Adelaide’s annual Australian Tech eChallenge, which allows entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges and potential investors.

Grant says partnering with the state’s universities is not only a way for him to “give back” but also allows him to search for the next generation of potential employees.

“When you head up a business, you’re passionate about your own team, but you also think about how you can bring more great people on board, and working with the universities is one way to do that,” he says.

“Also, when you’re working with large businesses they don’t want you to play with their business, they don’t want mistakes.

“So (by working with universities) you can experiment with what works and what doesn’t – it’s a proving ground.”

Grant says many local entrepreneurs and tech-start ups launch their businesses in Silicon Valley in the US which is regarded as the global tech hotspot.

“A number of people go to Silicon Valley and raise enough capital before realising that rent is through the roof,” he says.

“There are opportunities here in Adelaide. I think we’re doing quite well here in SA. We’re self-sufficient inventors.”

Header photo: Enabled Solutions co-founders Grant Hull, left, and Craig Hull.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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PixelForce is one Fast Mover

It’s a classic success story: the university assignment that turns into a start-up business run from a garage.

That’s how it went for web developer Hinney Lo, whose classroom venture became one of South Australia’s fastest growing businesses, PixelForce.

The Adelaide-based studio is now one of the city’s most trusted web designer and app developers, with a client list that includes South Australian fitness guru Kayla Itsines.

PixelForce’s rapid climb to success in a relatively short space of time – seven years – has now seen the business become a finalist in BDO and Brand South Australia’s Fast Movers South Australia 2018 program.

The program recognises the fastest growing and most innovative small to medium enterprises in the state, and winners will be announced this Friday.

To qualify, businesses must have a registered head office in SA and achieve a minimum turnover of $200,000 a year for the past three years, among other criteria.

“We are genuine and just try to be ourselves,” Hinney says.

“When we first meet our clients, we don’t promise them anything we’re not confident we can deliver, and we give genuine, honest feedback on the idea and concept.”

Hinney Lo is PixelForce’s managing director.

PixelForce’s 26 employees, ranging from high level designers to software engineers and project managers, work out of a Glen Osmond Road studio, designing and developing websites and mobile phone apps.

The business sprouted from humble beginnings when Hinney and a university classmate created a mock business as part of a final year project.

As a result, PixelForce Digital was born in 2011, with the uni pair offering web design services to the public.

Client demand soon grew and the business moved from the garage to an office along the popular nightspot Hindley Street.

“It was chaos to be honest,” Hinney laughs.

“But we landed a great client – Wokinabox – which had an office on West Terrace.

“Their marketing manager was walking along Hindley Street and saw us, walked in and we had a chat.”

Undertaking website and app development for the fast food eatery, PixelForce continued to build relationships with various SA businesses.

Hinney’s friend and now technical director Ben Zhang came on board and PixelForce Digital amended its name to PixelForce Systems.

By 2015 the business, now known simply as PixelForce, had build a core team of senior app developers.

The team secured a high profile client – Instagram fitness guru Kayla Itsines and delivered the workout and meal planning app, Sweat with Kayla.

The fitness star and her fiancé Tobi Pearce, who have built a global health empire worth $63m, placed at number 40 on the 2017 Young Rich List.

In 2016 PixelForce launched Kayla’s newest app, SWEAT.

“When we first met Kayla and Tobi, they were already really successful,” says Hinney.

“But they came to us because they wanted to build their app.

“We were chosen as a supplier and we’ve been a part of their success, so we’re really proud of that.”

Most of PixelForce’s clients are start-ups and entrepreneurs but it has also worked with larger entities such as Angove Family Winemakers, the South Australian Liberal Party and Adelaide City Council.

Hinney says 90% of PixelForce’s employees are recruited through an internship program.

“A lot of graduates come to us to work as interns and that’s a great way to pick our employees,” Hinney says.

“We train them from the beginning.”

Hinney is originally from Hong Kong and came to Australia at the age of 15.

He studied at the University of Adelaide initially achieving a bachelor’s degree in design studies before taking on a Master of Design in digital media.

Hinney says he chose Adelaide to be the home of PixelForce because of the city’s relaxed lifestyle and its support of emerging businesses.

“We really like the environment and vibe here,” he says.

“Melbourne and Sydney are too big, and Hong Kong is like that as well.

“That was one reason why I came to SA, it’s a bit more relaxed and there are a lot more opportunities here for start-up businesses.

“South Australia gives start-ups a try.”

PixelForce is among the 25 nominees for the Fast Movers SA 2018 awards, announced on Friday, May 25 at a gourmet breakfast at Adelaide Oval.

Tickets are available now, click here to purchase.

Header photo is Hinney Lo, left, and PixelForce technical director Ben Zhang.

Tech entrepreneurs choose SA to launch app for Chinese visitors

By Melissa Keogh

A pair of highly successful Aussie entrepreneurs has chosen South Australia to pilot a smartphone app set to improve visitor experiences for Chinese travellers.

Shanghai-based Simon Henry and Andrew Taylor, who founded China’s largest international property website, last week launched their latest tech project in Adelaide.

Pronounced ‘you-why’, UWAI is aimed at high net worth, frequent and independent Chinese travellers in SA and allows them to search for restaurants, cafes, shops and landmarks in their own language.

The pair claim the app is the world’s first digital tourism platform allowing users to communicate, engage and transact with local businesses, governments and corporations.

Tech-savvy entrepreneur Simon Henry, along with partner Andrew Taylor, chose SA over all other Australian states to launch new app UWAI.

Tech-savvy entrepreneur Simon Henry, along with partner Andrew Taylor, chose SA over all other Australian states to launch new app UWAI.

More than 800 businesses and landmarks across metropolitan Adelaide and the regions have been selected to have their details appear on the app and translated into Chinese.

Simon says UWAI – which means travel abroad in Chinese – helps knock down cultural and language barriers between international visitors and local business owners.

He says the Chinese tourist market offers huge potential for SA’s economy, with Chinese travellers already injecting $352m a year into the visitor economy.

“Everyone sees Chinese tourists in Australia, but few local businesses know how to engage and transact with this market,” Simon says.

“We have made it easy for local businesses to be found and to be welcoming to Chinese tourists without having to change their identity or hire Chinese speaking staff.

“If we can increase the number of Chinese visitors and spend per customer by just 5%, it can mean over $200m additional income and 5000 new jobs over three years.”

While most Aussie tourists solve their food, retail or landmark curiosities with a quick Google or Facebook search, Simon says the Chinese do not use these platforms.

“These are blocked in China, so they have no idea what we are talking about,” Simon says.

“(However) they are the most advanced mobile users on the planet, spending $5.1 trillion on mobile transactions in 2016, 50 times that of the US.

“Everything is going digital, everything is going mobile.”

The app connects Chinese tourists with information about SA's landmarks, eateries, shops and services.

The app connects Chinese tourists with information about SA’s landmarks, eateries, shops and services.

Originally from Queensland, Simon has lived in Asia for 25 years.

Before launching UWAI, he had only visited Adelaide once but says he was impressed with its potential.

“I was blown away by how diverse the community was and the high number of Chinese students really surprised and shocked me,” he says.

“The quality of the air and the clean green produce is just incredible.

“SA is really in prime position to capitalise on international tourism.”

In 2010, Simon and Andrew founded Chinese translation property app JUWAI which has reached millions of high net worth Chinese globetrotters.

The duo recently sold out of the company, and began shortlisting Australian locations to pilot their new venture.

The top three UWAI headquarter candidates were Cairns, Gold Coast and South Australia.

Simon says he already knew Adelaide had strong ties to China through China Southern Airlines’ direct flights between Adelaide and Guangzhou and the Port Adelaide Football Club’s debut match in China earlier this year.

The State Government has helped fund UWAI through the South Australian Tourism Commission (SATC).

SATC executive officer Rodney Harrex says UWAI will redefine the Chinese visitor experience in SA and benefit local businesses.

“The application is great news for our retailers, tourism operators, and other local businesses –
providing them with an innovative platform to embrace the incredible China opportunity,” he says.

Rodney says Chinese visitors remain the most lucrative market for SA, with visitor numbers up 56% to 56,000 visits in the 12 months to June, 2017.

This month’s I Choose SA for Industries stories are made possible by sponsor, the University of South Australia.


Space app to help protect against bushfires

By Andrew Spence

A mobile app to help warn and protect communities from bushfires is being developed with a little help from NASA.

Two-man South Australian team TrentoScott – Trent Bowden and Scott Belcher – are developing their web-based application Wildfire and hope to make it available to the Mylor community when the fire danger season begins in November.

As more people sign up for the app it is planned to be rolled out to neighbouring Adelaide Hills districts later in the summer with a possible state-wide launch in 2018.

The duo began working on the project as part of NASA’s Space Apps Challenge, which was held in Adelaide and 186 other locations across 69 countries in April.

Trent Bowden and Scott Belcher are developing the Wildfire app to help protect communities from bushfires.

Trent Bowden and Scott Belcher are developing the Wildfire app to help protect communities from bushfires.

TrentoScott and the four-member FloodLight team, which developed a tool to provide emergency workers with up-to-date flood-risk maps, were chosen as Global Nominees from the 10-team Adelaide competition.

Bowden said the web application would be available on all devices and aimed to give communities, families and individuals the ability to see and respond to hazards around them.

He said Wildfire would also allow users to receive warnings and alerts during events such as bushfires or floods.

“Essentially it’s an interactive layer for a community to be able to respond and create a whole new level of awareness,” he said.

The app draws on freely available data from Sentinel satellites, which includes thermal signatures that reveal the locations and intensity of bushfires.

“People use technology every single day that has evolved from space technology,” Bowden said.

“We’re utilising space to create something really relevant for the community.

“As a two-person team we are getting through it quite fast and the next stage will be implementing it in a community scenario in the Adelaide Hills.”

The Wildfire app is expected to be available to the Adelaide Hills  community by November.

The Wildfire app is expected to be available to the Adelaide Hills community by November.

This month Adelaide will host the 68th International Astronautical Congress – the biggest global meeting of the space industry and the largest conference ever staged in South Australia.

Belcher said the NASA challenge opened his eyes to the huge opportunities space technology presented across a range of industries.

He said hosting the congress this month was a great chance for more local companies to generate ideas for space-inspired innovations.

“The fact that NASA isn’t just concerned with space is something we learnt,” Belcher said.

“It’s something that we’re really excited about and Adelaide is poised to capitalise on it – if the right investment and the right people are put into it then it could be a big opportunity for South Australia.”

The South Australian Government will have an exhibition stand at the conference, where they will be joined by 11 local space start-ups, including Myriota, Fleet Space Technologies, Neumann Space and Inovor Technologies, hoping to increase their footprint in the multi-billion-dollar global space industry.

Check out the video below to learn about Wildfire and how it could help you.

This month’s I Choose SA for Industries stories are made possible by sponsor, the University of South Australia.