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27 year old entrepreneur creates Road Intelligence software company making cities safer, smarter

The next generation of Australian business leaders are creating competitive companies that bridge market gaps and exceed consumer demands. Young entrepreneurs were recognised for their achievements and business contributions at the Young Hero Awards; an awards program dedicated to celebrating business leaders under thirty-five years old, presented by Commonwealth Bank. SBC’s editor, Alyssa Herr, and one of the Young Hero Awards judges sat down with each award winner to discover how these young entrepreneurs are shaping the future of Australia’s business landscape.

Emily Bobis, Founder, Compass IoT

Age: 27
Hometown: Sydney, NSW
Company HQ location: Ultimo, Sydney
Year company was founded: 2018
Award: Startup of the Year
Describe your business in one sentence: 
A Road Intelligence software business that helps transport professionals build better, safer cities.
What does winning the “Startup of the Year” Young Hero Award mean to you: 
Winning the Startup of the Year award is a fantastic recognition of all the brutally hard work the team has put in and the challenges they’ve overcome. I’m incredibly proud to be representing them, other young female entrepreneurs, and Smart City innovation.
 

Why is your business competitive in the market:

There are a few factors that contribute to Compass IoT’s competitive advantage. First, we use cloud-connected vehicle data. The transport industry is still very manual and reliant on hardware like cameras, phones, or retrofitted devices. Using connected vehicles means we get passive insights in real-time, for virtually every single road across Australia, that are cheaper and less time-intensive to use.

Second, because we’re using information directly from a car, we get unique, granular insights that are more accurate or were impossible to get using other data collection methods. This includes near-miss data as a precursor for potential blackspots, embedded gyroscope data for asset deterioration monitoring, and detailed origin-destination reports to better understand how our road networks are designed and how drivers actually use them. Our software also enables transport professionals to survey large areas or multiple sections of a road network simultaneously at scale – something that is impossible to do with manual methods.

The third factor is a focus on relationships and partnership building. In B2B sales, there’s a misnomer that you’re talking to a business rather than an individual. It’s very easy to forget that you’re still interacting with people who have their own challenges within an organisation. Treating them with empathy and as legitimate allies instead of transactional one-off interactions has been pivotal to Compass IoT’s feedback loop, innovation process, and product development.

What have been your company’s major challenges:

A challenge for any startup is balancing growth, new opportunities, and stability. It’s a constant battle to make sure that we are taking steps towards securing the competitive advantages of Compass without compromising on the stability we need to provide our staff.

Another hurdle is that innovation does not equal acceptance. Building an amazing solution is half the battle – the other half is convincing your intended customer that it is valuable enough for them to put money down. You have to be prepared to put in the work to educate your target audience in a language that is accessible. The Compass team invests a lot of time and resources into connected vehicle education and supporting customers on how to extract value.

Emily Bobis being presented by “Startup of the Year” award by judge Sara Sutton, GM Small Business Sales Service VIC/TAS, Commonwealth Bank.

Best advice you were given for successfully running a business:

The best advice I’ve received is: “When in doubt, do something”.

It’s incredibly easy to be inundated with information, take way too much time discussing what the best course of action might be, and suffer from ‘analysis paralysis’. So when you find yourself in a situation where you don’t know what the best path forward is (and it will happen quite often), choosing to do something – even if it turns out not to be the best choice in hindsight – is better than doing nothing.

What could be done to improve Australia’s startup culture:

There are 2 things I think we could do to improve our startup culture:

First, we need more visible and accessible female role models, particularly at the C-suite level. There’s a lot of monetisation around mentorship for women that probably has its heart in the right place, but ultimately blocks women out behind paywalls and takes advantage of the lack of female representation in startups. Women should be able to access mentorship without having to pay a membership fee for it. All founders also have a responsibility to make the space better; we need to better address unconscious gender bias by fostering inclusivity and speaking up about casual, conversational sexism.

Second, founders need to be willing to give back and contribute to the ecosystem. We need startup teams (not just founders!) to be present in their respective startup communities, advocate for the resources you wish you had when you were starting out, push against the typical silicon valley mentality that it’s every entrepreneur for themselves, and recognise the power you have as a young founder or team member to make a difference.

Visit: compassiot.com.au

 

The Young Hero Awards was hosted at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne on May 17 and presented by Commonwealth Bank and sponsored by Optus, Coinspot, Blackmagic Design and Small Business Connections media.

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