After almost eight years of toiling away behind the scenes, Melbourne entrepreneur Sam Chandler is ready to take his company public; but not in the way that you might expect.
The founder of the Australian-based document management service, Nitro, isn’t launching an IPO, instead it's implementing a battle plan to turn its traditional B2B business into a household name.
The firm has already received a glowing write-up in the Fairfax press, and if all goes to plan, it won’t be the last. If all goes to plan, the Aussie start-up that no one has heard off is set to become more vocal in commenting on various local IT issues, like price discrimination.
What’s interesting about the move is that unlike a lot of other publicity-hungry up-and-coming start-ups, Nitro doesn’t actually need the PR.
Nitro markets itself to other businesses rather than the public and its product already has a reputation among its intended users. Arguably, it doesn’t need the extra publicity push because it’s already successful. The company, which started in Melbourne as a bootstrapped, self-funded operation back in 2005, now employs 120 people across Australia and the US and has an annual turnover of around $25 million.
As Chandler boasts, the company’s products – which basically serve as an alternative to Adobe’s Acrobat reader product – are used by over 50 per cent of the Fortune 500.
According to Chandler, it's more interested in talent than advertising and bolstering Nitro's cool factor.
He explains that in Silicon Valley, Nitro has a reputation for innovation and its “work hard, play hard” ethos. It’s known for the fully stocked bar it keeps in the reception of its Silicon Valley office. And in a bid to build a similar reputation in its Melbourne digs, it recently invested in a table tennis, pool table hybrid for its staff.
In a sense, Chandler is using PR as a form of siren call to the top tech talent in the land.
“One of the key reasons why were now talking, is because we now want more and more potential candidates to hear about us, to know about us,” Chandler explains.
“The more people that come to us, the better.”
Point of pride
Aside from saving on headhunting costs, Chandler also wants to use press coverage as a means to inspire pride within company ranks. He wants his employees to be able to brag about their work to their partners or family, and in order to do this, they first have to recognise its brand.
“What we've found, is the team really gathers around some of the press we get,” Chandler says
“It's satisfying for the team to know that what they're building is becoming a household name. Or that it’s becoming known.”
And finally, Chandler says that he hopes that by sharing his story with the press, he will help educate other start-ups aspiring to grow into fully fledged companies.
Many other start-ups use the same line when approaching the press for coverage. For instance, Freelancer.com founder Matt Barrie repeated it during a multitude of press interviews when he announced that his company was eyeing an IPO.
Start-ups always say they have the best intentions when it comes to approaching press, but just how much they actually benefit from the act is an open question.
For instance, how much investor buzz do you reckon Freelancer.com generated by allowing the media to stew over its Recruit Co deal before announcing its intended IPO? Or how many staffers did Atlassian acquire by revealing the inner workings to Australian press last year?
There’s a common thread linking all three of Australia’s top home grown tech companies, Atlassian, Freelancer.com and 99Designs, in that all three are masterful when it comes to interacting with the press. They’ve not only found commercial success, but they’ve flaunted it, using the media to grow their brand recognition and gravitas not only in Australia but also across the globe.
It’s almost a rite of passage and Nitro finally seems ready to join in on the act.