The consumer advocate driving Australia's digital scene

From peer-to-peer lending to mobile telephony to a more recent foray into e-commerce, Yatango's CEO Andy Taylor is keen to shake things up. Just don't call him a disruptor.

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Yatango founder Andy Taylor prefers the term consumer advocate to disruptor. Source: supplied

At 33, Andy Taylor has already managed to make quite an impact in the Australian digital scene. From peer-to-peer lending, to mobile telephony, to his more recent foray into e-commerce, Taylor has managed to carve a niche for himself and his business Yatango in the hurly-burly world of businesses transitioning to a digital future.

Taylor’s first steps came soon after he finished university, armed with a marketing degree, and dived headlong into the world of search engine optimisation and the emerging social media marketing scene.

In 2009, Taylor co-founded a marketing & technology agency WTD. Pretty soon, big business clients like Westfield, Commonwealth Bank and Rebel Sport were walking through the door.

Working with the big brands proved to be instrumental in giving Taylor an inkling of what was in store.

“It was frustrating, the big companies would seek out advice but no one was willing to implement anything,” he says.

Fortunately for Taylor, rather than wallowing in his frustration, he was able to harness it into something worthwhile -- an idea that’s slowly starting to unfold now.

From digital native to digital disruptor

While Taylor isn’t a digital native in the strictest sense of the world (he didn’t grow up in a world of smartphones and social platforms), he does represent a new breed of digital entrepreneurs: those who have cut their teeth in the frontlines of the emerging digital revolution and are now busy building the framework of the new world of business.

According to Taylor, this new world is inhabited by customers who are far less inclined to sit at the bottom of the food chain and pay their dues to the middlemen.

Tapping into that sentiment lies at the heart of Taylor’s idea of what businesses and brands should be all about. Self-service, customisation and giving customers the ability to control how they consume are key facets of Taylor’s disruptive model.

Not that he’s entirely enamoured with wearing the disruptor tag

“I like the word disruptor, but that’s pretty much a ubiquitous term. I would like to think that I am more of a consumer advocate,” Taylor says.

The hard graft

The so called 'old world' businesses may not be sustainable in the long run, but building the ‘new world’ isn’t exactly a walk in the park. It takes a tough skin, indefatigable diligence and patience.

Taylor’s first foray into the disruption/advocacy game started peer-to-peer lender SocietyOne, which has recently become a magnet for high-profile investors. Westpac Banking Group’s recent decision to pick up an equity stake in the start-up in March this year has proved to be a catalyst for interest from the big end of town, with James Packer, Lachlan Murdoch and Kerry Stokes all reportedly keen to climb aboard.

SocietyOne runs on a proprietary loan management platform called ClearMatch that provides an online (paperless) loan application and online loan management solution. The idea is to give borrowers a social platform where they can get a better rate on personal loans and lenders get a better return on their money.

But putting it together took a long time. Taylor says that he and SocietyOne co-founder Greg Symons teamed up in 2007 but it took another four years before SocietyOne was launched. Everything from technology to compliance had to be done right, and then there was the harder job of convincing the market of the potential of the platform.

Yatango mobile dials in  

The effort has evidently paid dividends and it also introduced Taylor to Optus and the realisation that the telco world was just as ripe for disruption as the lending and payments market.

“Customers just had no understanding of what they needed and what they paid for,” he says.

A partnership with Optus led to the birth of Yatango Mobile, with the relatively recent entrant into the local mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) scene so far managing to navigate the choppy waters. In May, Yatango pressed go on 4G services and Taylor says that the mobile service is at a point where it's starting to look to scale up.

The telco game, especially for MVNOs like Yatango Mobile, is a tight one. In a price-driven market, every dollar charged for voice, messaging and data services makes a difference to the customer base.

Fortunately for Taylor, Yatango Mobile's pitch to allow customers to tailor their respective mobile plans to their needs has led to a strong community developing around the brand.

That's a valuable commodity in today's world and underpins Yatango's foray into e-commerce. Just like Yatango Mobile, social is a big element of Yatango Shopping, with members rewarded for advocating brands and inviting friends and family onto the platform.

The member-only platform, which allows consumers to purchase discounted products from major lifestyle and technology brands, also integrates Yatango Mobile’s customer base, offering them member benefits, pricing and rewards.

For Taylor the e-commerce platform is a logical extension of the Yatango brand, which over time could evolve and enter new service verticals like smart meters and home automation.

"What keeps me awake is the opportunity cost of not reacting and missing out," Taylor says.

And the trick to not missing out is pretty simple. Focus on customer experience to build a viable platform and always keep an eye out for where it could be leveraged -- from telcos to e-commerce to whatever comes next.