With more than a decade’s experience working for large corporations and string of start-ups behind them, Alan Sharp-Paul, Michael Baukes, and Leo Venegas partnered up to run IT diagnostics start-up, ScriptRock.
The trio developed the technology to enable technology teams to store and verify systems configuration information in plain English, making automation testing more accessible to everyone.
This came about from their time spent consulting large enterprises on automation testing of underlying frameworks, which required comprehensive knowledge of testing frameworks and command line layers.
ScriptRock is still fairly new to the scene — the company was founded towards the end of 2011 — but its technology has already won the start-up a place in Startmate’s 2012 incubator problem.
In addition, its technology has appealed to a number of potential clients, with ScriptRock currently in negotiations with five organisations, including a big four bank and an international equities trading platform.
As the trio prepare to pitch their business in the US this month, Computerworld Australia caught up with co-founders Sharp-Paul and Baukes.
What does ScriptRock do?
ScriptRock is a platform that allows technology teams to store and test system configuration information in a collaborative fashion.
What are the origins of ScriptRock?
We had been consulting in the automation space to financial services companies in Sydney. While tools existed to assist companies, we realised that both awareness of them and willingness to learn the requisite skills was low in most large enterprises.
We were filling this gap on a small scale through consulting but felt that there had to be a better way. We created ScriptRock as a means to make automation testing of system configuration accessible to everyone by abstracting away the knowledge required at both the testing framework and command line layers. All you need to understand are your requirements.
How did you get started?
For the last five years, at least two of the three of us have been working on one start-up or another together. There has not been a question of doing our own thing for quite some time.
ScriptRock came up as a fantastic opportunity and it was sealed when we applied for, and were successful in gaining, entry into Australia’s premier incubation program, Startmate.
What kind of challenges have you experienced?
Startmate has helped us enormously — $25K in seed funding, an office for three months, a trip to the US to pitch for business and funding, and a list of Aussie mentors.
Having said that, there are always challenges. The decision to leave secure and well-paying corporate roles is not easy but this is what we’ve always wanted to do.
We also had difficulty early on explaining our product and felt frustrations in the weeks leading up to going live but we’ve pushed through and it is starting to pay off.
How did you overcome such challenges?
In terms of our message it can be tough. Take pitching. It is a very hard thing to distill the message of your business — especially a technical one like ours — into a four minute pitch.
As part of Startmate we’ve had great advice and input from mentors, which has helped a great deal. In terms of the frustrations leading up to going live, the lessons of Lean Startup have been at the front of our minds.
It’s hard to prioritise which of the 20 things you ‘have’ to do today down to the two or three you can do but it is possible. You have to silence your inner perfectionist. Focus on what is critical and ignore the noise.
Is it a good time for start-ups in Australia?
It’s a fantastic time for start-ups in Australia. The start-up scene has never been stronger.
If you want help getting started, there are incubators and accelerators like Startmate, Push Start and Pollenizer. If you just want to live and breathe the scene, you have access to co-working spaces like Fishburners in Sydney and the York Butter Factory in Melbourne.
Local venture capitals and Angels are coming around to the Silicon Valley method of investing, and the links between Silicon Valley and Australia have never been stronger.
What else is ScriptRock working on?
At the moment, we’re fully focussed on system configuration testing automation. It’s a huge market and a space that has been overlooked to date.
We’ve already signed some large enterprises to the platform and we’re looking to grow our customer base and revenues.
We are also travelling to the US to pitch in April and are looking to take on funding to allow us to accelerate our growth. It’s an exciting time for us.
What are your top tips for people wanting to create their own start-up?
Fix a problem you’ve lived through or, better still, are living through now. If possible, start a business that you can build with as little outside support as possible. I’ve tried start-ups in areas outside my expertise and it can be a frustrating experience.
The main piece of advice is to start now. Get yourself to local start-up events like Silicon Beach. It’s amazing the boost in motivation you can get from simply being around other entrepreneurs. A fellow wannabe entrepreneur can often give you more insight than someone who has tasted success. The lessons of what not to do are often more important than those of what you should be doing.
Always be honest with yourself. Start-ups are hard and most will fail. Seek out critical feedback on what you are doing. Never shy away from it and, most importantly, enjoy the ride.
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