In July 2000, three managerial staff of Liberty One's troubled Web developer, Zivo, walked off the job in a display of business ethics. After being asked to grow the company, they had added up to 60 staff; but now, over 24 hours, they were being asked to develop a strategy to rationalise heavily.
Three months later their fledgling Internet services company, Bullseye, is ready to move into new offices in North Sydney, complete with 10 staff, seven of whom followed them from Zivo. For the Bullseye trio -- Erica Carroll, Jason Davey and Michael Chanter -- it's an aspiration they never imagined would eventuate this early in life. They are all under 30 and none of them touched a computer before university.
Like many a great concept, the idea to build a business was hatched over a beer. "We got together and started to discuss what we were going to do individually -- only to discover we'd all generated a bit of interest from past clients and colleagues," says Davey.
"A big part of the decision was the realisation that dealing with clients wasn't about dealing with a big company named X; its about dealing with a person," adds Chanter. "It's a totally relationship-based experience. It was those people calling us and saying 'What are you doing? . . . Was really impressed with the stuff you did . . . Really interested to know where you're going."
The final clincher on the idea was the team mix. With Davey driving the creative edge, Carroll providing a calm business sense and Chanter accompanying with the technical and financial nous, they complement each other uncannily. "If any of us had tried to do it on our own, there would have been a component missing," says Chanter. "As it is, it just seems so obvious.
Realistically we've been steering this ship for the last two years at Zivo. When we went to pitch to clients, it was the team doing it," he says. "Now we're just recreating the same formula in a new environment." But which environment may sometimes get confused, as they occasionally refer to the company as Zivo -- an embarrassing blunder, but a lapse that highlights just how long and how tight they have been working as a unit.
With the financial backing of a former client, Results Accountants Systems, Bullseye is now in a position to grow organically.
While the start-up road has been smooth, building a business is not without its pressures. Chanter admits there are times his fiancée wanted to hide in the closet and Carroll says it's been a huge learning curve. However, all three agree that the upside is hugely exhilarating. "As young people, we get to influence big companies in a much greater way than you would in any other industry," says Davey. "That's exciting -- it's a bit of a power trip. We had so many people encouraging us to go ahead and do it. People would ring up and say: 'Just do it, what have you got to lose?'" So what does the Bullseye trio have to lose? "Time, money, certainly not reputation," says Chanter. But then, these young entrepreneurs sound a lot more like winners.