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How one founder and director leveraged the pandemic as a growth engine without focusing on revenue

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How one founder and director leveraged the pandemic as a growth engine without focusing on revenue

We started with nothing; we found funds where we could through savings and borrowing from friends and family that wholeheartedly believed in our brand. The main driving force that sustained us was a strong belief that we were creating something worthwhile

Steve Moon Founder & Director, LinkSafe




In early 2020, LinkSafe remodelled its cloud-based contractor management system to keep up with client demand for a trusted, easy solution to new vaccine protocols. This quick change in gears resulted in a 33 per cent increase in revenue and almost doubled their client base. 

Since 2012, the team has grown their client base from 10 to 545, with over 30 international businesses utilising the platform daily. LinkSafe founder Steve Moon says that the company worked tirelessly in the early stages of the pandemic to ensure they could capture sensitive medical data on behalf of their clients. However, there were many lessons to learn along the way.

“As LinkSafe developed and grew, there were many things I had to learn. At the beginning of this journey, I could concentrate on doing what I enjoyed: the creative side of product development. 

Steve Moon, Founder & Director, LinkSafe

“As we grew, I had to step out of my comfort zone and work on things like sales, marketing and managing overheads and staff. None of these came naturally to me, but I accepted that they needed to be done and had to do it. I decided early on to employ great people and contractors and implement systems to take on the things I didn’t have the time or skills to do properly,” Steve says.

“While this created additional costs, it was an investment that had to happen to grow the business to what it is today. Without a solid and trusted team by my side and bulletproof systems and processes, LinkSafe could not have succeeded. I have found that you have to be passionate about what you do to develop a new business from scratch. This passion helped me get through the lean times at the start and helped me get support from friends and family. It then helped me sell the vision to staff and clients. 

The inception

The idea for this business was developed over time, according to Steve. “Initially, it came out of discussions with clients about the challenges they were facing with the operations and processes of their business.”

“From the initial idea, I  engaged in more in-depth discussions with clients regarding ideal ways to improve and automate safety and compliance requirements in their business. The needs within the safety and compliance sector expanded rapidly, and we were quick to understand the importance of ensuring we were continually developing and innovating new features and modules to stay relevant and successful in a growth market.”

The early stages

Steve says that the early stages of establishing the business in 2005 stemmed from a combination of communicating with potential clients about their needs and proposing various ideas and possible solutions to meet said demands.

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“The first 18 months of the business were predominantly research and development-based, typified by hard work and long hours, but also great excitement for the future as we were developing an innovative software product in the emerging market of safety and compliance.    

“This was followed by creating a mock-up of the software screens to garner client interest and, in some cases, receiving a forward commitment from clients to use the software when it was ready.” 

“The thing I want to highlight for others who wish to start their own business is how important it is to ensure you share your vision and your passion with your staff and your clients, as this will help your business grow and thrive in a dynamic and changing market.”

Because we were stepping into a relatively new and undefined market, we propelled our business forward by reaching out to potential clients with the trust and confidence to adopt new technology to fulfil their demands. In other words, the typical ‘early adopters’ were our first clients. 

Revenue wasn’t the driver.

In the early stages of the business, revenue was not deemed a primary driver for LinkSafe – it was all about investing in the future, Steve says.

“We started with nothing; we found funds where we could through savings and borrowing from friends and family that wholeheartedly believed in our brand. The main driving force that sustained us was a strong belief that we were creating something worthwhile – we were creating a valuable service that businesses would not only want but one they would need to achieve their growing safety and compliance obligations.

“At the end of the day, we’re providing essential software and services that clients of our kind cannot do without. Not engaging in or having poor contractor safety management could result in dire legal and financial ramifications.”

The catalyst

Steve notes that the company worked tirelessly in the early stages of the pandemic to ensure they could capture sensitive medical data on behalf of their clients while providing a way to redact this information once stored.

“We needed to help bolster our client’s online abilities around contractor engagement, enforcement of vaccine protocols and COVID Safe Plans. Although we could not see the complications of a global pandemic, we were lucky because our system was built with the foresight to handle unprecedented circumstances. 

“During 2020, our legal advisory arm LinkSafe Legal, which contractor safety heavyweight Sue Bottrell now leads, was able to provide critical advice, assistance and support in navigating new COVID-19 laws, requirements and differences in health directives issued from state to state.”

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Steve continues by saying that the business’s provision of necessary services contributed to increased demand during the pandemic.

“Our products and services were deemed essential by our corporate and Government clients, thus resulting in the strong demand for our business. We proactively remodelled our cloud-based contractor management system to keep up with client demands. 

“We strived to be a trusted, easy solution with setting up and actively managing new vaccine protocols for our clients during the pandemic’s uncertain times. Like many other businesses, we were significantly impacted by restrictions and had to find a new way of doing ‘business as usual. Thanks and credit to our team, we were able to pivot to a working-from-home model quickly. 

“While this model was not ideal, we found that by utilising our strong internal work systems, we could complete work faster than before. Over the pandemic, the uncertainty of a ‘new normal’ faced by businesses highlighted the importance of safety and compliance. This cemented safety and compliance processes as a mandatory requirement until this day.

The secret recipe

Steve believes that the success of any business relies on establishing a name for itself in the market. 

“To ensure the success of our services, we worked closely with clients with a strong vision, industry knowledge and the ability to collaborate with us in strategising a viable solution that we could incorporate into our products. In turn, their constructive feedback greatly informed our current capabilities in developing a functional and valuable service that could be applied to a plethora of clients from various industries. 

“When we started the business, safety and compliance requirements in the general commercial and industrial sectors were just beginning to emerge. Safety and compliance were commonly managed with paper-based or spreadsheet systems, or in many cases, not done at all. 

“One of the initial challenges was to understand the operational issues faced by clients and successfully design a system that reflects those needs into automated processes efficiently – such as providing users with a straightforward and clear workflow and record-keeping features for audit and compliance requirements.” 

“Another challenge we recognised was to make sure we developed a service that was not only useful to clients in specific sectors but also to ensure we prevail as a well-rounded service that is well-informed and flexible to be used in every industry. Over time, we applied an agile approach to developing our service, which allowed us to pivot and respond to emerging needs efficiently.”

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While many Australian businesses providing contract management services are relying on offshore tech support and customer service partners, Steve and the LinkSafe team believe these services should be kept in-house. 

“We’ve developed an on-shore, in-house proactive client support network which allows us to service our clients, get to know them intimately and strengthen our relationships by providing them guidance, support and introductions to various networks we’ve formed relationships with. We are more than a software company; we’re a trusted industry partner always a phone call away,” says Steve.

“As LinkSafe developed and grew, there were many things I had to learn. At the beginning of this journey, I could concentrate on doing what I enjoyed: the creative side of product development. As we grew, I had to step out of my comfort zone and work on things like sales, marketing and managing overheads and staff. None of these came naturally to me, but I accepted that they needed to be done and had to do it. 

“I decided early on to employ great people and contractors and implement systems to take on the things I didn’t have the time or skills to do correctly. While this created additional costs, it was an investment that had to happen to grow the business to what it is today. 

“Without a solid and trusted team by my side and bulletproof systems and processes, LinkSafe could not have grown. I have found that you have to be passionate about what you do to develop a new business from scratch. This passion helped me get through the lean times at the start and helped me get support from friends and family. It then helped me sell the vision to staff and clients. 

“The thing I want to highlight for others who wish to start their own business is how important it is to ensure you share your vision and your passion with your staff and your clients, as this will help your business grow and thrive in a dynamic and changing market.

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Amazon won’t have to pay hundreds of millions in back taxes after winning EU case

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Amazon won’t have to pay hundreds of millions in back taxes after winning EU case

LONDON (AP) — Amazon won’t have to pay about 250 million euros ($273 million) in back taxes after European Union judges ruled in favor of the U.S. e-commerce giant Thursday, dealing a defeat to the 27-nation bloc in its efforts to tackle corporate tax avoidance.

The ruling by the EU’s top court is final, ending the long-running legal battle over tax arrangements between Amazon and Luxembourg’s government and marking a further setback for a crackdown by antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager.

The Court of Justice backed a 2021 decision by judges in a lower court who sided with Amazon, saying the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, had not proved its case that Amazon received illegal state support.

“The Court of Justice confirms that the Commission has not established that the tax ruling given to Amazon by Luxembourg was a State aid that was incompatible with the internal market” of the EU, the court said in a press release.

Amazon welcomed the ruling, saying it confirms that the company “followed all applicable laws and received no special treatment.”

“We look forward to continuing to focus on delivering for our customers across Europe,” the company said in a statement.

The commission said it “will carefully study the judgment and assess its implications.”

The case dates back to 2017, when Vestager charged Amazon with unfairly profiting from special low tax conditions since 2003 in tiny Luxembourg, where its European headquarters are based. As a result, almost three-quarters of Amazon’s profits in the EU were not taxed, she said.

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The EU has taken aim at deals between individual countries and companies used to lure foreign multinationals in search of a place to establish their EU headquarters. The practice led to EU states competing with each other and multinationals playing them off one another.

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Tesla autopilot recalls: 2 million vehicles need to have their defective systems fixed

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Tesla autopilot recalls: 2 million vehicles need to have their defective systems fixed

DETROIT (AP) — Tesla is recalling nearly all vehicles sold in the U.S., more than 2 million, to update software and fix a defective system that’s supposed to ensure drivers are paying attention when using Autopilot.

Documents posted Wednesday by U.S. safety regulators say the update will increase warnings and alerts to drivers and even limit the areas where basic versions of Autopilot can operate.

The recall comes after a two-year investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration into a series of crashes that happened while the Autopilot partially automated driving system was in use. Some were deadly.

The agency says its investigation found Autopilot’s method of making sure that drivers are paying attention can be inadequate and can lead to “foreseeable misuse of the system.”

The added controls and alerts will “further encourage the driver to adhere to their continuous driving responsibility,” the documents said.

But safety experts said that, while the recall is a good step, it still makes the driver responsible and doesn’t fix the underlying problem that Tesla’s automated systems have with spotting and stopping for obstacles in their path.

The recall covers models Y, S, 3 and X produced between Oct. 5, 2012, and Dec. 7 of this year. The update was to be sent to certain affected vehicles on Tuesday, with the rest getting it later.

Shares of Tesla slid more than 3% in earlier trading Wednesday but recovered amid a broad stock market rally to end the day up 1%.

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The attempt to address the flaws in Autopilot seemed like a case of too little, too late to Dillon Angulo, who was seriously injured in 2019 crash involving a Tesla that was using the technology along a rural stretch of Florida highway where the software isn’t supposed to be deployed.

“This technology is not safe, we have to get it off the road,” said Angulo, who is suing Tesla as he recovers from injuries that included brain trauma and broken bones. “The government has to do something about it. We can’t be experimenting like this.”

Autopilot includes features called Autosteer and Traffic Aware Cruise Control, with Autosteer intended for use on limited access freeways when it’s not operating with a more sophisticated feature called Autosteer on City Streets.

The software update will limit where Autosteer can be used. “If the driver attempts to engage Autosteer when conditions are not met for engagement, the feature will alert the driver it is unavailable through visual and audible alerts, and Autosteer will not engage,” the recall documents said.

Depending on a Tesla’s hardware, the added controls include “increasing prominence” of visual alerts, simplifying how Autosteer is turned on and off, and additional checks on whether Autosteer is being used outside of controlled access roads and when approaching traffic control devices. A driver could be suspended from using Autosteer if they repeatedly fail “to demonstrate continuous and sustained driving responsibility,” the documents say.

According to recall documents, agency investigators met with Tesla starting in October to explain “tentative conclusions” about the fixing the monitoring system. Tesla did not concur with NHTSA’s analysis but agreed to the recall on Dec. 5 in an effort to resolve the investigation.

Auto safety advocates for years have been calling for stronger regulation of the driver monitoring system, which mainly detects whether a driver’s hands are on the steering wheel. They have called for cameras to make sure a driver is paying attention, which are used by other automakers with similar systems.

Philip Koopman, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University who studies autonomous vehicle safety, called the software update a compromise that doesn’t address a lack of night vision cameras to watch drivers’ eyes, as well as Teslas failing to spot and stop for obstacles.

“The compromise is disappointing because it does not fix the problem that the older cars do not have adequate hardware for driver monitoring,” Koopman said.

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Koopman and Michael Brooks, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, contend that crashing into emergency vehicles is a safety defect that isn’t addressed. “It’s not digging at the root of what the investigation is looking at,” Brooks said. “It’s not answering the question of why are Teslas on Autopilot not detecting and responding to emergency activity?”

Koopman said NHTSA apparently decided that the software change was the most it could get from the company, “and the benefits of doing this now outweigh the costs of spending another year wrangling with Tesla.”

In its statement Wednesday, NHTSA said the investigation remains open “as we monitor the efficacy of Tesla’s remedies and continue to work with the automaker to ensure the highest level of safety.”

Autopilot can steer, accelerate and brake automatically in its lane, but is a driver-assist system and cannot drive itself, despite its name. Independent tests have found that the monitoring system is easy to fool, so much that drivers have been caught while driving drunk or even sitting in the back seat.

In its defect report filed with the safety agency, Tesla said Autopilot’s controls “may not be sufficient to prevent driver misuse.”

A message was left early Wednesday seeking further comment from the Austin, Texas, company.

Tesla says on its website that Autopilot and a more sophisticated Full Self Driving system are meant to help drivers who have to be ready to intervene at all times. Full Self Driving is being tested by Tesla owners on public roads.

In a statement posted Monday on X, formerly Twitter, Tesla said safety is stronger when Autopilot is engaged.

NHTSA has dispatched investigators to 35 Tesla crashes since 2016 in which the agency suspects the vehicles were running on an automated system. At least 17 people have been killed.

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The investigations are part of a larger probe by the NHTSA into multiple instances of Teslas using Autopilot crashing into emergency vehicles. NHTSA has become more aggressive in pursuing safety problems with Teslas, including a recall of Full Self Driving software.

In May, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, whose department includes NHTSA, said Tesla shouldn’t be calling the system Autopilot because it can’t drive itself.

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AP Technology Writer Michael Liedtke contributed to this story.

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Why Was Sam Altman Fired? Possible Ties to China D2 (Double Dragon) Data from Hackers

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Theories are going around the internet why Sam Altman was fired. On an insider tech forum (Blind) – one person claims to know by third-hand account and how this news will trickle into the media over the next couple of weeks.

It’s said OpenAI had been using data from D2 to train its AI models, which includes GPT-4. This data was obtained through a hidden business contract with a D2 shell company called Whitefly, which was based in Singapore. This D2 group has the largest and biggest crawling/indexing/scanning capacity in the world 10x more than Alphabet Inc (Google), hence the deal so Open AI could get their hands on vast quantities of data for training after exhausting their other options.

The Chinese government became aware of this arrangement and raised concerns with the Biden administration. As a result, the NSA launched an investigation, which confirmed that OpenAI had been using data from D2. Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, which is a major investor in OpenAI, was informed of the findings and ordered Altman’s removal.

There was also suggestion that Altman refused to disclose this information to the OpenAI board. This lack of candor ultimately led to his dismissal and is what the board publicly alluded to when they said “not consistently candid in his communications with the board.”

To summarize what happened with Sam Altman’s firing:

1. Sam Altman was removed from OpenAI due to his ties to a Chinese cyber army group.

2.OpenAI had been using data from D2 to train its AI models.

3. The Chinese government raised concerns about this arrangement with the Biden administration.

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4. The NSA launched an investigation, which confirmed OpenAI’s use of D2 data.

5. Satya Nadella ordered Altman’s removal after being informed of the findings.

6. Altman refused to disclose this information to the OpenAI board.

 

We’ll see in the next couple of weeks if this story holds up or not.

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