When simPRO Software founders Steve Bradshaw and Vaughan McKillop were building the bones of simPRO in Steve’s converted garage 14 years ago, they had no idea they’d begun a journey that would eventually help thousands of businesses worldwide.
Their passion – for designing software to make running a trade business easier, and ultimately for helping the people using simPRO to succeed – transformed simPRO from a small startup to a global business.
Our company has just received an AUD$40 million investment (a record for a Software as a Service [SaaS] company in our home city of Brisbane, Australia) – and this passion remains the key driver for our continued growth.
As we look into simPRO’s future, we find ourselves reflecting on how it all started – and how our customers’ investment and loyalty are the reason we have come so far.
We couldn’t have done it without you.
Long hours, gaming, Steve’s garage... and the passion that started it all
With a long history of electrical contracting, Steve Bradshaw had learned the hard way how difficult a trade business could become as it grew larger.
‘Without the right systems to test and measure, a bigger business would lose visibility and you’d quickly end up working very long hours with very little return,’ Steve said.
In 2002, he was co-owner of a small electrical contracting business in Brisbane, Australia.
‘We only had three or four staff, and while my partner wanted to expand the business, any bigger than that and you started to lose control,’ Steve said.
‘I realised that what electrical and other trade businesses really needed was systemisation and automation. We needed software to help us keep visibility and manageability, and many, many other trade businesses were in the same position.’
Around that time, Steve’s cousin introduced him to Vaughan McKillop, who was studying software engineering at Griffith University. Vaughan left his job delivering pizza to work part-time for Steve, doing data entry for the electrical business in his converted garage.
However, Vaughan’s real passion was software.
‘My dad worked for NEC when I was growing up, so he was always bringing home office computers they didn’t need any more,’ Vaughan said.
‘Some of my school friends had gaming systems like the old Commodore 64, but my dad said a computer is not only for playing games on, it is for creating games and other applications on – so if I wanted to play a game, I’d have to learn to write one myself.
‘So I did! From that point on, I knew I wanted to design software.’
A tool to help businesses grow
One day, Steve asked Vaughan to create a website for the business.
Vaughan explained to Steve that his strengths actually lay in writing software, rather than web design… and with that, the seed was planted.
Steve wanted software tools that would help systemise his business – and realised there was a massive need for this in many other businesses.
‘I didn’t want other people to have to go through the heartache of becoming a slave to their business. I saw an opportunity for Vaughan and I to try to create a solution together,’ Steve said.
Using the web-based PHP and MySQL languages Vaughan was familiar with, they began creating the first, cloud-based iteration of simPRO – starting with job lists, then working on a scheduling tool for allocating time and technicians.
As the software grew, they realised they’d created a tool that could indeed help other businesses, and began sharing it with other electrical contractors to test its usefulness, and, eventually, selling it to them.
‘Pretty soon we started getting interest from other trade contractors, like plumbers, who heard their mates were having success with simPRO and wanted to try it out.’
Customer feedback key to success
Throughout the company’s growth, customer input and feedback has been key.
‘Everything we did was based on what our customers needed for their businesses,’ Vaughan said.
‘We didn’t create the software based on what we thought our customers needed – we made sure we talked to and listened to customers, through our chat system, our online forum, through our feature request forum, to build the features they actually needed, and to support customers as much as we could.’
Steve said without the early adopters of simPRO, the company wouldn’t be where it is today.
‘The first couple hundred businesses that took on simPRO willingly gave us their ideas so we could create an even better software solution,’ he said.
The business began to slowly gain momentum, and soon they were adding new team members to help sustain and grow the software.
‘Since then, the journey hasn’t stopped. simPRO has kept growing, kept expanding, kept finding new businesses to support with our systems and tools,’ Steve said.
‘We’ve expanded the sorts of solutions we offer, and expanded where we offer them. We’ve grown out of Australia into New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and now the United States – and our journey’s only just beginning.’
The business today attracts integrations with a range of global leading third party software providers, such as Intuit, Xero, MYOB and many industry wholesalers, to continue to offer our customers holistic solutions to their everyday business operations.
What’s next for simPRO – and our customers?
The AUD$40 million investment has been made by New York-based growth equity firm Level Equity. They’ll be a minority shareholder in simPRO, which means the existing shareholders and directors are free to stay true to their vision for the company.
Moving forward, our vision is to re-focus on our roots: our customers. We plan to expand our support teams and local customer success teams to provide better customer service for you, and expand our development and product teams to improve and fine-tune our solutions to make sure they’re the best they can be.
We’ll also be working to continue to grow the business, bringing our software to more trade businesses worldwide to help even more people take back control of their businesses and their lives.
We’re excited for the next stage of our journey, and grateful that you’ve been a part of it with us. Thank you for travelling with us – the best is yet to come!