2016’s top NSW entrepreneurs named

Friday, 5 August 2016

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New South Wales’ (NSW) top entrepreneurs have taken home honors from last night’s 2016 EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Eastern Region awards ceremony in Sydney. The National finalists were:

  • Richard Favero - Soprano Design
  • Mike Ford – SiteMinder
  • Robert Kelly - Steadfast
  • David Vitek and Roby Sharon-Zipser - hipages Group
  • Dr Andrew Walker and Glenn Keys - Aspen Medical Pty Ltd

Also recognised in a non-competitive regional award category were:

  • Social entrepreneurs – John Bale and Dr Danielle Clout, Soldier On

The National finalists and the Social entrepreneurs will go on to represent the state at the national awards in October, where they will compete for the title of 2016 Australian EY Entrepreneur Of The Year.

The overall 2016 Australian winner will be named at a gala ceremony in Sydney on 20 October. The national winner will then go on to represent the country and compete in the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year awards in Monte Carlo next June, following in the footsteps of last year’s winner Manny Stul, Chairman and Co-CEO of toy company Moose Enterprise who became the first Australian to win the title of EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year™ this year.

EY’s Sydney Managing Partner, Lynn Kraus, said this year’s Eastern Region National finalists were chosen from a highly competitive group and represented the high-growth entrepreneurial talent the state had to offer.

“NSW has a long history of growing, developing and attracting entrepreneurs, and we are especially pleased to have such a strong group going to nationals this year,” Ms Kraus said.

“This group of entrepreneurs demonstrates what can be achieved with perseverance and resilience, with some of these businesses operating for more than 20 years. They are shining examples of innovation and business excellence in action.”

“They are creating jobs and driving the economy forward, disrupting traditional business thinking and teaching us all new values in the way we do business and bring ideas to life. EY has maintained a long standing commitment to fostering entrepreneurship, and continuing to grow the community in Australia,” Ms Kraus added.

Mark Couter, NSW/ACT General Manager, Corporate Financial Services, Commonwealth Bank, said he was impressed by the calibre of the eastern Australian finalists and congratulated all of them on their efforts.

“Great entrepreneurs can really lift the communities they operate in by role-modelling ingenuity, passion and perseverance. These traits will be critical in the modern digital economy and I hope these finalists will go on to further successes in their future endeavours.

“At Commonwealth Bank we see innovation as a critical ingredient for thriving businesses so we are proud to be principal sponsor of a program associated with Australia’s top business innovators,” Mr Couter said.

EY Entrepreneur Of The Year is considered one of the world’s most prestigious business awards and is the only truly global program of its kind, with entrepreneurs participating in 145 cities in more than 60 countries. More than 1,400 outstanding entrepreneurs have been recognised through the Entrepreneur Of The Year program in Australia since 2001.

For more information on the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year program go to www.ey.com/au/eoy.

2016 EY Entrepreneur Of The Year National finalists, Eastern Region

Richard Favero - Soprano Design
Richard Favero founded Soprano Design Pty Ltd (Soprano Design) in 1994 as a software consulting firm. Today, Soprano Design is an award-winning global independent software vendor of Communication Platform as a Service (CPaaS), operating across 10 countries. Soprano Design software intelligently integrates mobile network and enterprise systems to secure the delivery of mobile messages between employees and customers. The software is uniquely offered through reputable and stable MNOs, providing a branded offer to the MNOs’ enterprise and government clients. Thousands of businesses and more than 30 of the world’s largest brands use Soprano technology to process more than one billion mobile interactions annually.

What the judges said: Richard recognised mobile messaging as one of the fastest growth sectors in technology and capitalised on this early. Soprano’s clients include Optus, Telstra and Vodafone, almost all the major banks in Australia, half of the banks in the UK and many more. With a high barrier to entry, a terrific margin and solid governance structure, Richard has positioned the business to blossom and grow globally.

Mike Ford – SiteMinder
As an IT delivery manager with a share in a Sydney hostel, Mike saw a tremendous business opportunity to facilitate two-way information flow between hotels and online booking sites. He launched The Channel Manager in 2006. SiteMinder’s innovative cloud platform allows hotels to attract, reach and convert guests globally. SiteMinder’s customers know their rooms are booked, inventory is updated, profit margins are maximised, and they are tending to guests, not to technology. SiteMinder products are used by more than 20,000 properties in more than 160 countries. Mike is confident that SiteMinder’s full potential in overseas markets is yet to be achieved.

What the judges said: Mike’s resilience and entrepreneurial spirit have seen SiteMinder withstand challenge from competition. With a significant investment in R&D, this new generation product has been reengineered several times with further growth potential. It has been Mike’s ability to both recognise a market need and his speed to market, which has allowed SiteMinder to dominate in a relatively short period of time.

Robert Kelly - Steadfast
Robert Kelly is Managing Director and CEO of Steadfast Group Limited (Steadfast) which he co-founded in 1996 to enable middle market insurance brokers to band together to achieve buying power with insurers to achieve better insurance solutions for their clients. Steadfast, an ASX200 listed company, is today one of the largest general insurance broking networks and underwriting agency groups in Australia and New Zealand. What started as a network of 43 brokers has grown to a network of 343 brokerages operating from more than 1,000 offices, 22 underwriting agencies, an innovative technology company and numerous complementary businesses. Steadfast’s 2013 listing is widely regarded as one of the most complex ever undertaken in Australia. Steadfast is a dynamic company pursuing a strategy of organic growth and growth by acquisition. Its market capitalisation has increased by almost 2.5 times since listing in August 2013.

What the judges said: Robert has created one of the largest general insurance broking network and largest underwriting agency groups in Australia and New Zealand in just over 20 years, successfully aggregating the business into what he how regards as more of a "mutual” than a network or roll-up. Robert combined his years of experience in the insurance sector with an innovative approach to brokerage to create value while mitigating risk.

David Vitek and Roby Sharon-Zipser - hipages Group
In 2004, David Vitek and Roby Sharon-Zipser identified an opportunity to digitise the traditional directory method of advertising for trades. hipages.com.au (hipages) is an online home improvement marketplace. The platform connects people, on demand, with trusted and quality trades and service providers, receiving over one million visitors per month. The service is free to use for consumers and 2050 staff constantly monitor and engage with tradespeople to ensure they are offered the best in the business. David and Roby foresee strong growth in the domestic market and eventual international growth, using more targeted, demographic-based advertising.
What the judges said: With more than 40,000 tradespeople registered and in excess of 60,000 jobs posted each month, hipages has captured a market opportunity and grown to scale at a phenomenal rate. So much so that David and Roby have captured the interest of blue-chip investors such as Newscorp who have a significant stake in this business. With the entrepreneurial spirit characteristic of founders such as David and Roby, the judges hope that this recognition will assist them to continue to grow their innovative platform globally.

Dr Andrew Walker and Glenn Keys - Aspen Medical
Dr Andrew Walker and Glenn Keys founded Canberra-based Aspen Medical in 2003, with the objective of providing high-quality healthcare in challenging and under-resourced environments. Aspen Medical is one of the world’s leading providers of innovative outsourced healthcare, employing more than 2,200 health professionals and support staff across Australasia, Africa, the United States,  Europe and the Gulf Region. The company has clients in defence, mining and resources, oil and gas, government and the humanitarian sector. Glenn and Andrew were awarded EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2006 National Services category winners. They were inducted into the EY Entrepreneur Global Hall of Fame in 2014, the first time a Canberra business had achieved this honour.

What the judges said: Andrew and Glenn demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit with a bold start-up story, coupled with a sustainable corporate model. Aspen is a global business with a noble purpose. It fills a critical role in the delivery of innovate healthcare solutions, while also being sufficiently agile to capitalise on future growth opportunities. Aspen’s business model ensures that its services are delivered affordably, efficiently and to the highest quality. The judges also applauded their philanthropic endeavors.

2016 EY Entrepreneur Of The Year non-competitive award recipients, Eastern Region

John Bale and Dr Danielle Clout – Solider On
Founded in 2012 by John Bale and Dr Danielle Clout, Soldier On’s mission is to achieve the best reintegrated generation of serving and ex-serving men and women in Australia’s history. To achieve this, Soldier On supports those who have served by focusing on their physical and mental health, their family, their community and their future. In its first year, Soldier On assisted 200 veterans in three states, with one centre established in Adelaide. In 2015, they assisted 500 veterans a month and established two new centres in Canberra and Sydney. In 2016 Soldier On expects to help thousands more with centres established in Melbourne and Perth and in the future, to establish even more centres around Australia.

About EY Entrepreneur Of The YearTM

EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ is the world’s most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs. The unique award makes a difference through the way it encourages entrepreneurial activity among those with potential, and recognizes the contribution of people who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement. As the first and only truly global award of its kind, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year celebrates those who are building and leading successful, growing and dynamic businesses, recognizing them through regional, national and global awards programs in more than 145 cities in more than 60 countries.

The Australian Entrepreneur Of The Year awards program, launched in 2001, is conducted in five regions culminating in the national awards. The program honors entrepreneurs whose ingenuity and perseverance have created and sustained successful, growing business ventures.  Entrepreneur Of The Year’s primary objective is to identify, acknowledge and celebrate the outstanding contribution entrepreneurs make to the Australian business community and economy.

The Australian Entrepreneur Of The Year program now has alumni of over 1,400 entrepreneurs who have participated in the program. Since the program’s inception more than 15,000 people have attended Entrepreneur Of The Year events and award ceremonies in Australia.

About EY

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