Luke Anear – founder of SafetyCulture

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Luke Anear is the founder and CEO of SafetyCulture, overseeing the product development and innovation across the company’s products. Luke founded SafetyCulture in 2004 to provide safety compliance documents to the Australian market.

In 2012, SafetyCulture released iAuditor, the world’s most used app for conducting safety inspections, and in 2014 iAuditor won the international Tabby Awards for best Data Collection App, and best Business App. iAuditor is used in 209 countries and is part of the safety and quality management system.

Prior to founding SafetyCulture, Luke was a workers compensation investigator and practise manager for Lee Kelly & Associates in Sydney.

There are many ways to build a company, and being able to innovate, grow a team and build a sustainable business model are all very specific skills that take time to develop and refine.

Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?

I had seen the benefits of the checklist for maintaining safety and quality across many industries. It was universally recognised as the tool of choice since the 1930’s when the aviation industry developed it as a standard practice.

I realised as a company, we needed to develop an engineering capacity, and after limited success with remote engineers, I met with Professor Ian Atkinson from James Cook University, who introduced me to our first in-house software engineer.

Since our online safety model was working well, we no longer had an office – all our staff worked from home. So we sat down on my kitchen table with a plan to build a mobile app for safety inspections.

The criteria for the app was that it be flexible enough to work in any jurisdiction, have a collaborative component, and be free to download, so all workers in the world could access it.

It was very difficult to build out all of the functionality required into a single purpose app. The public library was developed to allow people to share and we didn’t even know if the industry would actually share a checklist, as they were mostly stored on paper or hard drives on desktop computers around the world .

But, by the end of the first week 30 people had shared a template and now it is the largest repository of it’s type in the world with 54,000 inspection forms.

Could you explain your business model for us?

We have a free app that allows workers to create inspection forms, conduct inspections and share reports. If people are working in teams, then we have a paid subscription service to centrally manage and backup the team’s data.

What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next year?

We have an exciting roadmap ahead as we continue to iterate on the original product. As the SafetyCulture eco-system expands, we are learning from our customers about how they are using our products and how we can help them going forward.

Due to the amount of data being collected every day, we are moving closer towards being able to predict accidents before they occur. That is our goal, and by integrating with other third party data sets, we can provide deeper insights into what is causing incidents and how they can be avoided. We are just at the beginning of this journey.

On the personal side, I’ve also just delivered a TEDx talk at a local TEDxTownsville event.

How do you make ideas happen?

We have a constant feedback loop with our customers where we are sourcing ideas and information about what is working well and what can be improved. Our ideas engine is a combination of listening to what our current customers are telling us and what innovations we can deliver to provide a new standard.

What does your typical day look like?

My role as CEO is to grow the team and ensure our cash flow is able to support our growth. Those two areas consume most of my day, but I still wear a few other hats as do all startup founders.

I usually start by checking customer support emails at home at around 7a.m. to maintain a constant feel for our customer experience.

From there I will spend the first few hours focused on a particular major task, such as fundraising or partnership and strategy discussions. From around 10 a.m. I will have a mix of job interviews, engineering and marketing meetings and one on one meetings with team members.

Later in the day and evenings I’m usually looking for our current major friction points or blockers, either within our teams or for our customers. That will include everything from industry research to pricing reviews and marketing strategies through to features and product roadmaps.

Safety Culture_workspace
The SafetyCulture workspace

What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?

Initially the challenge is the same for every business – getting traction. The hardest part at the beginning is getting a minimum viable product out the door so customers can start using it. Once we overcame that, the next challenge was scaling the team and fine tuning the business model to match our global customer base.

Once we started to scale, we found it hard to find software engineers who had worked in global startups previously. That was probably the single greatest challenge for us as we have continued to grow.

Australia needs to invest more into engineering courses and encourage students to study computer science. Almost every piece of new hardware today has a software component to it, and if Australia is going to have any chance to compete on a global stage, we need to develop world class software engineers.

What will Australia’s greatest export be in 25 years from now? We can’t continue to rely on mining, so greater investment into innovation and engineering is required.

What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?

I think it’s already freely available advice, but I’d say, do something that you enjoy and hopefully it makes the world a little better.

What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?

Scott Farquhar from Atlassian is someone who I look up to for advice and guidance. He (and his co-founder, Mike Cannon-Brookes) is probably the most experienced tech leader in Australia with a company valuation of $4b and 1,200 employees.

There are also many other leaders and companies that are great examples, such as Dave Greiner and Ben Richardson from Campaign Monitor, Chris Strode at Invoice2go and Leon Kamenev​ from Menulog.

What about internationally?

Elon Musk is probably my favourite CEO at the moment. The amount of risk he is willing to take in order to execute his vision is extraordinary. He deals with uncertainty better than most of his peers, and is very good at attracting high caliber people to help him with his vision.

I also admire Larry Page and the example he set by stepping down as CEO at Google in 2001 and learning from Eric Schmidt, before coming back in as CEO ten years later.

Many founders of tech companies are not necessarily great CEO’s and Google is a great example of how the co-founder stepped aside and developed the skills and then came back to lead the company. The same could probably said for Steve Jobs, who was forced out, but probably lacked some of the skills needed at the time to lead Apple in the mid 80’s. By the time he came back in the late 90’s he was a different leader and able to execute very well.

There are many ways to build a company, and being able to innovate, grow a team and build a sustainable business model are all very specific skills that take time to develop and refine.

Speaking of affecting social change, we’ve teamed up with Shout for Good to encourage readers to ‘shout a coffee’ to charity by clicking the button below. Is there a particular charity you’d like to support?



Could you name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers?

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Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?

We are always looking for smart people to join our team, particularly as we are now shifting gears to focus on growth – we are looking for people in all areas, from design to engineering, product management, marketing and growth to help us expand our customer base in the key markets around the world.

We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing, social media, accounting, monetization, product development etc. What would it be?

What are the 10 most successful business models used by startups in the past five years?

What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?

J&T Thai, Bondi Junction


Learn from over 100 Australians making ideas happen.

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