Deb Noller – Switch Automation
The building industry hasn’t changed much in the last 30 years in the way they are managed or operated. Building owners and operators have hundreds of buildings with different systems and no real visibility into operational metrics. In fact, most buildings are managed on a building-by-building basis, which is not scalable or consistent. Worse, it results in huge amounts of wasted time, money and resources. Switch Automation takes an enterprise IT approach to this problem to help building owners and operators migrate from their current world of disconnected, costly assets to a technology-proofed state of Smart Buildings. Our scalable Smart Building Platform is part of the ecosystem that connects to disjointed solutions (regardless of hardware); collects data; and provides a unified user interface to analyse building performance, employ fault detection and diagnostics, and execute real-time control and command.
How did Head Over Heels provide practical support?
In 2016, I was one of three female CEO’s lucky enough to present to a packed Heads Over Heels audience, hosted at the beautiful Macquarie Bank in Martin Place. The response was phenomenal and I received more than one hundred offers of first-rate introductions. Each of these high-worth network introductions helped build our exposure in the Australian market and directly led to investment, sales and partnership opportunities. One of the most valuable outcomes for me personally, came from Felicity Waterford and Jason Eisner’s constructive pitch coaching. They, along with many of the attendees, provided such positive feedback and notes of encouragement.
What is the single biggest thing that helped you grow?
While fundraising can be an extremely time and resource-intensive effort, it’s the single most transformative asset to our business. Funding allowed us to hire our team of expert energy / mechanical / software engineers, data scientists, sales and marketing professionals—that concerted, funding-enabled effort allowed us to hire the right people at the right time to propel Switch Automation’s success rate.
Who or what were your “connections for growth”?
Any new business that is going to be successful needs two things. They need customers and they need funding. Entrepreneurs often come from technical or other niche backgrounds, where they don’t necessarily have the business network.
Heads Over Heels does more to solve this than any other group in Australia. They connect you with a highly influential network—I personally met more than 50 people. But it’s a compounding effort, where individuals are then kind enough to introduce you to their personal networks. It was staggering to me how generous people were. Ultimately, Heads Over Heels created more than 100 highly valuable connections for Switch. More important than quantity, were the quality of these connections. In particular Diane Grady, Christine Bartlett, Karen Penrose, Maxine Brenner and Stephen Porges were extremely helpful.
We also attracted three investors in our subsequent fundraising round as a direct result of our Heads Over Heels presentation.
What one thing would you do differently?
My ‘go-to’ answer is always ‘nothing.’ Because if I’d done anything differently, we wouldn’t have learned what we know now. Even if I had done something differently, it may not have put us in the right spot at the right time. I’m a firm believer in trusting the journey, failing fast and learning faster, and knowing that there are significant variables that must align to truly whet the appetite for disruption. However, one thing I wish I’d learned even faster, was to maintain a strong sales presence in the Australian market, even whilst our business team was heavily focused on growing our U.S. market.
What advice would you offer the women following you?
Be yourself. Be authentic. Thing big. Think globally. Tell your story. Be proud. Challenge the status quo and do all of those things every single day.
Read and embrace ‘The Hard Thing about Hard Things,’ by Ben Horowitz. Know that the struggles are all part of the journey and will serve you well, in time, should you choose to rise to the occasion.