How does a startup cope with isolation? For Simon Fonteyn, both his parents were prisoners-of-war camp survivors. His father Gus survived as a Japanese Prisoner of War, building the Thai-Burma Railway, and his mother Renata was sent to a POW camp in Siberia as an infant. Understandably, after the war, his parents lead a very secluded life.
He believes this was a factor that made him start his business in the first place. It helped him cope when it came to the lonely times he endured in the early days of establishing his now-booming commercial property data, management, analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) businesses.
To quote Simon, “technology is disrupting the property industry big time.” This is an area with which he is only too familiar, as Simon’s business is all about data – accessing and delivering it, and making it available to everyone.
In 2018, Simon and his team combined with the CSIRO’s Data61 (a top-five global AI research organisation) to launch Accurait (www.accurait.com.au), Australia’s first lease reading and extraction platform, powered by Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.
Leaseinfo is the largest provider of retail leasing data in Australia: they provide information to retailers on the market rents of shopping centres and shopping strips. They’ve also developed a powerful lease management tool that allows retailers to manage their complex lease and accounting requirements. As a result, they developed a huge database of lease contracts which enabled them to train the AI algorithms to read the leases and build their new Accurait platform.
According to Simon, to succeed in SME business in the twenty-first century you need to embrace the disruptive power of technology and be prepared to cope with the change management to adapt and pivot as required.