Interview with Stephane Ibos, CEO of Maestrano
Could you briefly tell us about your career path before coming to Australia?
I was actually a student! When I first came to Australia 10 years ago, I was finishing my Engineering Master Degree at Telecom ParisTech in Paris and had to complete a 6 month internship as part of the last year of my studies. This is when I joined Thales in Australia.
What motivated you to come to Australia to do business here?
I was provided with a permanent contract at the end of my internship, and was certainly more than happy to gain more experience in Australia and learn more about in ways of doing business in Australia. Arnaud Lachaume, with whom I co-founded Maestrano joined one of my teams at Thales for his internship and also very much enjoyed the Australian environment. Since we had decided to create a company together back at university, we though that Australia was the perfect place to carry out this plan.
The diversity of cultures in this country makes for an incredible global laboratory right at our doorstep. You can innovate and test your ideas in a local market whilst benefiting from an overview of what reactions could be in other countries - and this is tremendously valuable for anyone wanting to start a business with global ambitions.
So what exactly is Maestrano and how does it work?
Maestrano is a young company that started operating commercially in January 2014, created by two French Entrepreneurs living in Australia. It aims to help Small and Medium-size Businesses worldwide run their businesses by giving them back time and simplifying their daily administrative tasks.
Technically speaking, Maestrano is a platform that interconnects various business cloud applications (Such as Xero, Quickbooks, Salesforce, Microsoft,...) and provides a full and automated analytics dashboard for SME professionals. We distribute our platforms exclusively through large Corporations, such as PWC for instance.
Why did you choose Australia to develop Maestrano?
First and foremost because we love Australia - it is just an incredible place to be! But we also noticed very early on that there was a sense of limitless possibilities in the country, especially when it came to digital innovation. Whilst Australia as a whole and in business in particular is quite risk-adverse, it is also surprisingly entrepreneurial when it comes to the digital World.
Besides, we knew that Maestrano as a startup would need investment funding to get off the ground, and Australia is certainly not a bad place to get seed money. Things get a little more complicated for growth capital, but this is another topic.
All in all, to create a young company, it presents the right mix of support and tolerance to risk, with a market that albeit small - there are only 27 million people in Australia - is full of early adopters and diverse enough to allow for good, measurable testing of a given value proposition.
Why did you choose to set it up in Sydney?
Without wanting to fuel the historical (and passionate) debate about which city between Sydney and Melbourne is the best, it seemed to us that Sydney was probably a little more mature when it came to evaluating and comparing the start-up scene 4 years ago. This is of course highly dependent on the industry, but for a Tech Digital platform, we thought that Sydney would provide us with the broader range of opportunities to get Maestrano off the ground.
Having said that, the start-up scene in Melbourne is incredibly vibrant, and to be perfectly honest, the two cities seem to be growing at the same pace in the innovation space and certainly with success for both - which is really great for Australia!
What did you find easy/challenging when doing business in Australia?
As a French man born and bred, there are obviously some business codes in Australia that differ from those we have been exposed to in France - sometimes quite significantly. It is naturally very important to understand those differences and learn to adapt to local ways of conducting business, which in Australia includes understanding that ‘mateship’ and personal relationships play an essential part of business culture.
But I have always considered cultural differences as a chance, a source of knowledge and inspiration, so this was not a negative aspect for me, rather one that would keep my curious side satisfied.
How has the company evolved in Australia and internationally?
Little Maestrano has grown quite significantly since its launch with just the 2 founders in January 2014. We now have 2 offices in the US (San Francisco and New York), 1 in Dubai, 1 in Singapore, 1 in London and we are still proudly headquartered in Sydney. We are delighted by the expansion of our operations and above all by getting to work with incredible companies and people in 17 different countries, to help Small and Medium Businesses.
To Arnaud and I it is always deeply touching to see how well our teams are doing and how passionate, and committed to Maestrano they are. We couldn't ask for anything different!
How did FACCI help you in the development of your company here in Australia?
It's a long standing love story with FACCI, who have actually played a significant role in our development as the New South Wales Chapter was an early adopter of our platform! And early adopters are the people entrepreneurs are grateful to for the rest of their lives.
It was a tremendous experience working with FACCI to help them achieve their goals, whilst improving our product. Of course, FACCI was also a great place to meet other professionals and companies and we got to develop some excellent relationships through its network, which is really invaluable when you start this kind of activity.
What are your future ambitions for Maestrano?
So long as there are small and medium-size businesses out there that have it tough simply because they are small, Maestrano will have a mission - so that means we have plenty of work still to do! Maestrano will keep growing. We have ambition to lead the way on digital platforms for SMEs and so far we have every reason to believe it is completely achievable!
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