Melbourne technology company MessageMedia is capitalising on the unlikely rise of the SMS, sending more than a billion messages globally a year on behalf of over 22,000 customers, and it has a new chairman, veteran local tech investor Adam Lewis.
Mr Lewis, a former electronics engineer, told The Australian he had been at global management consultancy McKinsey for 20 years until 2010, when he had an epiphany during a sabbatical.
“I didn’t want to go back to 70 or 80-hour weeks, and I resigned as soon as I realised that,” Mr Lewis said. “I had absolutely no plans what I would do beyond McKinsey, but what I had done through my life there was make investments in tech firms. I was a founding investor in (Australian software firm) Aconex, and I kept investing every time they had a capital raise.”
The executive went on to build his tech credentials, becoming chairman of Aconex, Southern Innovation, and colour digitisation start-up Pallete, before being approached by Macquarie Bank to meet MessageMedia boss Grant Rule.
“He was looking to substantially grow the company, and the bankers had told him about what I did at Aconex,” Mr Lewis said.
Aconex was founded in 2000 and is now worth more than a billion dollars. “My immediate reaction was ‘Oh my god, SMS, it’s dying, why would you bother?’ But I spent an hour with Grant and it started to dawn on me, the power of what they were doing.”
According to Mr Lewis, all the companies he is involved with share a fundamental aim of increasing productivity through digital platforms, and MessageMedia is no different.
“For a doctor, or a bank, or a hairdresser, this is about best using their capacity,” Mr Lewis said. “Ninety-eight per cent of SMS messages are opened, and 90 per cent are opened in the first three minutes. That compares with 22 per cent for emails, so it’s a really effective way of reaching people.”
MessageMedia offers a number of products aimed at reducing waste (appointment reminders), increasing productivity (scheduling) and customer engagement (increase revenue and drive value for customer engagement), and Mr Lewis said the company was just scratching the surface. Current customers include Commonwealth Bank, Afterpay and Royal Children’s Hospital.
“SMS is a ubiquitous platform; everyone in the world has it. So there are really interesting but relevant use cases there right now in a variety of industries, but then when you look forward, there is a huge opportunity here to go from being a reminder or a confirmation service to true proactive engagement,” he said.
“And moving from just having that communications platform to having data and analytics, and understanding what the Aconex guys would call workflows in your customer.
“With all that knowledge and insight this could be a massive product.”
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