Christian Damstra had a difficult job—manage a workforce of coal miners and ensure their safety. As one of the world’s most dangerous professions, keeping coal miners safe involves a lot more than an occasional training video.
A complex framework of procedures, practices, competencies, and standards must be met on a daily basis. But he discovered that despite the complexities of the requirements, there existed no sophisticated management tools. So he built his own—initially for his own purposes, but soon others wanted it.
Eventually, this became Damstra Technology, a startup that offers a full HR platform, specially designed to manage workforces in hazardous occupations.
On this edition of Founders Journey, Christian discusses how he took this company from a small startup with 20 people in an office in Australia to a publicly traded company with 200 employees, nine offices, and operating in 13 countries.
More information: https://damstratechnology.com/
Christian Damstra is currently the CEO and member of the Board of Damstra Technology and is based in Denver, Colorado USA. Damstra Technology headquartered in Australia, is the global leader in resource orchestration to protect your world, ensuring the right resource, at the right place, at the right time, every time.
People, places, assets, and information are protected from unnecessary, and unforeseen risk with Damstra’s integrated end-to-end solutions family, representing the most comprehensive and proven set of functionality, products, and benefits available to organizations to manage global workforces.
Damstra’s hardware and software SaaS solutions are provided to multiple industry segments where compliance & safety are of the upmost importance, such as mining, construction, education, retail and more.
DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!
Christian Damstra 0:00
Having the right advisors and the right people around you surround yourself with people who really know what they’re doing when it comes to, you know funding, IP owing and all those types of things is extremely important.
Alexander Ferguson 0:18
Welcome, everyone to UpTech Report. This is our Founders Journey series. UpTech Report is sponsored by TeraLeap. Learn how to leverage the power of video at teraleap.io. I’m joined by my guest, Christian Damstra, this is part two of our discussion, definitely check out part one where he talks about dancer technologies, an interesting workplace management platform to track manage protect workers and assets, particularly in the blue collar workspace, such as mining, construction, manufacturing, to name a few. Now, Christian, I’m excited to hear a bit more about your journey over the years, 20 years building this product, starting with actually service based business, building the technology for yourself and your own clients, and then now going completely into just offering the technology and the platform itself. And to begin, if I can ask you, what would you wish you had known 20 years ago, that you know, now that you could tell yourself? What would that be?
Christian Damstra 1:10
Well, that’s an interesting question. I think cloud technologies, cloud technologies have come a long way, I think, you know, I have I reflect back on where we started 20 years ago, and we’re quite unique in this, that we’ve never had an on premise solution. Our solution was cloud hosted 20 years ago, before we really knew what cloud was, it was really just a remote base server. But that’s what cloud is. And that’s what cloud, you know, was back then, if I knew that, we had the power of the cloud coming, we may have designed some things differently throughout our time. But ultimately, we’re really pleased with where we are and where we started. And the fact that we never started at an on premise solution. So there’s not a lot there for us to take away.
Alexander Ferguson 1:54
That’s that’s powerful to know, you’re already going in the right direction. But it’s, you can’t really know where everything goes in the future. But it’s that that journey. So tell me a bit more. I mean, what’s your journey been? Like? How did you get to where you are today? Can you expand on that story?
Christian Damstra 2:07
Yeah, absolutely. It’s been interesting. I mean, I’m actually electrician and electronics engineer by background, I spent most of my time working in the black coal mining industry on the shop floor. So I got to experience the management challenges and the management problems that everyone had in those industries, in particularly those heavy industries. From there, when we went into the labor higher resourcing side of the world, we found the problem and identified the issue with not being able to keep those people safe and track all of their training, skills, competencies, etc. So that’s really where we started. You had an acquisition some time ago, back in 2006, when we would take another blog public company, and they acquired the company to take the labor hire and resourcing component. For the next nine years, I operated just the technology. And we were able to grow the organization through that time, mainly from a corporate perspective, until we took it back private in 2016 2016, is where we really started our growth journey. We had 20 staff in one office in Singleton of New South Wales, Australia. Fast forward to where we are today, we’ve got 200 staff, nine offices, and we’re operating in 13 countries, looking after well over half a million people a day.
Alexander Ferguson 3:20
I remember in our prep chat, hearing a story effectively starting private going public, taking back private and now public again, on the Australian Stock Exchange, a nominee can say that
Christian Damstra 3:32
that’s been an interesting journey, that’s for sure. But it’s been it’s been done at the right time for the right reasons. And it’s really made a big difference to the success of our organization.
Alexander Ferguson 3:41
What would you say is one of the biggest lessons learned when it comes to funding or even when it comes to going public and coming back that someone else could gain some insight from
Christian Damstra 3:50
having the right advisors and the right people around you surround yourself with people who really know what they’re doing when it comes to, you know, funding? IPO in and all those types of things is extremely important. I’m very lucky that we assembled a very competent board when we went back private, and it was that board who was able to drive us right through to that IPO position successfully without having the right governance in your organization. It’s a big challenge.
Alexander Ferguson 4:19
Did you get funding along the way aside from aside from the IPOs, and how any lessons learned on that to be able to grow,
Christian Damstra 4:26
we’re actually so funded the entire way until 12 months before the IPO we decided to do a pre IPO round. And the only reason we did that round was not for actual funding to operate the company. It was done to bring the right core investors in to give us a successful IPO at that point in time. So it was really about setting ourselves up for success in the IPO. It wasn’t because the company needed cash.
Alexander Ferguson 4:50
Interesting tactic there to bring investors right before an IPO to make sure it is successful.
Christian Damstra 4:57
And it’s really important to us I mean, we’ve actually We have a bit of a an unusual software as a service company, couple of metrics that really make us stand out are that we’re actually a bit positive and have been throughout the entire journey of our company. And the other thing that makes us stand out a little bit is their churn rate. I mean, our churn rate is at what I would consider to be world class at some point 5%.
Alexander Ferguson 5:20
Wow. How do you accomplish that?
Christian Damstra 5:24
I think we accomplish that for a few reasons. One is, as much as we are a software as a service company, we don’t physically go and sell you something we’re actually out there are partnering with you, and working with you to make your worksite safer. And part of that journey is growing with you. So as your needs change, our needs change. And as we work together, we get a better outcome. So it’s not about just giving you a product and walking away.
Alexander Ferguson 5:48
It’s definitely not just a standard product that just you buy it or sell it or move on. But it’s developing always tried to create that relationship, which works. When you’re working with larger enterprises and mid market where they have the budget to be able to spend with you, what would you say is the biggest lesson learned or even when it comes to mistakes, when in order to acquire said type of clients and customers on your platform that someone else can gain some insight from?
Christian Damstra 6:17
Yeah, the biggest challenge is the platform’s quite broad, we have a lot of features in the platform, and people get very excited by that. And when they get excited, they want to go very fast, and try and roll out everything at the same time. That is not the advisable way to do it, because it is a big change for your workforce. And it’s very important that you accept that and we put a plan in place to successfully roll that out. It’s always better to do a part so so pick one important piece, get that rolled out successfully, and then add the extra modules as you move forward. Don’t try and do all modules at once.
Alexander Ferguson 6:51
So lesson learned for as far as another SAS company, if you’re offering a solution that is solving a wide variety, you’re trying to provide the whole stack, if you could say of a solution, make sure the implementation starts small for that company, otherwise, they get overwhelmed. And it could be a bad experience. Absolutely. Right. As far as marketing and being able to scale this company throughout the years, what are you seeing as some common mistakes people are making right now in marketing in today’s environment?
Christian Damstra 7:18
I think a lot of people are spending a lot of money on trade shows and those types of things, staining of booths, and we don’t invest very heavily in those I think we’ve we tried to do maybe two trade shows a year that a world class, at most, we find direct engagement. And but that’s a lot to do with the type of product we’re offering. People don’t tend to walk through a trade show and say, let’s go and buy a new workforce management solution. So
Alexander Ferguson 7:47
get the meetings and like how do you get in front of somebody’s eyes and face these type of companies,
Christian Damstra 7:51
direct target marketing, so we actually reach out directly to target customers. And the other one is through our partnerships,
Alexander Ferguson 7:58
how have you developed those partnerships will say good any good tactics on developing good channel partners and partnerships to able to grow,
Christian Damstra 8:05
we actually have a partnership, Senior Vice President partnerships in the United States and another one over in New Zealand. And they look after our global partnerships. So they’re able to nurture and meet with partners on a regular basis, and really understand help them drive sales, because ultimately, it’s not a matter of saying you’re my partner and walking away, it’s about supporting them throughout that journey.
Alexander Ferguson 8:26
As far as then building the right team, as you just mentioned, those APS that are managing this, and the entire company, why would you said 200? And some employees? Yeah. What would you say are some common mistakes one could make in hiring both leadership team and the company overall, that you could advise against
Christian Damstra 8:46
leadership, leadership is key, you need really good executive leaders, you need to make sure they’re the right people and know how to operate across borders, and manage remote teams. I mean, even in today’s world of COVID, there’s a lot of people working from home and remotely from their normal offices. And it creates a requires a different skill set. Driving productivity in those types of environments is extremely difficult. And you need a leadership team who can actually go out and do that.
Alexander Ferguson 9:14
had any lessons learned as far as managing team worldwide global where it’s distributed to people all over the place, any insights there,
Christian Damstra 9:22
make sure you’ve got good leaders in each of those regions. Don’t let those people they just hire a person in a region and think they’re going to self manage and and make sure you have lots of catch ups and lots of joint meetings with the rest of the organization. So they feel like they’re part of the team because they are
Alexander Ferguson 9:41
what would you say is the biggest challenge going into the next year that’s coming up that is on your roadmap to solve and work on
Christian Damstra 9:50
those. I’m excited for the next year. I think we’re coming off the back of a pretty tough year with COVID in business in general. I’m excited to see what the vaccinations are going to bring That’s going to change businesses as they move forward getting back to some form of COVID. Normal. I would like to think that companies will start investing again and start looking more at these technologies over the next 12 months. And certainly that’s the way we’re going to be approaching it.
Alexander Ferguson 10:16
Gotcha. As a leader, any places you would recommend as far as books, audio books, podcasts, blog sites, that you have found great insight and would recommend,
Christian Damstra 10:26
I don’t actually read a lot of books and things on normally working in the business and on the business and those types of things. But certainly I don’t mind a good TED talk here and there on that on the right topics.
Alexander Ferguson 10:37
TED talks are always great. I love those great insights. Well, thank you so much, Christian, for sharing your insights. For those that want to learn more about Damstra Technologies make sure you check out part one of our interview where he breaks it down. also go to damstratechnology.com. And you can be able to take a look at their their platform. Thanks again, everyone for joining us on UpTech Report. UpTech Report is sponsored by TeraLeap. If your company wants to better leverage the power of video to increase sales and marketing results, head over to TeraLeap.io and learn about the new product customer stories. Thanks again, everyone. Thank you, Christian for joining us, and we’ll see you all next time. That concludes the audio version of this episode. To see the original and more visit our UpTech Report YouTube channel. If you know a tech company, we should interview you can nominate them at UpTech report.com. Or if you just prefer to listen. Make sure you’re subscribed to this series on Apple podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app.