SHOUTback- The new darling of Adelaide’s thriving startup scene

Known for its lush, world-class wine-producing valleys, long pristine beaches and an eclectic Fringe Festival, Adelaide isn’t the first place many of us think of when talking of startup communities, and that’s exactly where you might be going wrong.

In the last decade or so, Adelaide has seen a tremendous rise in startup activity, with groups like the  Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation & Innovation Centre, as well as organisations like StartupAdelaide and StartupGrind realising the potential and abundance of local talent and taking serious steps to engage with exciting and innovative home-grown ideas. 

From little things

Perhaps what works in Adelaide’s favour is its size- a little too small to have an abundance of competition, but large enough to ensure sizeable growth opportunities.

The state government is taking serious steps to put Adelaide on the global startup map, with a decades-long conservative approach to small state governance being incrementally replaced by a more progressive innovation and vibrancy- focused regime, and the state is already seeing the benefits of a more forward-thinking approach.

Adelaide’s Festival Centre Precinct

As well as these concerted efforts to affect the tech community in Adelaide, the success of several home-grown success stories is giving a tangible boost to the rest of the startup ecosystem. Companies like HappyCo, Playt and CoinStart all incorporating their businesses in Adelaide, and contributing to a feeling of momentum and a sense that the South Aussie community is on the cusp of something great.

It comes as no surprise then that co-founders Matt Giorgio and Mitchell Stapleton-Coory are continuing the trend of innovation in the festival state with the launch of their discovery platform; SHOUTback.

What is SHOUTback

SHOUTback is a discovery platform that allows customers to search for offers and promotions from brick & mortar venues in order to encourage a full-sensory experience.

The idea was born out of the industry experience of both of its founders in providing a pushback (of sorts) to the food delivery arena and aims to bridge the gap created by the advent of apps like UberEats and Deliveroo. SHOUTback does this by allowing venues who partner with the app, ‘full autonomy’ in choosing price-points and in-house offers, creating a scenario in which both the venue and the customer are better off.

SHOUTback co-founders Matt Giorgio (left) and Mitchell Stapleton-Coory

The guys behind SHOUTback saw an opportunity to reinvigorate the broader venue and hospitality experience, with co-founder Mitchell stating that “having worked in the hospitality industry, we understand that while some venues are willing to offer a discount, not all venues want to employ this strategy… The truth is, hospitality is a very transient space and every venue is different, so these businesses need a customisable platform that lets them reach their customers on their terms.”

The launch of the App comes at a crucial point for the broader hospitality industry in Adelaide, with many venues suffering at the hands of ubiquitous food delivery. The founders of SHOUTback have decided to take action in order to preserve what they see as an integral part of the complete experience of an increasingly vibrant city.

With their official launch party last Friday night at Adelaide’s West Oak Hotel, SHOUTback also announced a partnership with BIG Review TV– a video production software company tasked with providing hospitality venues ‘game-changing video marketing solutions’. The partnership will allow for the in-app video promotion of offers to users, which will further enhance the user-discovery experience.

Earlier this week I had a chat with a co-founder of SHOUTback, Matt Giorgio, to discuss a range of topics from the challenges in starting the app, the state of Adelaide’s startup community and what we can expect from the SHOUTback team in the future.

Is SHOUTBack your first venture as an entrepreneur? What have you found to be some of the biggest challenges in getting the app off the ground?

We have both tried our hand at a few previous business ventures before finally settling on this concept. 

For Matt, the motivation to pursue this business was born of the frustration he felt when funding was pulled for a brick and mortar venue concept which he and a friend were poised to open in Adelaide around two years ago. After coming quite close taking the plunge and opening a venue of his own, Matt decided his next venture needed to focus on outcomes for the hospitality industry in a different way. 

For Mitch, he has spent the majority of his 20’s systematically deferring his studies to start businesses. This is his second attempt in the app market, and there was a bespoke furniture studio thrown in there too. 

We’re fortunate in this respect, as a failure in the world of entrepreneurship is regarded as a virtue and an integral part of the roadmap to success. We’ve come to learn that investors in this world are very apprehensive about putting their money behind people who haven’t screwed up at least one company before. It’s because they recognise how complicated and nuanced the process of building a successful business is, and many of the skills required can only come through experience. 

The challenges involved in getting this off the ground have been so diverse, it’s hard to single them out. More then the joys of being a non-technical founder working on a technology product, or raising capital or managing the operations of a company that is still finding its place in the world, I’d have to say that the hardest challenge is earning trust. Our platform is a classic two-sided marketplace, and both sides need to scale at a similar pace. So we need to add enough value for venues that they are willing to bring their business on-board and dedicate time to posting content to our network with a genuine opportunity to see ROI within a relatively short space of time. And at the same time, we need to add enough value and earn enough trust amongst our users, that they feel comfortable linking their credit cards to our app and actively use the platform on a weekly basis to engage with the promotions of our venues. It’s a chicken and egg situation, however, in our case, it’s not about which one came first. They both need to spring into existence simultaneously for this to work. That’s no easy task, but we’re also not afraid of a challenge.

What has been your experience with Adelaide’s startup community?

The Startup culture in Adelaide is seriously flourishing right now. Ever since Elon Musk came to town things have really hit top gear. All of a sudden there are think tanks and co-working spaces and electric car charging points springing up all over the place. I think for many years Adelaide has been a city that has been searching for a new identity. We’ve been considered a ‘nanny state’ for a long time, but that is changing. The government is investing heavily in innovation and entrepreneurship. We have world class incubators like the ThincLab and the Australian eChallenge which are driving the agenda and providing early-stage ventures with offices, mentorship and funding. We have the Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation & Innovation Centre, which is a world-class facility right in the heart of the city. There are loads of new companies doing really well here, and the market is starting to really show support for them. In our case, the hospitality scene has been one of the most exciting sectors to be involved with. A few years ago the government changed the ‘small venue’ licensing laws to make it much easier to open a bar in Adelaide. Since then, the nightlife here has really extrapolated, and there are stacks of exciting new venues across the city, and also lots of burrows starting to come up in the suburbs. 

Is there enough infrastructure in Adelaide to support a cohort of budding entrepreneurs? What more could be done on a state-government level?

I feel like for the size and population of Adelaide, we are very well resourced to support a culture of innovation. Adelaide has always been viewed as a test market, and this has actually meant that we see a lot of new products and novel initiatives first, before they a rolled out on a larger scale. For instance, we’re currently rolling out the 10-gigabit fibre optics network, which will give commercial buildings in the city access to some of the fasted data speeds in the world. We also have initiatives such as the largest lithium-ion battery in the world, recently installed by Tesla which has put Adelaide on the map as being one of the most progressive states on the topic of renewable energy. So really I think the state government has been doing a fairly good job of fostering innovation within Adelaide. However, we recently had a change in leadership, so the biggest test now is to ensure that the new liberal government continues to support these projects and brings a progressive attitude towards future initiatives so as to ensure we don’t lose this momentum.

SHOUTback is the first app of its kind in South Australia. Where are you looking to expand to?

Like many new products, we see Adelaide as a great place to test, and also to give the venues in our city first option on this technology. Following our rollout here, we have a deal in place with a large alcohol company that will put us into around 150 venues across Australia. Following that, we will begin the process of scaling up the network and have distribution partnerships with Food & Beverage Media and Big Review TV in order to help SHOUTback expand to as many venues as possible across the country. Fortunately, due to the inherent scalability of our platform, we’re looking to reach a critical mass within the next six months, which should help to foster a degree of viral growth heading into the 2018/2019 summer season.

Since the disruption of the Brick & Mortar store/venue experience, where does SHOUTback hope to sit in the market between apps like UberEats and Deliver?

If you think of food aggregators and delivery apps as a poison, SHOUTback is the antidote. It may sound harsh, however, our experience in the space is that brick & mortar businesses are suffering greatly at the hands of these platforms. Margins are being cut, loyal customers are being lost, and the climate of competition is incredibly hostile. All the while their offering is being cheapened and the vibrancy of our cities is being eroded. 

The point of SHOUTback is to provide venues with a tool which they can use to fight back against this trend. We aim to put the power back into the hands of the venues, allowing them to bypass these large third-party platforms, and go directly to their customers with incentives that encourage people to come back out into the world. It’s about improving sociability and supporting local economies, so we don’t sacrifice our culture to the insidious trap of doing what is merely ‘convenient’. People will always prefer a good night out with friends to hiding away on the couch and eating out of a sweaty plastic container. We just need to put the impetus back onto people to choose the former. That’s what SHOUTback is about.

A full sensory dining experience is clearly what ShoutBack is all about. Does this result from your collective experience in the hospitality industry?

Yes, however, it’s not just about dining. SHOUTback is about experiences. Whether food, drink, music, dance – there are no limitations on what our venues can promote through the platform. It could be dinner or cocktail specials, but it could also be concert tickets or VIP door entry. Our main focus is in providing people with an incentive to actually visit these venues and to have the full sensory experience in whatever format the venue provides it. A whiskey flight, a parmy & pint, really anything that means you have a great night.

What can we expect from the SHOUTback team in the rest of 2018?

We aim to be in 200+ venues by the end of the year, and will also be releasing new functionality in order to make the product even better for the venues and users. We’re heading to the US in a couple of months to present our company to Microsoft. We’re looking at partnerships with some other big companies within the alcohol/hospitality space. But the main focus will be on delivering on our promise to help support local venues, as this really is the crux of our mission.

SHOUTback has recently activated a number of venues in Adelaide in collaboration with Diageo Australia. Following the launch, the platform will be rolled-out mid-May before expanding to other major Australian cities in the coming months.

Keep an eye out!

Australian startups off to a good start with nearly $1 billion in funding in the first quarter
SHOUTback- The new darling of Adelaide’s thriving startup scene
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Australian startups off to a good start with nearly $1 billion in funding in the first quarter