Leigh Jasper is the co-founder and CEO of Aconex, on online collaboration platform for construction, infrastructure, energy and resources projects. He has led the company through a decade of rapid growth, during which it became the world’s largest provider of project collaboration solutions for the construction, energy and resources sectors. He speaks a bit of French and rides into work every day.
Blackbird: What were those first few months like for you and how important was having a co-founder?
Leigh: You're working very long hours. Every day something would go wrong and then the next day something might go right, so you have these days that are up and down. One day is good, one day is bad and you're just trying to work it through. I think having somebody else makes it a lot easier to ride those ups and downs.
EVERY DAY SOMETHING WOULD GO WRONG AND THEN THE NEXT DAY SOMETHING MIGHT GO RIGHT
Blackbird: Tell us about what it was like to start a internet business in the early 2000s
Leigh: The internet was really starting to make its way into business and providing enormous opportunity. This was a once in a generation change in the way the economy is working and an opportunity to get in at the start of that, and the great thing about the internet and the great thing about technology more generally is that if you're young, you know as much if not a whole lot more than anybody else is going to know about that technology and so you don't need the 20 years experience to go and build a technology company.
YOU HAVE TO ASSUME THAT YOU'RE GOING TO PICK UP THINGS YOU'VE NEVER DONE BEFORE AND JUST WORK YOUR WAY THROUGH IT.
Aggregrate Project Value
$800 Billion +
Year of IPO
Blackbird: What sorts of things did you do to save money in the early days?
Leigh: Rob and I, we used to share hotel rooms back then because you're trying to save on expenses and we'd save on travel wherever we could. For the office, we'd build our own desks in the early days. Rob's a builder, so he he loves that stuff. Our boardroom table downstairs, Rob built that.
Blackbird: How consciously have you gone about setting the culture at Aconex?
Leigh: Friday drinks is a big thing here and we've always seen that as it's you're working closely with people, you need to be able to have fun with them as well. It's really important to have that and just for work to be a fun place to come to, and for it to be full of people that you want to work with.
Blackbird: What were some of things you had to learn that you weren’t expecting?
Leigh: In the early days, both Rob and I, we both had to learn a lot of stuff from scratch. That's what makes it interesting too because every day is different, every day you're doing something completely different from the day before. Mind you we did a lot of things wrong too, but that was part of the culture of the business - we said we are going to keep challenging what's accepted, keep working our way through, and we'll make lots of mistakes as long as we learn from them and move on, but it was never dull. Every day was different. You get up, you wouldn't know what would happened. Whether it's something good or some crisis, things go wrong, but you're constantly evolving and learning new skills. As your business got bigger, you tend to ... Start-up days in some ways is more interesting because you would be out doing everything. As the business gets bigger, we now have executives running different parts of the business and because of that you just have to be less of a jack-of-all-trades and you end up specializing a bit more.
That's good too and in those early days a lot of fun just having to take all these different challenges, but you have to be ready for that. You have to assume that you're going to pick up things you've never done before and just work your way through it.
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