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Episode #41: with Andrew Mears

5 May, 2020 | 14 mins 48 secs

In this episode I interview Andrew Mears, CEO at SwitchDin. You may remember him from a previous episode, he is the first guest to make a reappearance on the podcast.

Today we will be sharing some positive news about how SwitchDin has been fairing in this time of COVID- 19 and how they’ve been able to keep onboarding in this period.

I hope you enjoy the episode!

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Show Notes

Here you can source all the things we have talked about in the podcast whether that be books, events, meet-up groups and what’s new in the newcastle tech scene.


Yeah that’s some proof that it can be done locally and you can grow and build international partners and international you know pathways and styles across the globe so congratulation oh it’s no it’s terrific welcome to a four nine today we’ve got our first home return guest today we’ve got Andrew means from switch day and welcome Andrew good I might who I am I’m be very good I’m very good it’s obviously some pretty odd times right now in the middle of Kovac get over nineteen a lot of people working remotely and they’re your teammates as well but I think there’s a lot of negativity around at the moment I’ve got a pretty good story to tell with what’s going on with you in your team over the past couple of months I want to let the community know about that so let’s start with the exciting news of a couple months ago now I know we’ve had some success with switched in and your continued growth but let the community know about that yeah now look we’ve had end of last year was pretty exciting time so we embarked on our series a capital race I guess you call it it’s probably a light series a in a classic sense you know we’ve got a pretty well validated product and a good pipeline and you know some really t1 customers so so yeah we’ve been pushing it out as long as we can and I guess in true it’s true knife edge you know start up lean living you know I think we closed the round with one pay run left in the bank so pretty pretty hair-raising we had a few options up Esley but you know it was quite a knife edge but look it went really well and we had a we had a great process we had we had six parties go to go through due diligence and we had three go to detailed due diligence we ended up negotiating with two – one was VC and the other one was a strategic investor and we ended up going with a strategic and they both wanted the full round so in the end that simplified the clothes so and it’s really good so we have a minority investment now from company called Q sells yeah incidentally we were raising five million and that’s really to drive us for the neck well the plan was to drive us for the next 18 months but I think given the Kabat impact we’re probably going to stretch that out a bit longer and and and they bring a lot of strategic values they are one of the top three in terms of manufacturers of solar panels in the world they in fact they make about 12% of global production of solar panels and they’re working across all the key markets that we’re involved in Australia Europe they’re they have about 40% of the rooftop solar market in Europe and they’re one of the top three in terms of commercial solar in North America and Japan so Wow so same channels as us you know we make software for managing solar energy and batteries so for them this is sort of a bit of a a bit of a move into a different area in the vertical but very very strong alignment same customers same channels it’s really great that’s yeah terrific and that was the major reason for you going down that strategic investor round as opposed to BC obviously that the dual benefits and the crossover yeah exactly like you know there’s definitely pros and cons I think however the way it’s worked out often with a strategic you know you’re worried about exclusivity or impact on you know your positioning in the market with other kin you know with other custom you know customers who may feel something but but given the way this has worked out really there’s minimal potential for for the rest of our customers to see any sort of conflict you know there there further up and down him down in the vertical so so we haven’t really faced that sort of downside it’s all upside so far so now we’re very excited phenomenal man congratulations I think there’s a major success story for both switch Dean and the new Carson tech community obviously switch Dean’s born and bred in Newcastle growing your team building your team locally in Newcastle I know it’s a passion of yours to build locally like that so I think it’s a great success story for not only you and the team but also the Newcastle tech community it’s great to see those you know there’s some proof that it can be done locally and you can grow and build international partners and international you know pathways and styles across the globe so congratulate you know it’s no it’s terrific now we’re really we’re really going strong we were also a finalist for the German government they ran a European tech competition in this sector and we’re one of three top finalists unfortunately neither the final pitch and ceremony was cancelled because I’ve covered there being one of the top three digital energy startups in Europe that’s pretty cool as well so that’s

relationship you know where we’re really feeling feeling feeling good oh it’s further proof you know the quality of the product you’ve got sir yeah I guess more and more and more that I you know people recognizing that the quality of the product that you guys attending out and just hopes you’ll continue in growth and the story of switched in yes and we’ll all out of new council so yeah that’s all out of Newcastle and the team that you’re going here it’s actually been there’s a lot of a lot of confusion in the market and a lot of uncertainty regarding especially hiring teams and building teams trucco they don’t know firsthand you know you’re on the team of being building both not only interviewing remotely but onboarding remotely over this during the covert what your teams working remember had some success in but interviewing getting people to sign the contracts into onboarding remotely have been that process on yours yeah well it’s it’s you know we’ve been it’s a bit more than we expected so so I guess the biggest impact for covert for us was a shift in our priorities so we’ve really pulled back on any of our investments around go to market we’ve decided to focus on the a bring forward some of our development pipelines so so basically more hires in our engineering than we planned and all our engineering teams in Newcastle so that’s a bit of a bottleneck in itself but fortunately you know being having closed the round in in January where we’re in a really good position to be hiring and I guess we can offer you know some good security for for others compared to other opportunities in the markets so yeah so we’ve had some really fantastic candidates come through on boardings been a challenge and I mean I’ve just had to really bite the bullet and it’s not going to be as efficient as or as personable as otherwise but I guess in in the same vein as the whole remote thing it’s all about you know hyper communicating so just being much more proactive you know much more remote you know video conferencing communic you know documenting a lot more you know being trying to be as hands-on as possible to compensate for all the innate communications of wood and if you’re all sitting in the same office but yeah it’s it’s been hard it’s it’s intense it’s been really intense it has been but I know some of the candidates working working meet together that have been on boarded and on board successfully the the process has been spoken about really highly they’ve felt that it’s been a smooth process that they feel like they’ve got to know people and got to know the company and the processes are well what sort of technologies you’ve been using to to help facilitate that well yeah I mean look it’s forced us to to become a little bit more intentional with boarding so yeah so we’ve definitely you know we’ve Defiant we’ve created an onboarding pipeline and you know that often involves just getting people to spend more one-on-one remotely time together so it fits very much with our culture anyway even when we interview people we we get them to sit with different members of the team you know for half an hour or an hour or so and and just look over their shoulder and work on things and so really the the job of bringing people on board is is responsibility at the team it doesn’t fall on one individual person we haven’t brought any particularly you know tools to bear for that I mean you know we we use Google mates and Google Hangouts and JIRA and slack and you know between the three of those you know we keep people moving between the members of the team so you know KB I just heard there it was just it’s not the job of one person right that’s a job multiple paper to be employing seeing that that onboarding process and influencing how people feel doing that so that first couple of weeks as well so I think that’s probably the key pitch didn’t dry so I heard there was but he said that the technologies everyone’s got accident a malice lack of both everyone’s got access to you know to the right the documents they need volunteer or some form of you know platform and then I’m video technology are they using Google Hangouts oom some people may be still using Skype but if you know if you’ve got access to that those sort of technologies you can really try to it’s not as efficient as normal but you can try to overcome those hurdles yeah I have been evaluating some sort of HR management site type tools know and and we’re definitely looking at moving to sort of our object and key resolve framework for the way we work in general and that’s really povo commitment just to you know improving the you know level of communications around our objectives but yet having people share the role for us our culture it’s really all about teams of teams you know everyone it’s a pretty collegial environment we’re really anti silo you know teams intermingle and and so even even for something administrative like onboarding you know getting people on you know everyone has a responsibility to look after the new people yeah that’s great I think it’s a success story just the fact that you are onboarding and during this period the fact that you’ve undertaken now you’ve successfully onboard people and they’re there feedbacks been positive because that’s the best the best measurement tool at the end of the day how that’s actual candidates feel once they’ve joined the company making sure that they feel as part of the team so congratulate you on that because I know it’s a very real challenge I think the unit knowledge it’s not as efficient as normal I don’t he can replace that face to face time that is really difficult but you know obviously tackling and doing it as best you can and having some success I congratulate the team on that so well done great job to 2k points I want to share with the community days obviously they’re closing that Series A round and the fact you are onboarding remotely I think both success stories in a time where there’s a lot of negativity around that year business maybe not business as usual but you continuing to find a way to move forward and I think I show you and the fishing team on that yeah great thanks now it’s a look it’s a hard time you know we you know we’re holding our breath to see how we come out of this obviously we’ve chosen you know to try to position ourselves for the recovering rather than drive growth through through this because maybe everyone’s unsure about what’s happening and fortunately being here in Newcastle you know I get very different stories from you know my contacts and things in in Sydney and Melbourne you know much more brutal as less I think he up here at least you know I think people really have a sense that there looking to support each other I’ve reached out to a few other companies here who I know are getting rid of people who can’t keep people and you know at least trying to coordinate to to keep that talent here in the city yeah and I know you are as well so you know I think keeping the the really good people in this ecosystem will be important for everyone all right completely great I completely agree and you know they’re up there are companies unfortunately they will go by the wayside doing this and having to let people go on and there’s other companies that grow also you can build that team so I think yeah I think as he said if we can continue to build upon the ecosystem an ecosystem is going up it has been for a couple of years and attract good people to Newcastle stories like you you know the grades of speech in the big series a round I think that helps attract more people to the area and also keep get more about talent here so it’s ready to hear a positive success story now through May thanks guys yeah thank you and I appreciate your time today really good to share this story and I think I played I don’t bring some positivity a little small saucer positivity for some people and you Carson tech community during this time right cheers okay you.

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