Today is a special day. It marks the 5th anniversary of our founding in 2012. At the time the company was Davoodi, a unique name inspired by family.
The idea behind automed goes a lot further back than 2012 though. In fact, David Edwards first started working on the idea, in his spare time, back in 2006.
Today we’d like to share the highlights from the past five years, revealing the story of how we got from an idea that was ahead of its time to an award-winning company and product that is having an impact on the global livestock industry.
We’re going to talk about the achievements, but also the challenges and mistakes. Creating a successful company is never an easy, drama-free ride.
We begin the story in 2012…
Year One (2012-13) – The Founding of Davoodi Pty Ltd
In 2012, David Edwards was still working as an Engineering Director in the mining industry. It was a global operation, and David had the six-figure salary, the company car, and all the associated bells and whistles. What more could he want? A job that he felt good about.
The problem was that a CEO resignation led to an internal power struggle and in-fighting. The atmosphere around the company became toxic, and David found himself spending more time putting out fires than actually building something of worth. He missed the feeling of creation and purpose.
After a particularly trying company trip and being advised by a director that he should probably look elsewhere, David wrote his resignation in the terminal at Johannesburg airport, boarded the airplane, and never looked back. With his wife, Samira Davoodi, the two made a big decision to invest their savings into developing David’s long-gestating idea for a medication system with game-changing potential.
In 2006, the biggest problem with the idea was that the technology wasn’t advanced enough to make the project viable. But a lot changed in six years. With the tech now in place and all the motivation in the world – beyond savings, their only income was selling high-voltage electrical motors to the mining industry in Australia – David and Samira founded Davoodi Pty Ltd.
The early automed team was very much a family affair. It included David’s father, Robert, a pioneer in Australia’s livestock industry and who, with his wife Lynn, invested in Davoodi to help the company stay afloat during development. David’s brother Phillip, who has extensive agriculture and livestock farming experience, was also a key advisor and helped drive the early testing on his farm.
There was also Bob McCotter, not strictly speaking a family member, but who’s long-term friendship and working relationship with David qualifies him as an honorary member of the Edwards family. Bob believed in David’s vision so strongly that he invested early in the company and was instrumental in getting the company to where it is today. Bob currently serves as a director of automed.
At this time the automed system consisted of two components – the applicator and livestock management software called PLM (Precision Livestock Management). The lightbulb moment to create a single product and brand was still two years away.
Year Two (2013-14) – Development and Dismissal
The primary plan for year two was to keep developing the automed system into a valuable and viable product. The secondary goal was to secure significant investment because without it; there was a strong possibility that the product would not make it to market.
While David worked on product development, he went to pitch his idea to investors. The meetings generally consisted of those who didn’t get it and those who got it, but wanted to see results before investing. That year David heard over 30 variations of “no.”
Compounding the failed attempts to secure investment was the business community in Newcastle, which was more than just unsupportive – it was outright harmful to the company’s prospects.
At this point, many people would have packed it in. But David took a very different message from this experience – “we’re in the wrong bloody place.”
At the time Davoodi was based in Newcastle, New South Wales. Hearing about the thriving startup scene in Canberra, ACT, and being encouraged by the Lighthouse Group to move, David and Samira decided to roll the dice and relocate to Canberra. To this day, David maintains it was one of the best decisions he ever made.
In Canberra, David found a community that respected entrepreneurship. People not only understood what David wanted to achieve, they also wanted to support in whatever way they could. Just two months after the move, Davoodi received the InnovationConnect (Icon) Grant from the ACT government. This investment helped the company to not just stay afloat but move into the final phase of development.
With some financial freedom, David and Samira were able to accomplish so much more. The first prototype of the applicator was finally completed, while Dan Hobson and Miguel Brinlee joined the team to work on the product design and the software and mobile platform respectively. Along with David, the three attended the National Cattleman’s Expo in San Antonio to gain more insights into the U.S. market and start thinking about the release strategy.
The good fortune continued when David and Samira rented a small office space at the Stewart Architect office block in Canberra. There they met another renter, Kynan Griffiths, who would eventually go on to become automed’s Graphic Designer and Brand Image Developer.
However, at this point, the company was still called Davoodi, and there were two separate products. But this would all change in year three.
Year Three (2014-15) – Building a Brand
What started off as an idea was now becoming a reality. The automed system was put through its first live tests on Phillip Edward’s sheep farm. This year saw continual testing, analysis of results, modifications, and more testing.
With the product nearing readiness for the market, it was time to start to develop the branding and marketing that would allow the industry to learn about the system. David wanted to raise the bar across the board. It wasn’t enough that the hardware and software were great – everything had to be great. Whether it was the website, the support, the content created, or even the packaging – it all had to be a level above.
Alfredo Venero was brought onto the remote team to build up a social media presence, while Darren Buser was tasked with polishing the branding message and creating valuable content. Kynan started to refine the visual branding but, over a beer with David at the local, expressed confusion and frustration over the splintered elements of the product and company. He proposed a new, simplified direction for the brand.
At the time there was the company, Davoodi, overseeing development of the automed applicator and a piece of farm management software called My Pocket Farmer. Kynan felt it was unnecessarily confusing. He believed that everything should be streamlined into a single product: automed.
David agreed, and work began on a bold new rebranding of the company and the product(s).
Year Four (2015-16) – Recognition and Expansion
With the rebrand completed, the product ready, and the marketing efforts in full swing – automed was finally launched at the beginning of 2016. Initially, we were met with skepticism by the industry. Like the investment meetings years earlier, people didn’t think that automed could do what we said it would.
Thankfully, this time we had an actual product and people who understood the industry. We flew all over the world attending all manner of livestock expos. Pan Pacific Pork Expo, World Dairy Expo, World Pork Expo – the list goes on. David and the team racked up the air miles to introduce people to the system, and soon interested parties wanted to test the automed system on their farms.
On launch, the plan had been to slowly roll out plans for the U.S. But you know what they say about best-laid plans…
Six months after the launch of automed, automed USA was founded. The sped-up timeline was due to the demand that we saw when attending the World Pork Expo in the United States. We met with most of the top pork producers in the country, pharmaceutical companies, and even some overseas companies.
We may not have been ready for it, but David decided that the opportunity was too great to turn down. In short order, automed USA was launched with Todd Sturdy leading the marketing efforts and a number of big trials in place.
The team was also growing back home in Canberra with James Yates, who David had worked with in the mining industry, joining as the National Sales Manager and Ljiljana Sittler coming on board as an Executive Assistant. Co-founder of automed, Samira Davoodi, took over new roles in operations and production management. And four new interns – Luke Magyar, Brock Holland, Franklin Wilson, and Harris Law – were also added to the growing ranks.
Helping the company with this rapid expansion was the ACT government, which once again provided grants so that automed could keep up with the global interest in the system.
The fourth year ended in style, with the automed team representing Australia at the Asia Pacific ICT Alliance Awards in Taipei and taking home the gold in the Industry Application category. This award followed earlier regional and national iAwards for Mobile Application of the Year, Industrial & Primary Industries, and Victorian Government Inspiration of the Year; as well as a Beefex award for innovation.
The trophy cabinet was well stocked at this point, and we were far further than we expected to be in our first year. However, rapid growth can lead to its own challenges and automed hit them head-on in 2017.
Year Five (2016-17) – Consolidate to Grow
We are now in year five and if you think everything has been smooth sailing, think again. While automed was receiving awards and lots of interest, orders on the scale we were negotiating can take awhile to complete. We were hopeful that these deals would be completed, but hope doesn’t pay the bills.
At the start of the year, the company was feeling the squeeze. David was forced to restructure and cut back on marketing efforts to shift the limited funds to where they would have the biggest impact. Certain long-term contracts had to be revised, and David and Samira had to spend three months in the U.S. to speed up development of automed USA.
These decisions were not easy to make, but the company was able to weather the storm, deals were finally signed, and just months later the company had increased monthly turnover by a factor of 10. We also secured exciting new partnerships with Neogen, a worldwide distributor of animal health and safety products, and with UFA Co-Operative to distribute automed to the Canadian livestock market.
The automed team is growing again with animal health expert, Neil Charman, joining the board after four years of support and advisement. Ed Meacham joined as the Head of Software Applications and Development, and Trevor Nestor came aboard as Firmware Developer. Kathleen Aschoff was also added to the Sales team, and her background in user experience is already benefiting the product. Finally, Harris Law, who had joined as an intern, was given a permanent position as Applications Developer and Phong Mai came as automed’s first fulltime assembly worker.
automed USA continues to grow with new offices and a production facility in Ames, Iowa.
2017 and Beyond
Automed has no plans to slow down, with many new and exciting developments for the company and our customers. Later this year we will be releasing a new automed platform as well as new drench and pour-on adapters. The new production facility in the U.S. will be completed before the year’s end, as well as new production facilities in Australia – both of which will improve our capabilities to keep up with growth.
We will continue to expand into more markets and build towards David’s original vision of a product that can have a truly global impact.
While David Edwards is incredibly proud of where the company is today, and what has been achieved already, he knows that there are more obstacles to come.
Five years ago the company was founded on a value of turning challenges into opportunity. A lot has changed over these years, but this statement remains as true today as it has ever been.