Lauren Hall’s only been in Australia a few years, but already has plans to become our first female entrepreneur to build a $1 billion business.
She’s preparing to officially launch the next version of her all-in-one events management platform Ivvy in the coming months, incorporating a real-time trading platform for the events industry.
Described as, “The Wotif of the function space and event supply chain”, the platform is also seriously scalable and already working with some of the largest hotel chains in the world. It’s the kind of locally developed technology you can’t help but get a little excited about, especially given its potential to disrupt industries.
But it’s certainly not an overnight sensation. Hall’s been working on the platform, in some shape or form, for seven years. A serial entrepreneur in her home country South Africa, she’s also got the kind of back story that underscores an unshakable resilience and drive for success.
Hall arrived in Brisbane in 2008 with two young children and a husband, but no money and no local connections.
She’d walked away from millions of dollars in funding in South Africa in order to call Australia home, as well as everything she’d personally invested in a previous version of Ivvy and a number of other businesses. She describes the move as, “committing economic suicide”, but as the only choice for protecting her family.
In South Africa, Hall had been in the process of taking over her father’s business when he was murdered in front of her. Following another two murders in her family, as well as being personally attacked and having her children’s lives threatened, she knew she had to get out.
“My motivation for leaving the country was fear. I lived in fear, terrible fear all the time,” Hall says. “But I’ve always been a survivalist. I think I represent the ability to overcome adversity. No matter how hard some of the things are that I’ve been through, I don’t want to be seen as a victim. The ability to give my children the right to live with safety and opportunity is what I came to Australia for.”
She’s now an Australian citizen, and believes she has a lot to give. Based on the Gold Coast (she liked the ‘Surfers Paradise’ in the name upon looking at options on where to live) and now running Ivvy out of the old Billabong headquarters in Varsity Lakes in the Gold Coast, she works closely with co-founder and Ivvy Chief Technology Officer, James Greig.
She draws on a background in programming, accounting and marketing in order to develop ideas and attract funding, but ultimately it’s her hard work ethic and formidable attitude that gets what she needs done.
“There are no one hit wonders in technology, it takes years to build these things,” Hall says, having brought part of the IP over from South Africa, before rebuilding it in a more robust and highly scalable way locally here.
It also takes a great idea. For Hall, the idea to build something for the events industry came from the frustration of creating and managing events herself. “The processes that I had to go through with my team in sourcing venues, sourcing suppliers, collating the data, going back to clients, and then securing it all was so frustrating,” Hall says, discussing event-based work she did in a previous business.
That frustration hit new levels when Hall was asked to manage a major event for 1000 people. Having worked frantically to meet a tight deadline, she found that when she went to confirm the relevant suppliers for products and services, more than 50% had pulled out, including the venue.
“That was in October 2006, and right then and there I said I need to source a solution to this fundamental problem: access to real time data to allow orgnaisers to be able to compare for and pay people for these products and services in real time.” She built the first prototype in South Africa, started working initially with one organisation before having some of the country’s biggest banking institutions and employers mandating it as their procurement system for events.
“I went on this huge journey, originally funding it myself and then required external capital to complete the technology and scale the business. Without my team and my shareholders none of it would have been possible. It was really an, ‘imagine if we could do this,’ to have this live data and simplify the process.”
“That was my desire, it’s taken me seven years. And it’s now going to change the entire way people manage, procure and secure their services and suppliers for events.”
Hall says she’s wanted to build businesses since asking her father for $10 as a nine-year-old and being told that “money doesn’t grow on tree”. She decided she never wanted to have to ask for money again, and never did – working a number of jobs in order to help fund the life she wanted.
The short facts on Lauren Hall’s story.
Born. South Africa
Raised. South Africa with stints overseas, including in Chicago,
High school career ambition. To build businesses.
How do you manage your wellbeing? I suck at it, to be honest. If anyone says they are an entrepreneur and they have their balance right then please share it with me, because you can’t. An entrepreneur eats, sleeps and lives their business from inside out. Trying to manage a family and running a business like I am in tech, especially one that’s very demanding. Having a healthy regime is fundamental to successfully managing stress. I’ve been too much of an extremist. I’m either a professional athlete, or I’m a businesswoman. I’m putting in heavy regimes of organiised structure for separation. It comes down to disclipine.
How do you stay informed? I’m reading all the time, whether it’s twitter feeds, news publications for industries, I read all the time. I have one of those minds that I’m a problem solving, I want to understand how people are doing different things. I like to see the journey and what other people have done. I get constant feeds of newsletters, magazines when I’m travelling, but I don’t have a huge amount of time allowing me to be on top of everything.
Advice to your 18-year-old self. Be fearless. Believe. Think big. Thick twice. Don’t rush into things.
Lauren Hall’s story is the latest of our 100 Stories Project, in which we’re asking women about a turning point that’s shifted her leadership career. Telling 100 stories from January 1 2015, the project showcases the diverse range of leadership careers available, as well as some of the brilliant achievements and fascinating career paths of women. It also demonstrates how planned and unexpected forks in the road can take you places you never thought possible.
Other women featured in this series include:
Angela Ferguson: The woman designing the future of work (Google included)
Jo-Ann Hicks: eBay’s leading woman on the risks that made her digital career
Annabelle Daniel: ‘I’m the unlikely combination of CEO and single parent
Sarah Liu: Multiple job titles and variety: Life as a ‘slashie’
Lindy Stephens: When the power shifts, women should make the most of it
Kate Morris: Why I gave up law to become an online entrepreneur
Jacque Comery: Leading a team of 12 on an Antarctic base