Shippit are an Australian startup success story built on an unbreakable founder relationship between Rob Hango-Zada and William On. Learn how Tidal helped guide their global success.
Mar 19, 2021 · 4 min read
This is supposed to be a blog about the company Shippit, one of the first investments by Tidal (or the company that was to become Tidal) back in 2017. The two companies sort of grew up together.
I could have written at length about how they are revolutionizing the way shipping works in Australia and overseas and raising capital left and right, but when I interviewed the Shippit founders, I decided to focus on their magic partnership and the relationships that have helped them succeed.
It’s hard not to reach for words like ‘bromance’ and ‘misterhood’ to describe the easy rapport and sentence-finishing communication that long-time friends and business partners Rob Hango-Zada and William On enjoy. And it doesn’t take a startup genius to realise that their relationship is a key ingredient of their success.
Great relationships seem to be at the centre of all Shippit’s growth success, from building rapport with customers, finding the right investors and employees, and realistically assessing the gaps and making the right call on how to scale up.
Will says their approach to most things is “we don't know all the answers and our focus is to get the right people around us.” When applied to investors, Rob explains that “any investor coming in is a long term relationship; and we want to partner with people who are really invested in our company.”
If the three most important things in an investor are “getting along on a personal level, having a solid understanding of the domain and people, being able to push us in terms of our thinking,” then Tidal is an ideal fit.
Grant McCarthy and Murray Bleach were Shippit’s first Tidal contacts. “Grant and Murray took a more US VC style of approach that added value beyond the checkbook.” This was important, according to Will, because having input about product, finance and deal flow meant that Tidal became part of the team.
Co-investing in Series A with Aura Ventures, Grant was keen to participate. He has “a lot of knowledge around the last mile logistic space, understanding of where the market was going. He also really understood the macro themes of an open network two-sided marketplace with logistics and e-commerce.” which Rob says made them a great match.
“90% of the battle is having the right people around you.”
- William On
Getting to Series A from angel and seed stage takes a lot of work and a lot of grit, getting to Series B, even more. Fortunately, the Tidal team were able to help in the form of a go-to-market expert called Georgie Turner.
According to Rob, Georgie literally “implanted herself at Shippit for about six months” to help set up an operational manual that became their Series B Playbook. This was rich enough guidance on how to set Shippit up for success to a [future Series B raise]. Being there in person made a huge difference to the founders.
The playbook for Shippit contained all the “key metrics that needed to be landed” in order to drive the business forward. Will and Rob nod at each other, “we ran our whole business off that.” It prepared Shippit for the next capital raising round, laying the groundwork for success they enjoy now.
When reflecting on what Tidal is like compared to other investors, Rob observes that “we've got more investment [dollars] from other partners who don't give us anywhere near as much counsel and guidance, or encouragement.” In business speak, he jokes “they definitely over-index on their investment versus their involvement.” What a compliment!
Founders Rob Hango-Zada (left) and William On (right)
A pivotal moment for Rob and Will was during a conversation with Grant, who said “you don't realise this yet, but this is a billion dollar company. You need to be thinking in terms of a billion dollar business, how you are going to change the world and what you're going to do.” It’s this kind of Tidal truth bomb that has helped Shippit to realise they are “no longer building a product, but building a company.”
Will explains that “the conversations that we're having now are around organisational design, having the right people on the bus, checking they are sitting in the right seat.” This is where Tidal has steered them, in part, toward being that billion dollar business and thinking like one too.
When I asked if this meant they no longer felt so green, they concluded there’s always something to be green about. And despite onboarding many investors since the start, Tidal is often the go-to for advice and guidance. This can mean hands-on help or a late night phone call with Wendell or Grant to “have a glass of wine and talk about the business.”
Regardless of what you're going through, they're there for the good and the bad, thick, and thin to get you through what you need to get through.”
- Rob Hango-Zada
Rob and Will have been friends for 17 years, and in some ways it’s hard to believe they are first time founders. They are wise and self-aware. Perhaps this comes from knowing each other really well or maybe they’ve just learned to be confident and believe in their team.
Will reveals his secret to staying calm through everything, “whatever happens you and I will figure it out and that's my secret.” Rob says their biggest strength is being able to “take outside information and apply the concepts that we've got to come up with the best answer.” Either way, they work as an inseparable team.
When it comes to Tidal’s place in things, the founders say they “take more of a partnership based approach, which is empathy, understanding and pushing us, or encouraging us to think bigger about the problem, which is why they have been so important to us over the last couple of years.”
“Having Wendell on the board from a product perspective, Georgie on board from a finance perspective, then capital raising and how we think about our future state from Grant. All of these different people from Tidal make up a really good front for us. They’re fully part of our team.”
As Rob concludes, “regardless of what you're going through, they're there for the good and the bad, thick, and thin to get you through what you need to get through.”
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