Five minutes with … Karl Redenbach, CEO and co-founder, LiveTiles

Karl Redenbach from LiveTiles

LiveTiles – a leader in artificial intelligence software that has Microsoft as a major partner and the US Department of Defense, PepsiCo, Nike and Macquarie Group on its books – is opening its global innovation centre and Asia Pacific headquarters in the former manufacturing hub of Geelong, creating 500 tech jobs, mostly for locals.

Your company, whose click and drag technology allows users to create customised workplace software, has recently signed a lease in Federal Mills, North Geelong, creating 500 new tech jobs for the region.

You have offices in New York City, Washington State, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, North Carolina, London, Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart, and consider the US, UK, Europe, the Middle East and Australia your major markets – so why Geelong for your headquarters?

Geelong is a great technology precinct where we’re seeing other tech companies set up like Tribal, Gleman IT, InSite Logic, Tango Energy, Spirit and G2 Innovation. We’re a tech company that has operations around the world, and we prove you don’t necessarily have to be in the middle of the city, driving through traffic, to be at the centre of innovation; we’re extremely excited to set up here and we hope to establish the area as a global tech leader.

You’ll receive a 25 per cent state government regional payroll tax cut. How much of an incentive was this?

In combination with the fact that Geelong offers a more affordable cost of living, and tax cuts where we don’t necessarily have to pay at the full rate we’ve been paying in a big city, we were compelled to set up operations here. In addition, we see Geelong as a very creative place, especially in design and the arts, and look forward to tapping talent there to drive innovation.

Both you and fellow co-founder Peter Nguyen-Brown were born and raised in Victoria. Does it feel good to bolster your company’s presence in your home state?

I’ve been overseas for 10 years in London and the US, but am very proud to be from Victoria and to have been able to invest and help create and grow the economy. We’re working with Monash University and forming relationships with Deakin University and other schools in the area, which we expect to have in place by March.

 And you’re a Geelong Cats fan, too?

Yes, a die-hard Geelong supporter – I spend a lot of early mornings in New York watching the games in the different time zone. It’s always a thrill and I still love seeing the Cats win.

Your goal is to “own” the market for digital experience platforms. How?

We control the chaos by offering an all-in-one solution for content, collaboration and integrations; we empower organisations and teams to create intelligent workplaces on Microsoft SharePoint, Office 365 and in Azure. With over 280 partners globally, including Microsoft, we’re able to implement, sell and continually innovate our software as we go.

How has working with senior Microsoft executives around the globe turbo-charged your success?

If, as a smaller company, you can partner with a larger established company like Microsoft that has a vast network, an established client base and credibility, this will help accelerate your business. We now have a very strong relationship with Microsoft at all levels in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific: Microsoft is the world’s top software company, and we’re excited to grow that relationship over time.

 You continue to create an amazing user experience platform in key markets that beats the competition. What’s your secret?

Continual innovation is the key to stand out and stay ahead, and that’s what we’re doing in Geelong. We see where artificial intelligence (AI) is going, and what we’re doing differently is COBOTS – collaborative bots that work alongside traditional workers, that augment and help different tasks from booking meetings to booking travel to providing advice on certain issues, all while using natural language.

How has your upbringing shaped your career?

My parents were both school principals: my mother at Movelle Primary School in St Albans and my father at Sunshine East Primary School. I’ve always been connected to the western suburbs of Melbourne, and thanks to the example set by my parents, was raised to work hard, chase my dreams and not take anything for granted.

My view on business is that you can come from any background and be successful: you don’t need to have wealthy parents. Education is the fundamental underpinning of anyone’s career and life, and that’s why we do a lot of work with schools like Monash University. As a Monash alumnus, I have a strong relationship with the university and run a global discovery program, where we take eight young students for eight days to work out of our New York office, giving them a broader view of the world.

How hard is it for Australian tech companies to make it globally?

Now, more than ever, we’re seeing Australian tech companies go global. In New York, for example, a number of financial technology (fintech) companies are succeeding, and more companies from Australia are coming out to try and sell their products globally. It’s easier now to do this, and we hope what we’re doing will help facilitate that change.

How are technology companies transforming business?

The biggest companies in the world are now tech companies: Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook. Businesses are being changed and disrupted at an unprecedented pace – whether it’s Uber transforming the taxi industry or Airbnb transforming the hotel industry – this is a massive shift unlike anything we’ve ever experienced in the commercial history of our world.

What do you love most about your role?

Two things. First, working with great people and seeing their careers develop in conjunction with the business. And second, I love seeing really happy customers: it’s an amazing feeling to know that we’ve changed the way companies work, for the better, and to be involved in something so transformational that’s never been done before.

In 2018, what will be the key pain points for Victorian software businesses to watch out for?

There’s no doubt technology is both a big help to business AND a big disrupter. What the Victorian Government is doing with investing in IT and providing incentives to attract key businesses is amazing. Having a mix of business plus information and communications technology is a way for us to ensure that we are relevant on the international stage. This is a huge challenge for Australian businesses, but also a massive opportunity to expand globally.

Any advice on how to succeed in business in a regional centre such as Geelong?

Just give it a go and get out there. The world’s a big place. You can start in Geelong, but if you’ve got great talent and a great work environment, don’t be afraid to spread your wings and take your ideas to the rest of the world.

Karl Redenbach’s tips on how to expand your business internationally in a digital world.

Tip 1. Pay Attention to AI. Tech is changing so fast. Businesses with traditional software need to keep in mind artificial intelligence and augmented reality are some of the new changes that will fundamentally shift the way they operate.

Tip 2. Network, network, network. Victorian businesses must network and connect to the Americas, Europe and Asia. You can be based in one region, take a flight and then a few hours later be in another region. Communicate on your mobile devices with people across the globe.

Tip 3. Stay current. Follow trends and make connections: this is key and there’s no excuse not to get out there.

Tip 4: Tap into state government incentives.