I don’t know too many people that come from the US to Australia and create a startup, usually it’s the other way around. But Nick Lavidge isn’t your regular entrepreneur. As the founder of Alley, a leading ‘anti-agency’ that harnesses technology and big data to get the best results for customer retention and acquisition, Nick has successfully disrupted the traditional agency model on a global scale.
By utilising big data for prospecting new customers as well as retaining existing customers, Alley are able to serve the right person, the right ad at the right time in the right context. At a mere nine team members, when a usual agency with that kind of growth would have closer to 20, Nick and his business model are basically as smart and lean as you can get. When a former client recommended Nick our services, I knew he had a unique story as well as a valuable perspective on the entrepreneurial landscape that people would find interesting and useful.
I sat down with Nick to find out a little bit more behind the guy that works 100 hours weeks without even blinking.
Nick is originally from Phoenix Arizona, US. He grew up in a very entrepreneurial family, watching his dad run his own business, which he grew to over a 100 employees and stills runs today. Nick equates a lot of that influence to his own entrepreneurial pursuits.
“It was cool growing up to see that. I saw the pros and cons of running a business as well. It definitely wasn’t all easy. He didn’t really hit the tipping point until I was out of the house at about 18 or so. It was cool going in as a kid and seeing your dad had created 50 plus jobs at the time and these people were putting their kids through school with that money. That all came from his ideas and his work. So I had a lot of respect for him. I thought it was cool that he could create something that would help so many people.
“I do think my innate abilities really work well for me being an entrepreneur, but I don’t think I ever would have gone down that path if I didn’t see him do it. All of his friends pretty much owned their own businesses too. I was surrounded by people that didn’t just talk about doing stuff, they did it.”
Having successfully run Alley for two years now, Nick puts much of his success down to his ability to work hard. While his wife, Katie – also an entrepreneur in the corporate fitness industry, is much more about well being and being present, Nick finds it hard to slow down.
“I was a curious child. I’ve always been down the middle of being analytical and creative. I really loved math and how things made sense through numbers, but i was also very artistic, always drawing or painting.
“I don’t feel like I have many natural talents, whether personal or professional, but being a hard worker always came naturally to me. I can do an 100-hour work week without flinching. I love what I do and to me it’s not work.”
Nick and his wife originally moved to Australia in 2011 because he was headhunted by online sports retailer, 2XU, to manage their digital and eCommerce department. When the idea to start Alley came a few years later, they decided to stay, primarily for two reasons. One, because the eCommerce market was thriving and he could see a great opportunity to drive multiple brands, and two, because he and his wife loved the quality of life Australia had on offer. But when it comes to scaling the business, he thinks globally.
“It depends what type of company you want to be. We started off thinking we’ll just stay here in Australia, but we realised very quickly that while we were offering a premium service here that could beat out everyone in the world – so the decision to go international followed quickly.”
“From an international sense, the US makes things a little bit easier. The biggest challenge in Australia is that available talent is limited, which I believe is a population size issue. There’s literally more demand than there are people for the digital industry. It’s hard to find great people here. In saying that, we have an amazing team at Alley, all ex client side marketers which gives us a competitive edge.”
Much like in the States, the term entrepreneur is beginning to become quite diluted and over popularised here. Nick says to him it’s a bit of a pet peeve but Australia is a lot better than the states when it comes to being humble.
“It’s one reason I enjoy Australia’s business landscape. I got a bit of a bad taste in my mouth when I was in college because everyone you’re surrounded by is trying to be the next person on the cover of Inc. magazine. They were doing it for the fame rather than for the business.”
“Yes I’m an entrepreneur but I don’t necessarily label myself as that. I really enjoy business. It’s the most complicated game of common sense. There’s so much to know and that’s really cool. I’m really passionate about running a company but I don’t do it for the fame or the money.”
“It’s ok, everything’s going to be fine. I set really high expectations for myself which I pretty much never meet, and if I do meet them I extend them out another 100 metres. I’d tell myself and anyone else to just chill out. Business is like riding a rollercoaster. There will be ups and downs but over time they will feel less intense. Really think to yourself, is this going to be a big issue or not in a year from now? Also ask yourself, does my worrying about it change or help the situation? If the answer is no, then drop it and move on.”
If you’d like to know more about how we can assist you with your communications and PR strategy, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org - Samantha Dybac, Founder, Sammway.