By David Russell
For many people managing tenants is a nightmare, but for University of South Australia alumni and graphic designer Jindou Lee it spawned an idea that would launch a company and take him to Silicon Valley.
“I had started investing in some property… (and) I couldn’t read the handwriting on an inspection report from a property manager,” Jindou told Inside South Australia during a flying visit to Adelaide last week.
So Jindou co-founded Happy Inspector, which later became HappyCo, offering a product that replaced pen-and-paper inspections with a software data-capturing solution that could be used on iPhones and iPads. He secured investment in early 2012 and took the company to San Francisco.
Now, four years later, Jindou is reinvesting in Adelaide and its highly skilled community of software developers.
“I really love Adelaide and spent a lot of my working life here,” he says. “We were outsourcing our android development to an Adelaide company – Black Storm – and had a really good relationship with them. We are now in the process of acquiring that company, so our Adelaide team has grown to six people.”
While a majority of HappyCo’s staff will continue to be based in the US, Jindou has big plans for the Adelaide team.
“We’ve taken a conscious effort to build an Adelaide team. My vision is to grow the team to 50-to-100 people over the next three-to-five years.”
Jindou sees some significant advantages in maintaining an Adelaide workforce. The talent pool is strong and more easily snapped-up because there are fewer employers to compete with than in San Francisco.
“I know a lot of smart people in Adelaide, and I know there are great graduates and great universities. I was part of a company in Adelaide called Ratbag Games, which was a pretty iconic company in the video game industry. I still talk to those people and I’ve hired a few of them.”
HappyCo now offer a suite of software products designed to increase the efficiency of operational teams and help them analyse data captured in the field.
Their customers include retail giants like Westfield, hotels like The Marriott, and restaurant and gym chains.
Jindou regularly returns to Adelaide to mentor and work with local startups. “One of the key things in Silicon Valley is this concept of paying it forward… when I went there some really amazing founders spent time with me, grabbed coffees, and asked for nothing. I try to do that for anyone that reaches out… Creating that feeling of success for other people is very important to me.”