Rory from Propeller aero holding a drone.

Bringing the Internet to Worksites

Date Published:
October 2, 2016

AMA with Rory from Propeller Aero.

Blackbird Ventures host weekly AMAs over on The Sunrise. Tune in Thursdays from 1pm AEST to take part or sign up to be notified via email.

Richard Prangell Propeller seems to solve an interesting and unique business problem in an innovative way, but what gets you up every morning? Is there a “big picture” problem that you’re trying to solve in the long term?

Rory San Miguel I literally have the best job in the world — that gets me up.

Spend time on any quarry/landfill/construction site/mine etc and it is like going back through the ages…complete with the tea towel draped over the CRT monitor and the wobbly fan. I think Propeller has a pretty real chance at bringing the best bits of the internet to all these people/sites and really improve some of the fundamentals of these industries: safety, productivity, environmental impact.

Samantha Wong You and Francis had only known each other for a few months before starting Propeller together and yet have some of the best founder chemistry together that I’ve seen. Usually you only get that after knowing each other a long time. What do you attribute that to? Why did you choose each other as co-founders?

Rory San Miguel I’d put it down to the same ground rules: lots of respect for the other and as much as possible keeping emotion out of the daily grind. It is incredibly hard to offend either of us, and I think that lets you build some pretty strong chemistry: you can get straight to the limit of the relationship without the usual trial and error. Knowing that the consequences of breaking those limits will be temporary and talked about immediately takes away all the fear.

We also have a great little trick for when we are furiously arguing into a stalemate: Swap roles: take the other persons argument and fight it — 30 seconds later we both know what the outcome needs to be.

Rayn Ong What’s the one key thing about Propeller your prospective investors react positively to, when you were raising capital in the valley? Any tips for Aussie startups considering to raise in US, given your recent experience?

Rory San Miguel I’d put it down to a) seeing business start small with Propeller but then end up with dozens of sites and users on the platform, and across a few key industries and b) our unique solution to the accuracy concerns of these businesses: the Aeropoints.

Both those things helped us lock in the DJI partnership and that is a decent accolade for a small team like ours — and helped our investors.

Raising in US: Lean on networks to get meetings then show tonnes of personality (esp when metrics are :/)

Nathan Adler: Your team has grown rapidly over the past 12–18 months. What did you find were your biggest challenges in hiring for a growing tech startup in Australia, and what would be your advice to others who are looking to do the same?

Rory San Miguel We are extremely lucky being based in Sydney — lots of talent, sensible salaries and we are just getting to the point with businesses like Atlassian where employees there can think about moving on after 5+ yrs under the belt (soz @MCB).

In saying that, our biggest challenge is competing with the likes of Canva, Atlassian, etc for candidates on the market. Salaries are definitely lower, risk higher — so you need to be finding people with that appetite and giving them plenty to hold on to.

Advice is to find people who actually want to work on your problem. It sounds obvious but lots of people take jobs only for the money and they are often not the people who will have the biggest impact.

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