The art of the startup
Anton Xavier has a wealth of experience in start ups, He is the co-founder of Insight Label, a market leading, cloud-based product data platform and right now he’s using blockchain technology to help NGOs in France. But the Temuka born Kiwi is keen to share his start up advice with other New Zealand entrepreneurs.
Anton has always been an entrepreneur. His first business venture focused on teaching English to children in Hong Kong and not long after that he moved back to Australia and discovered another opportunity.
“I was living in Brisbane and my dad got sick, and because of that he had to change his diet. At the time he was really struggling to find foods that didn’t contain some of the ingredients he was trying to avoid so my brother and I started going to the supermarket and recording ingredients off the labels of different products and storing that in a database to help him out. We got asked to leave the supermarket a few times as the staff didn’t understand what we were doing. When we were finally able to explain the supermarket asked if they could buy our data, it was then that we realised that this information wasn’t being collected anywhere.”
Anton and his brother realised at this point that they had found a gap in the market and Label Insight was born. After refining their platform they wanted to collect the data on a larger scale and so took the concept to the US where it proved to be a huge success.
“On one side we were able to bring on board all the food manufacturers and show them how to use our platform to manage their data, something which has been quite challenging in the past, and then on the other side we had all the US retailers accessing this information to engage customers.”
The final piece of the puzzle for the brothers was to bring on board the US Food and Drug Administration, the governing body of the sector.
“The FDA wanted to monitor when a new product went live or when a manufacturer changed their ingredients information on the packet and our platform allowed them to do this, it allowed them to monitor the industry in real time. Previously they had sent someone out to physically look at new products or check label changes.”
Label Insight became a fundamental part of the food industry and brought a lot of transparency to the market and Anton says it also made it easier for manufacturers to deliver the information that consumers had started to demand.
“People want to know what’s in their food, they care what they are eating. It’s changed the products that go through the system. We have a load of data that shows over time, how food is changing, how there are less chemical elements and more natural ingredients.”
Along with the success of the data another cornerstone of Label Insight’s success was its company culture. Something Anton says comes directly from his Kiwi roots.
“I was born in Temuka, so small town New Zealand. My brother and I leant on our Māori roots a lot when it came to the culture of the company. We would have a lot of Americans say to us ‘Wow this is a really innovative culture’ and we were like no it’s not it’s just Kiwi culture. I think because New Zealand is a smaller country and we still live in communities, this gives a lot of our businesses a real edge when it comes to building a strong work culture. It was certainly a really important part of the competitive advantage of Label Insight.”
After successfully embedding Label Insight in the US, the brothers sold the business to global data analytics company Nielsen IQ and Anton decided it was time for his next challenge. He moved to France with his wife and started working with NGOs. It was through this work that his idea for his next business came up.
“I realised there was a lot of work that NGO’s have to do in order to fundraise and distribute money. This takes time away from the work they want to be doing with their communities. Right now I am working on a block chain solution that will hopefully help these organisations raise and distribute money more easily and allow them more time to focus on the community aspect of their work.”
Anton describes himself as a start up man, and says his expertise lies in working with companies who are in the 1-200 employee stage. Along with his NGO work in France he is keen to help Kiwi companies looking to scale their business and structure their strategy.
“The growth period of a business between 1-200 employees is a very specific time, there are specific challenges for the company to navigate and getting it right is the key to long term success. A lot of the time I see companies that are trying to be perfect in that early stage and I don’t believe in perfection. I think you need to be scrappy and you need to be out there engaging with customers and selling the value you are trying to produce from day one. But you also need a strong strategy, because that long term strategy is the backbone of your proposition and your success.”
Anton’s various businesses have all been built on technology and while he says businesses should always be investigating new technology to improve their offerings they shouldn’t be distracted by it.
“I consider myself technology agnostic. Emerging technologies are amazing and fantastic and they will create huge change, but there will always be the next technology. Business must stay focused on the key fundamentals of providing true value and finding out where that value is and how to distribute it. This will always be important no matter the technology.
Anton is one of our Kea Connect Solvers, Kiwi living offshore who are keen to help our export businesses grow. If you would like to connect with Anton or any of our other solvers today please get in touch.