​Regional startup Rundl targets Australia's geographic isolation

Hailing from a country town in the centre of New South Wales, Rundl has taken on geographic isolation, developing a platform that allows for multi-party business collaboration.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

583 kilometres north-west of Sydney by road, in a town called Nyngan in the Bogan Valley, lies service delivery startup Rundl.

Having formed out of necessity, Rundl is in the business of breaking down the service delivery barriers associated with geographic isolation.

Co-founder and director Richard Bootle said Rundl initially grew out of a country law firm, Law Lab, which started losing its market share to city-based conveyancers and other lawyers that he said were using "revolutionary" technology such as email and fax.

Bootle said his team soon realised that if they did not actually start engaging, business would fade away.

"We then managed to secure a very large Commonwealth government project and out of the learning of that we then got some large corporate clients on board as well," he said.

"We initially went about trying to solve workflow for high volume work but learning that, and through [performing] conveyancing at scale, it didn't matter what individual stream or how efficient you made that -- you're still working in isolation."

Bootle said that due to isolation, the government client was still left project managing various professionals all around the country.

"We tried to get an off-the-shelf product that would help us do that and there was nothing, so we started building Rundl," he said.

"The client couldn't just come in because they were 500 kilometres away and the agent was 1,000 kilometres away. We faced geographic isolation and what we built was a tool to solve that.

"In the world that we live in now, a sense of distance is no longer about kilometres, it's about how far you are from your iPhone."

Bootle said that if the taxi industry had built an app that shows where its drivers are, they would never have been "Ubered".

"I feel the same with all large service providers -- if you're not delivering your service to your client's phone, someone else will and you'll be gone," he said.

Since launching in early 2015, Rundl has taken on a number of users from a wide range of Australian companies including: LJ Hooker, Connective, Ray White, PLAN Australia, Aussie, Propertybuyer, and Gain Financial.

In February, Rundl partnered with global electronic signature platform DocuSign to enable users to complete more end-to-end transactions securely online.

Additionally, more than 5,000 repeat users have collaborated on transactions worth a total of AU$5.2 billion through the Rundl platform this year alone.

Currently, Rundl is the startup community in Nyngan.

"Maybe in the longer term the Bogan Valley will be the Silicon Valley of the future," Bootle said.

"There's a couple of other people starting to do some interesting things and we're working with some people, one of whom is doing an app for councils to open up some of their information.

"Maybe in another 20 years we'll get this really cool startup community around us."

On the issue of regional innovation in Australia, Bootle said there is one major thing the federal government can do to help: Get the National Broadband Network (NBN) out faster and wider.

"Internet was certainly an issue for us early on and even now it would be great to get better internet access," he said.

"That does a couple of things, but it will certainly help spur innovation in the country. [Lack of internet access] prevents people in some locations from being able to really innovate and to take their service from where they're located to a wider audience.

"Everyone has talked in the past about allowing cities to start metro-changing and sea-changing, allowing people to move out of cities. But people can't move out of cities until they can deliver or receive services in their location, no matter where that is, and you cannot get that until you've got the software that enables that service delivery."

Historically, those from non-CBD locations have migrated towards the capital cities to seek employment, but Bootle believes that with technology there is no need for geographic closeness.

"In my mind it's about teaching kids that you don't have to move to cities, you can with good education, a supportive environment, and good internet around you -- whatever your business idea is you can create your business idea and then start delivering it," he said.

"If you can get to the cloud, you can get to the world."

Earlier this month, the Australian standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry recommended the federal government commit to the continuation of its mobile blackspot program to lay the required infrastructure foundations for innovation in the agriculture sector.

The Smart Farming Inquiry into agricultural innovation made a total of 17 recommendations to the government that focused on the emerging agricultural technologies, key barriers to their adoption, and what the government can do to remove or reduce these barriers.

According to committee chair Rowan Ramsey, the agriculture sector must be able to make the most of the innovation boom in order to support productivity growth and to maintain its competitiveness.

"At the core of the agricultural innovation boom are individual farm businesses that make decisions to adopt new technologies," Ramsey said. "If the government wishes to support innovation and growth, it must support these businesses in technology adoption."

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