At the age of 11 I received my first computer.
An Apple 2e. I was furious, everyone else had Commodore 64's! I learnt to accept it, and indeed loved it. Things really opened up when I joined the local Apple user group and each month they lent out a 300 baud modem. I still remember my first connection to Telstra's (Telecom at the time) "Viatel" service. When I handed the modem back I had rung up several hundred dollars worth on my parents phone bill...
Running my own BBS from home
I convinced my parents to get a 2nd phone line and started my own BBS connected to FidoNet. Great learning experience that introduced me and my naturally curious mind to the world of Hacking and phone Phreaking. Overseas BBS's had the best "text files" from which to learn from, and I became friends with the "Sysop" of "Info Addict" - the largest repository of text files in Western Europe. I later stole the name (it was cool).
Joined the ISP "Octa4". First job - translate centrebet.com into 4 Scandinavian languages.
I was thrown into the deep end at Octa4! I joined the company as a Web Developer and I very quickly learnt about the special Scandinavian characters and how to use them in HTML . This was the beginning of my journey with online gambling websites.
Established an online gaming service.
"[email protected]" was a first for the company and helped tap into the burgeoning online video gaming scene that was happening at the time. I ran all the gaming servers and online forums in my spare time, as well as ran several LAN parties based out of the office. Once Octa4 was sold to iiNet, I took the community and setup Gamers Underground, which went strongly for more than 10 years.
Centrebet.com has its' first soccer world cup.
At this stage in the online gambling scene there were only a few players, with CentreBet being one of the biggest. Octa4 had coded the website using an obscure scripting language with a single threaded pipeline to the back-end. We thought it would be cool if when a bet was placed the server would audibly play a Mac OS system noise (the "quack") - it really helped explain to the boss how much money he was making! Once the event started, we were swamped. The site was maxed out most of the time with constant "quacks". This was the start of something big, and I was prompted to the role of Web Project Manager (but in reality it was also Product Manager and Lead Developer) with primary responsibility to enable CentreBet to handle the load of the next big event.
Freelancing as InfoAddict Online Solutions.
Once Centrebet was sold I decided to move on from Octa4 and did some freelance work for the team that used to own Centrebet. Myself and Jamie Skella designed and created multibet.com and updated the design and UX for centreracing.com.
Here comes the Russian Mafia!
In 2004 Multibet.com was hit by a large DDoS attack from the Russian mafia that took out the site and nearly crippled the business (we were even featured on Four Corners!). The research I conducted into how to handle these situations in the future was to become invaluable.
2005Multibet and Centreracing
Going full time for Multibet and CentreRacing.
With Multibet and CentreRacing taking up so much of my time, I decided it made more sense to just work for them, and took up a role as their Technology Manager, working remotely to administer their server infrastructure and update their digital presence (just web at the time, although we did dabble in those early days in SMS betting). My most memorable experience in this time was completely re-doing the entire server stack (Linux/Apache/MySQL at the time) and creating customer monitoring tools that meant I was alerted before an issue rather than after.
The start of the Tatt's journey.
In 2009 Tatts Group bought CentreRacing and offered me a job as Head of Online Strategy. My purview was to amalgamate and provide direction to the current fragmented digital footprint of Tatts Group. Our first task was to establish a fixed odds bookmaking capability for Tatts (previously they had been only reselling Tabcorp's product) utilising our knowledge of the corporate bookmaking world.
The formation of Tatts Online
Myself and my boss at the time, Mike Miller, developed a proposal to start a new shared service for Tatts - bringing all the pockets of digital expertise throughout the business to one place. The existing Technology division was large and stifled, so being a seperate team seemed to be the best plan. The board approved the move and Tatts Online was formed.
Creation of UNiTAB.com and update of Tattersalls.com.au
Our first task was to bring the online presence of UNiTAB into the 21st century. At this stage, the website was still looking very "90's" and desperately needed a refresh. We aided both the wagering and lottery online teams to ensure a common technology was utilised, meaning both teams could help each other.
Became head of Tatts Online and launch Tatts.com
With the departure of Mike Miller in May of 2011, I was offer the role of CEO of Tatts Online. The directive from the top was that all digital staff were to move underneath myself and were were to work on a "common wallet" that meant that you could use your digital account to buy from either the wagering business in UNiTAB or the various lottery businesses we owned - all seamlessly. Tatts.com was born.
Tatts Online growth.
In the years that followed, the team grew from its roots of 3 people, to over 50 - rapidly expanding with the new incoming CEO, Robbie Cooke and his focus on Digital. The native mobile apps team integrated lotteries sales into the product and we became the first company in the world to offer a native lotto experience all the way through to purchasing. The team had your traditional web developers, but also BA's, Product Managers, Project Managers, a UX team and a Digital Marketing team focusing on SEM and SEO. We had a one stop digital shop brewing.
Robbie Cooke and the separation of Tatts.com
With Robbie's arrival and the ramping up of digital staffing levels also came an independent analysis of both the wagering and lotteries business and if they should remain coupled in the form of Tatts.com. The result was a resounding no - wagering people never really played lotteries unless there was a big jackpot, and lotteries people did not want to be associated with wagering. The decision was made to create individual websites for both sides of the business. At the same time, the structure of the group was updated and my title changed to Chief Online Officer (my responsibilities stayed the same - just with more people!).
With the online team growing at a rapid rate, the online team were the ideal candidates for the Agile transformation taking place at Tatts. We split into product teams aligned to each business unit and formalised our agile tooling and methodology.
UBET is born!
With the split of Tatts.com it was seen as a good time to assist with the brand confusion in the marketplace around TattsBet (which was UNiTAB and is branded TAB in retail - the same as Tabcorp in NSW/VIC). After a long branding exercise, UBET was decided upon as the new brand for the wagering business. Out job was to create brand new digital apps for the business; web, mobile and tablet. iOS and Android. Using the latest tech, we created a responsive website and new apps and launch in April of 2015.
The merging of Technology and Digital and the move to Innovation
Once the Agile transformation for the digital team was done and the UBET site launched, the decision was made to move the team back into the Technology division (which was now under new management and undergoing its own transformation). After dragging the digital presence of Tatts Group from a handful of people to staffing levels of nearly 70, and with the responsibility of digital assets turning over more than a billion dollars a year for both wagering and lotteries, my journey was complete and I was looking forward to the next challenge. After discussions with Tatts management I decided to take a role heading up a newly formed Innovation team. Our goal was to not only provide a mechanism for innovative ideas to flourish at Tatts, but to head up investigation into some key "edge" projects to ensure the business stays in front of the competition.
eSports research project
Whilst heading up the Innovation team at Tatts, I was asked to also lead the research into a potential new business unit within Tatts - dedicated to eSports. We spent 6 months delving into great detail what the eSports scene was like, with Australia as our specific focus. We found that there was a large supply gap in the AU market, and the potential was certainly there for a new business. We had a 4 hour pitch session with the CEO, CIO and CMO which was extremely well received, but just after that news broke of a potential buyout from TABCorp (whom already had a presence in this space) and the idea was put on hold.
Mergers, buyouts and uncertainty
With the business in a holding pattern, and no clear time-frame for when a decision would be made on the eSports business idea, I decided to move on and focus my time on the startup idea I had been working on external to Tatts. It had been an interesting ride at Tatts and I learnt so much there, but was glad to be moving on. I had started as a minor player and moved all the way to the C-level, and at the same time modernised the digital capability at the business to a stage where it could compete - not only with others in the market, but internally as well, showing the business the way forward truly is digital.
My side project finally gets focus - and goes live!
During the last year at Tatts I began work on what is now know as Ultim. Ultim is a ketogenic meal replacement shake, that marries the convenience of a shake with the ability to stay in ketosis. The last few years at Tatts had not been kind on my body, with stress and a lack of time leading to poor eating choices and an unflattering waistline! I decided to attack this problem like any other I encounter - do the research and find the optimum solution. The ketogenic diet seemed to be the best, and was increasingly being validated by all the newer reports coming out. Put simply, I had to come up with an easy way to stay in ketosis (75% good fats, 20% protein, 5% carbs) as I found there were so many hidden sugars/carbs in the food that was readily available to me. The end result is a shake that allows me to perfectly hit my macros, that taste good and is easy to consume, and has a few added benefits with the addition of certain nootropics that work well together with a brain fed by ketones. I was losing a kilo a week without any exercise and because of the satiating nature of this way of eating, I was never hungry. That's when I decided to share this and sell it online, and we are in the process of setting this up now.
Blockchain is the future
With Ultim underway, I began to renew my focus on my technology passion areas - focusing extensively on the burgeoning world of blockchain. I gravitated towards the Ethereum chain, given the power and flexibility of smart contracts, and starting researching everything I could. Being such a new tech space, things are changing rapidly - which I love. I've now been mining for more than a year, have invested in various chains and tokens, and have done a deep dive into the world of ICO's (Initial Coin Offerings - similar to an IPO but in the blockchain space). The potential for disruption not only to existing businesses, but to society as a whole is huge with this tech, and I can't wait to see what it all holds.
I've been brought in as an adviser for the Skrilla eSports ICO. Given my background in digital wagering, my research piece on eSports and my analysis work on blockchain and ICO's, this is a perfect fit. Skrilla is the only licensed, eSports-focused bookmaker, operating a skill based Daily Fantasy eSports (DFS) platform globally. The ICO - SkrillaCoin (SKR) - is being created to address issues inherent in existing centralised betting products. The benefits include; improved trust and transparency, enhanced liquidity through global player pools, reduced fees, and incentivised behaviours (participation, referrals, and social sharing) that grow the network effects for the benefit of all members.
Formation of Horizon State
I was a foundation member at Horizon State, and began work in an research and innovation capacity in its formative days pre-ICO. Horizon State is leveraging blockchain technology to redesign the way that opinion is solicited, votes are cast, and decisions are made. Building atop of distributed ledger technology, we’ve created a digital ballot box which cannot be hacked, and is many multiples cheaper to run than traditional voting processes. Our technology underpins the world's first public blockchain based voting system in wide use, developed for use by MiVote members.
Horizon State - 18 months in
After the hype and chaos of the ICO, I settled down into being the primary point guy for all things "HST" token. This involved ensuring we were showing up properly and branded in the crypto ecosystem, and making sure the token economics were functioning as intended. Apart from this, my main focus was making sure the token was trade-able on exchanges around the world. This called for a listing strategy, 3rd party engagement, regulatory checks and dodging companies of lesser reputation. The culmination of this work was the listing of HST on Bittrex. The full story from this period of time in my working life can be found on my medium post here.
The new Horizon State
Whilst a disagreement between advisors led to the demise of the first version of the company, a group of passionate supporters banded together and formed a new company and purchased the IP and brand assets.
In an effort to kickstart the new business, they offered me the Chief Operating Officer role. My mission was to follow lean start-up principles and lean on my extensive digital experience to take a fresh look at the company as a whole and find our ideal fit in the market.
Working with the CEO, development, devops, sales and customer delivery, I streamlined the internal processes and automated many of the manual procedures to ensure we were ready to scale.
My main ongoing responsibility post kickstarting of the business was the product roadmap and ensuring both a steady platform improvement and concurrent remove of past technical debt to ensure modern methodologies were being used. If we had to scale up to handle a large election, we needed to be ready.
What appeals to me
Working with good people on interesting things.
It seems simple, but in reality its not often in our careers where you have an achievable challenge in front of you and you are just able to tackle it with common sense and intelligence. There is nothing worse than seeing smart people hamstrung.
Solving unique problems.
I love working with teams "breaking new ground". It is so satisfying to know that you are creating something that has never been thought of before and is completely untested in the market. That is where true innovation lives.
Doing something you can be passionate about.
There's nothing worse than getting up in the morning and dreading going to work. You need to believe in what you are doing.
Has to be cutting edge Digital.
Given my background and passion for the space (both at work and in my spare time - its all the same!) I have to be working with the latest and great tech. It's moving so fast now that you need to be on top of things to keep up.
Creating something from nothing
The biggest buzz I got from my experience at Tatts was growing a large team from just the seed of an idea. It is immensely satisfying looking back knowing that you were right, it was a good idea!
I've been around the digital revolution from the start. This isn't a career for me, its what I do and who I am.
I love to abide by the rule of common sense. It's amazing how often this doesn't happen. If you are fair and open to people, you get the same in return.
Passionate and Inspiring
If you truly love what you do, you cannot help but be passionate about it. You fight for it.
We are living in exponential times. This is a concept that many find difficult to grasp, but it is critical to understanding where we are heading.
The future isn't some abstract concept we used to hear about, we are now living it - and it's changing everything. What a time to be alive.
Knowing the right course of action in any situation.
I'm not one to stand on ceremony or make decisions by committee. I like getting things done and seeing the results (and therefore learning from them).
Relating to people on both an intellectual and emotional level.
Having a decent level of emotional intelligence is critical in managing diverse groups of people like you find in the Digital space. A UX person is doing to respond differently from a high end developer or graphic designer. It's just human nature. The key is understanding that each situation is unique.
If you aren't having fun with your work, you probably shouldn't be there. You need to see every day as an awesome opportunity to do something new and exciting.
Management of large teams.
Managing Tatts Online was a rewarding journey. I strongly dislike micromanaging and feel that if you need to get involved down to that level, you probably don't have the right people in the role. Hire good people and let them do what they do - you should just understand the bigger picture and remove any roadblocks.
I've built large transactional websites from scratch, as well as completely architected and ran the server infrastructure on which the site lived. I've done everything at and ISP except data comms, and have setup complex system monitoring arrays to ensure I could control everything remotely. That was fun, but what I want to do now is help the next generation realise their potential in this every change space.