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Adatree’s Jill Berry on the Highs, Lows, and Lessons in Three Years of Building Her Consumer Data Startup

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Three years ago, in June 2019, I founded Adatree with my longtime colleague and friend Shane Doolan.

It was the perfect storm of new data sharing rules introduced in Australia, our shared vision of the economy-wide global data sharing applications, our shared building experience – not one, but two! – together highly regulated organizations, and a formidable product developer/software engineer duo to execute on that vision.

If I were a gambling woman, I’d bet myself that I’d build a business someday. I could never have imagined it. But in hindsight, a successful career as a product developer coupled with my genetics as a fourth-generation CEO set me up for a pretty sensible career path.

We’re doing a quick mental inventory, we’ve got 13 team members, 45 clients, we’ve won 12 awards, we’ve claimed nearly every regulatory first in our arena, and we’ll be announcing a few “world firsts” in the coming weeks.

I don’t think this would be possible without the full commitment of Shane and me, our team, the investors and our customers. Although I suspect a healthy dose of stubbornness helped us along the way.

There have been an incredible amount of highlights and lowlights in the past three years. So many unexpected things that have tested our passion, determination, knowledge and responsiveness.

When I think back to this time, these are the main themes:

Highlights

Building our fantastic, aligned team

The Pareto principle explains how 80% of the work is usually done by 20% of the performers.

Our perfectly composed, lean, high-performing team is that 20%. We have been fortunate to attract and retain talent that is incredibly skilled, but also aligned with culture and values, which is a deal breaker.

Each team member has been carefully chosen for their ability to deliver on our mission and vision. This also applies to our investors. Our shareholder list reflects similar values: a solution-oriented attitude and commitment to success.

This is not just a team of leaders in their field. This team is more like the Chicago Bulls from the early 90’s — at Adatree we’re all just team members winning and losing together.

Pioneering

We are truly the first purpose-built CDR intermediary, first Open Energy implementation, first automation, first to meet all testing requirements at banks. We are the visionary with the plan to democratize and enable data and we are the ideal team to make it happen.

It’s nice to have the first-mover advantage. Until to do instead of just talking. To be implemented in hours instead of months. To apply beyond theory.

Even the launch of Australia’s first non-financial use case, COVID Hotspot Alert, broke new ground in demonstrating the application of data for good.

Remarkable moments.

There are too many to list, but I’ll try. Drawing our first customer.

The Sydney Uni Genesis win. Signature of Australia’s largest banking/fintech partnership.

Employee feedback saying ‘this is the best place I’ve worked’. Winning the 2021 Best Open Banking Platform award. Winning some huge RFPs.

These specific moments are etched in our memory, making all the stressful scenarios and testing moments really worth it.

Building the best offer in the market

No one should mistake us for a marketing company masquerading as a tech company. Our product is legit and we just do what we say we are going to do.

The proof is the pudding. Companies judge our platform against others in the market, see our value proposition and choose the Adatree experience time and time again.

Before coming on board as our COO, Alex Scriven worked at Equifax as the Head of Open Data. He saw the value of Adatree from the outside, but he was doubly happy (and probably relieved) to learn that the inside of the company really reflects what we say we do externally.

We have the best product on the market and I’m damn proud of that. We don’t cut any regulatory corner, we are quite risk averse and are a real enabler.

Community

This last highlight was really unexpected for me. From Fintech Australia and the Genesis programs at the University of Sydney Business School to meeting like-minded female founders and the support of founders who have walked in your shoes and learned before – the incredible fintech and tech community in which we have embedded us is unlike any other. have known.

There is no shortage of people to get you started, help you bridge the knowledge gaps, support you with challenges and do it without you being asked.

Photo: CTO Shane Doolan Mapping Adatree’s First Tech Customer Journey, June 2019

lowlights

Pioneering

No, this is not a typo. Groundbreaking is both a high and a low.

Informing the market about what CDR is, exploring applications, constantly clarifying the interpretation of a rule or standard with regulators, reporting errors to companies that share data incorrectly – these are all tasks that we as pioneers have to manage (often thankless) . It’s a fact of our reality and something we signed up for.

In the end, we’d rather be the trailblazer than the last of the lot trying to imitate and scramble for success, but it’s not without its trials and tribulations.

vaporware

One of our principles is that we don’t sell what we don’t have. And if it’s coming soon, we’ll say it’s coming soon. However, the market does not adhere to those rules.

The number of times we’ll hear “XX does that too” is alarming, especially when we know XX doesn’t support it, or that their technical or regulatory offerings are actually light years away from being available.

Selling vaporware instead of real software is dishonest and disrespectful to a prospect or customer. It also discredits our industry as a whole. In 2022, tech companies should simply be better.

While this is one of the most consistent lowlights for me, I am sure the market will see these fake players in due course.

Multiple cases of economic factors distracting from success

As much as there is a hypothesis-driven roadmap and clear goals, externalities are a fact of life.

In 3 years, Adatree has been through the COVID crisis and now we are facing a second economic downturn. But we still succeed because we are lean at our core, we are relentless in prioritizing and we tend to be conservative from an economic perspective.

I imagine my stress levels and 2022/23 strategy would be very different otherwise. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, so we just go ahead, focus and deliver.

Disrespectful behavior

You can tell from my LinkedIn profile that I’m a young, female CEO who didn’t grow up here.

I believe in a meritocracy, that the most qualified person should win. Sexist, ageist or nationalist comments still occur. When I see men physically inappropriately treating women at work events, I get goosebumps.

It’s not okay to see companies blatantly trying to take advantage of others. It doesn’t make it any easier to tackle if they’re a prospect or industry peer.

What used to absolutely upset me has now become something I act on on principle – not every customer is a good customer, not every partner is a good partner.

Bad behavior only leads to Adatree refusing to participate.

Where to?

While we have biweekly retros and reflect on our challenges and successes, our strategic outlook is strong.

The things that used to really stress me out are now water off a duck’s back. The problems with scaling the business are different, but the approach to solving the problems is similar. And in the end, I have the best team, supporters, investors and partners next to us to succeed.

My high school swim coach always said we should feel comfortable when we’re not comfortable.

The past 3 years didn’t go as planned, and the next 3 certainly didn’t either. I simply remain focused on carrying out our goals and acting with passion, priority, integrity, ethics and purpose.

That’s our North Star. And that’s how we’re going to win.

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