When starting his software development business in 2007, NetEngine Founder, Bruce Stronge, had a vision. He wanted to build things that solved real problems – and it was a vision he wanted to protect. Unlike many tech start-ups, Bruce was cautious not to take on so many investors that his values would be diluted. A trap that many start-ups fall into, Bruce said “a company can very easily lose its way.”
Eight years later, Bruce tells Dynamic Business that he is “proud” to have been able to stay true to his vision and values having delivered welcome solutions across a range of industries from travel, health and recruitment. Recently experiencing a period of rapid growth, NetEngine’s Brisbane offices are now bursting at the seams with 30 developers and they are gearing for expansion into Sydney, the United States, London and Vietnam.
“It certainly makes sense for us to have a presence in the US, that’s where so much of the action happens in technology. But we’ll stay true to our mission and try not to get caught up in the hype. We’ll still be a business that started in Brisbane, creating software that looks and feels great while making a difference. That won’t change no matter how big we get or where we are operating,” Bruce said.
Now in a strong commercial position, Bruce says he’s extending his vision to solve real problems to his passion for providing solutions to developing countries. Born and schooled in Zimbabwe, Bruce has seen first-hand the huge gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ in the world and the challenges faced by developing nations.
“There is a huge capacity for technology, particularly open-source technology to assist the developing world, and I think we have an obligation to use our skills and expertise to solve problems in the developing world.”
Backing up his mantra with real action, NetEngine is the Brisbane host of Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK), a global initiative that brings together technologists to create practical, open source solutions for community and global challenges.
Over the last two years, NetEngine has organised crisis mapping projects in the wake of various natural disasters around the world.
“Vast areas of the planet’s land-masses aren’t mapped, mainly because the majority of mapping applications are powered by commercial sponsorships and advertising. These sponsorships don’t exist in most areas of the developing world,” said Bruce.
Through RHoK, NetEngine has provided vital crisis mapping for communities affected by the earthquakes in Nepal, the Ebola crisis in West Africa, and for the Philippines during Typhoon Hagupit last year. During the typhoon, hackers used aerial and satellite imagery, geospatial platforms and advanced visualisations to provide up to date maps.
Speaking of the typhoon, Bruce said “according to the Red Cross, without crowd-sourced crisis mapping, the death toll would have been higher.”
Most recently, NetEngine has been in talks with community leaders from South Sudan to discuss the creation of an application that could send donations from Australia to Africa without incurring the 10% fees charged by money transfer agencies.
And there has been great response to the RHoK event, the next of which is due to be held on November 28-29 in Brisbane. Here, over 100 technologists are expected to attend.
“I think the tech sector do want to use their skills to help others, but they often don’t know how. With events like RHoK we make it easy for people to use their skills for good,” Bruce said.
Bucking the trend and sticking to his guns – a vision shared appears to have become a vision multiplied.