7 digital disruptors who studied at La Trobe

Technology is transforming almost every aspect of our lives. Find out how these innovative La Trobe alumni have built their careers by digitally disrupting the status quo.

Across every industry sector, an exploding array of new digital technologies and business models are disrupting business as we know it.

Meet some of our tech-savvy La Trobe University alumni, who are driving digital revolutions in everything from health, advertising, finance and education.

1. Health disruptor: Andrew Stranieri, Co-Founder of Anidra Tech Ventures

La Trobe alumnus Andrew Stranieri is a health informatics expert who’s using medical tech to transform patient care. With the support of the La Trobe Accelerator Program, he co-founded medical tech start-up Anidra Tech Ventures to disrupt healthcare in hospitals and beyond.

His latest life-saving product is a wearable vital signs sensor, which allows busy doctors and nurses to monitor their patients’ vital signs remotely. Launched in India in 2018, the technology continuously tracks vital signs, including blood oxygen level, heart rate, pulse rate, breath rate and temperature. If a patient deteriorates, in-built algorithms raise an SMS smart alarm, which alerts doctors and nurses to check their patient’s condition.

In India, the technology is already helping medical staff manage their high patient loads across hospital and aged care settings. Andrew says it could also support the fast-growing ‘hospital in the home’ care approach in Australia, especially for patients suffering chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or cystic fibrosis – conditions that require ongoing monitoring of blood oxygen levels and respiratory rates.

‘This sort of system will allow patients to recover in their homes, while having their vital signs monitored remotely by a doctor and nurse back in the hospital. If the patient, doctor or nurse is worried about their recovery, they can pop on the device and be monitored,’ he says.

Andrew completed a PhD in Maths and Information Science (1999) at La Trobe University.

2. Finance disruptor: Chris Strode, Founder and Advisor of Invoice2go

Growing up in a family of tradespeople, and with experience running his own small business, La Trobe IT alumnus Chris Strode was well-placed to disrupt the way contractors invoice their clients. In 2002, frustrated by the lack of simple invoicing options available, Chris saw an opportunity for invoicing to make the process mobile – and launched fintech start-up Invoice2Go.

Invoice2Go is a mobile platform that allows small business owners to easily manage their invoicing online, doing away with the need for word processed templates or handwritten invoices. Business owners can use the app to send invoices and estimates on the go, and track payments, receipts and expenses.

In an interview with The Herald, Chris describes how the idea came about.

‘I started Invoice2go after a snowboarding holiday in Canada. I went back to software freelancing and the first thing I had to do was create an invoice to get paid. When I couldn’t find any easy to use invoicing products, the idea struck me,’ he says.

‘It took 12 months to build a minimum viable product. I wrote most of it in my spare time on the weekends and while on a two-hour commute travelling to and from my freelancing gig.’

When Invoice2go launched in 2005, it received over 200 installs on its first day in market. In 2017, the app was number one on the iTunes App Store. Today, it’s used by owners of all kinds of small business – from baby sitters and dog walkers, to electricians, plumbers and web designers.

Under Chris’ leadership, Invoice2Go has grown to become a top-selling invoice app for small business, with more than 250,000 small business owners in over 160 countries using the app to send $24 billion in invoices each year. What’s more, the company recently partnered with Square Capital to offer small business customers a new opportunity: mobile access to loans and funding they need to grow their business.

Chris completed a Bachelor of Business and Computing (1998) at La Trobe University.

3. Property disruptor: Marcus Price, CEO and Executive Director of PEXA

In the past, buying and selling property involved cumbersome paperwork and processes between property owners, purchasers, lawyers, conveyancers and banks. With the arrival of e-conveyancing in Australia in 2008, however, the complex process of property exchange became digitised.

Leading the move to e-conveyancing was Property Exchange Australia Ltd (PEXA), launched in 2010 under the leadership of La Trobe psychology alumnus Marcus Price. Prior to joining PEXA, Marcus developed his business acumen through senior positions with National Australia Bank, Boston Consulting Group, Veda and Dun & Bradstreet.

Under Marcus’ direction, PEXA has built a single national electronic conveyancing system, streamlining the exchange of property in Australia by allowing electronic lodgement and settlement on one online platform. Today, PEXA supports over 2.7 million successful electronic property transactions in Australia, representing an impressive $414 billion worth of property value.

Speaking to The CEO Magazine, Marcus emphasises that PEXA’s digital platform has not only changed the process of conveyancing, but also how parties interact throughout that process.

‘Suddenly, instead of fighting each other we’re collaborating with each other to get the deal done. Property transactions are [now] more about the parties getting together to make this happen for people buying and selling houses, instead of trying to fight through a series of transactions,’ he says.

A digital shift that also improves people’s behaviour? Sounds like a psychology degree cleverly applied.

Marcus completed a Master of Psychology (1990) at La Trobe University.

4. Disability disruptor: Jenna Moffat, Co-Founder and Director of Clickability

In Australia, around 6.8 million adults live with a disability or long-term health condition. And since the full roll-out of Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), people with a disability can now choose which services they spend their government payments on.

However, with thousands of services on offer, many NDIS users struggle to decide how best to allocate their money. In response, La Trobe family therapy alumna Jenna Moffat co-founded Clickability in 2014 as a way to better share information about support options available for people with a disability.

Clickability is an online disability service directory that features ratings and reviews by people who actually use the service. It gives people better information and more control over the services they choose to access. In an interview with ProBono Australia, Jenna describes how she and her Clickability co-founder sparked the idea.

‘We really saw in that work that there was a lack of consumer-focused information and a lack of peer-generated information,’ she says.

‘One of the things we noticed was around the quality of services. All these providers were having audits, but that information just wasn’t made public.’

Having launched in Victoria, Clickability has since expanded to NSW, ACT and QLD and will continue growing. Jenna says the company aims to follow the NDIS roll-out, fulfilling market opportunity across Australia one location at a time.

‘TripAdvisor and Yelp started with one geo-location and waited until they saturated before they moved onto the next, so we’re following that model.’

Through Clickability, Jenna reminds us that digital disruption can not only change how we do business, but improve social outcomes, too.

Jenna completed a Graduate Certificate in Family Therapy (2013) at La Trobe University.

5. Legal disruptor: Mira Stammers, Founder of Legally Yours

After working for seven years as a banking lawyer in Melbourne and London, La Trobe law alumna Mira Stammers knew something had to change – not only for her, but also for the legal profession. Around her, talented women were leaving law when they become mothers due to a lack of part-time hours. And on the client-side, the perception of lawyers’ expensive hourly rates was creating price uncertainty.

In 2013, to fix these problems, Mira disrupted the old legal business models with a digital solution. She launched Legally Yours, one of the world’s first online legal marketplaces where clients connect freely to virtual fixed-fee lawyers.

‘Clients loved not having to pay hourly rates and lawyers loved the flexibility of being able to work the hours that suited them,’ she explains, in an interview with La Trobe.

‘Initially the panel was made up of mostly female sole practitioners, but it’s now grown to have an even balance of men and women, from sole practitioners right through to Collins Street firms.’

Mira sold Legally Yours in 2017, the same year she was named in Asia Law Portal’s ‘30 people to watch in the business of law’. The 2015 Women in Law finalist now lectures on legal entrepreneurship and NewLaw at the La Trobe Law School. Her current research interests continue to explore the interface between law and tech, such as how artificial intelligence might address gaps in access to legal services.

Mira completed a Bachelor of Behavioural Science (2002), Post Graduate Diploma in Applied Psychology (2003) and a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) (2006) at La Trobe University.

6.  Education disruptor: Sean Richards, Co-Founder and Director, Schoolbox

Visit any neighbourhood at school drop-off time and you’ll find a vibrant hub where parents, grandparents, teachers, children and young people come together. But with busy lifestyles and limited availability – parents balancing work and study, kids juggling after-school activities and teachers handling multiple subjects – coordinating all parties can be challenging.

La Trobe IT alumnus Sean Richards recognised the potential for technology to help school communities connect. He saw an opportunity to do away with paper permission forms and school reports, and to centralise teachers’ lesson plans, learning resources, assessment and reporting. And he imagined it happening within an online space where students could learn digitally, too.

In 2011, Sean’s tech company Alaress launched Schoolbox, an all-in-one learning management system, community portal and engagement platform to link teachers, students and parents. Uniquely, Schoolbox keeps everything in one place: textbooks, timetables and grades sit handily alongside as information about co-curricular activities and pastoral care.

Using Schoolbox, parents can instantly see how their son or daughter is doing at school and what classes are coming up. And teachers can share resources year-on-year, building ‘living courses’ and saving time on preparation.

In an interview with The Educator, Sean explains how Schoolbox also breaks down barriers within schools, creating consistency in assessment and grading by connecting and sharing student reporting data across their school.

‘At the moment we have an environment in which two different teachers in the same department teach with different resources and assign different assessments, grading students in different ways,’ Sean says.

‘[With Schoolbox], we can now do reporting for a school and look at a cohort of classes and find out why one class is performing better than another class.’

Today, Schoolbox engages over 35,000 teachers and more than 180,000 parents around the world. The platform has transformed curriculum delivery and student learning for over 700 school campuses, spread across six countries.

Sean completed a Bachelor of Information Systems (2005) at La Trobe University.

7. Advertising disruptor: Doug Pearce, CEO of Doohken

From video ads in our news feed, to email campaigns and #sponcon on Instagram, digital advertising has a stronghold on our online lives. But when more than half of milennials and Gen Zs actively block ads and unsolicited marketing content, digital advertising’s cut-through is uncertain.

Take a step outside, though, and business in the Digital Out-Of-Home (DOOH) advertising sector is booming. From billboards to digital kiosks, screen-based content is now placed ‘in every location imaginable’ – and demand is accelerating.

Trends like this prompted arts alumnus Doug Pearce to lead Doohken, a company that’s building a China-wide collection of prime-location smart screens. Through Doohken, screen owners will connect with advertisers who want to display content, and receive support in marketing, measurement and ad targeting.

A key feature of Doohken is its programmatic buying approach. Through it, computers use real-time data analytics to automate which ads to buy and how much to pay for them.

‘I'm excited about the introduction of measurement technology to make digital OOH more accountable and performance driven,’ Doug says.

Doohken’s approach truly disrupts the way advertising is delivered in China and builds on Doug’s 30 years of experience leading creative and media businesses. Among them are leadership roles at China’s Omnicom Media Group, Accenture, Starcom and advertising agency Leo Burnett.

Doug completed a Bachelor of Arts (1979) at La Trobe University.

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