For over two decades, Australian technology entrepreneur Ron Creevey has been sprinting from business to business with one destination in mind – innovation, which is transient by its very nature.
He’s founded a series of companies including social network YuuZoo, digital media agency Moment Media, and mobile payment application NeZii. Not only that, he owns the exclusive rights to a number of technologies – including local.mobi, which rapidly deploys mobile websites – and is a major shareholder (47.5 percent) of Heath Ledger’s production company The Masses.
And he’s doing it all with barely a moment of rest. Admirably, he’s not driven by an unquenchable desire to maximise profits; in fact, each business starts off as a passion project and inevitably becomes a multimillion-dollar business.
He says with conviction, “Wealth does not motivate me. Innovation does. I’m always envisaging a future where technology is different, and my drive is to make that a reality.”
A high profile, yet down-to-earth serial entrepreneur, Creevey attributes his success to the creativity inherent in his personality and his eagerness to pursue projects with a promising future.
“I focus on ideas that wow me. If I’m wowed by a technology concept, I know it’s going to knock everybody over once it hits the market,” says Creevey.
He does not, however, pursue every opportunity that shows up at his front door; rather, he focuses on ideas that have long-term potential.
“Ninety-nine percent of business owners – especially, entrepreneurs – chase quick fixes. They’re seeking ideas that will bring a million bucks into their pockets in the shortest period of time. I look at the long-term potential, the impact the technology will have on existing industries. It’s about disruption.”
A history of Creevey’s career
So where did it all begin? Creevey grew up in the western suburbs of Sydney. Leaving school at 17, he sought to become a stockbroker only to realise it was the wrong career fit. Next on the list was becoming a technology inventor.
He joined Australia’s first officially sanctioned internet service provider Magna Data in the 1990s, where worked alongside internet entrepreneurs Jason Ashton, Mark Cramer-Roberts and Vivian Stewart. It was during this period that Creevey’s career pathway as a serial technology entrepreneur was been laid. After selling his share of the company for $4 million to Davnet, Creevey moved on to pursue a series of ventures.
In 2006, Creevey founded a social network for target groups under the moniker YuuZoo. The name signifies an individual (‘you’) living in a zoo – or in other words, a world that needs structure. In 2007, Creevey moved the company from Australia to Singapore in pursuit of better commercial opportunities; and in October this year, YuuZoo announced its backdoor listing on the Singapore Stock exchange with a valuation of $500 million.
Today, YuuZoo operates in the US, Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and Mexico. The company’s current chairman and chief executive is Thomas Zilliacus, whom Creevey met during his three years in Singapore trying to get the business off the ground.
Creevey says Zilliacus is a valuable member of the team not only because of the extensive connections he’s made while running the Asian operations of mobile phone company Nokia, but because he is just as driven as Creevey.
He admits he wanted to step back from managing the daily operations of YuuZoo so he can pursue other projects.
More recently, the father of three partnered with MTV co-founder and Playboy former chief executive, Robert Friedman, to launch Moment Media – a digital media agency that specialises in managing a client’s mobile, social, payment and content issues.
Moment Media owns local.mobi, a technology company currently building websites for Carlton United Breweries (CUB) at a rate of 30 websites a day and growing. The company is a major shareholder of The Masses, a film production company co-founded by the late Australian actor Heath Ledger.
The Masses allows Moment Media to employ an artistic approach to content creation, from feature films and music videos to content specifically designed for mobile devices. The inspiration behind Moment Media, Creevey explains, was the desire to “merge the arts with advanced technology.”
“Traditional media is becoming outdated and I wanted to focus on where technology is heading not just where it is today.”
Moment Media is also the co-owner of NeZii, a soon-to-be-unveiled technology that allows payments to be made and receipts to be issued via mobile devices. Co-founded by Creevey and Facebook’s Eduardo Saverin, NeZii is set to disrupt current mobile payment systems for ‘all the average Joes of the world’ or tradesmen who are time-poor and traditional in the way they operate their businesses.
Creevey paints a scenario to explain the application’s utility. He says, often plumbers are called during emergency circumstances where clients don’t have the right amount of cash ready. Under these circumstances, client may prefer to pay using their credit cards. But rather than carrying EFTPOS machines on their waist belts, plumbers can simply use NeZii on their Android or iOS device, where they can just type in the client’s email address and an automatic e-invoice pops up. The client either manually provides their credit card details or scans the card using the application.
“It functions as a scanning device so there’s no need to carry around EFTPOS machines, and it also invoices clients automatically. We’ll be launching the application in the UK, North America, and Australia, and over the next 60 days we envisage the technology being widely adopted in these markets. We already have a major banking partner in Australia that we will be announcing closer to the launch date,” says Creevey.
He adds, “It’s such a fantastic product that enables every average Joe out there to run his business efficiently.”
A day in the life of Ron Creevey
Given the demands of his career, it’s hard to imagine how Creevey fits everything into his day. He assures, however, that “when you love what you do, everything falls into place”.
“You need to get yourself to a point in your life, where you are doing exactly what you want to be doing. I feel sorry for people who get up and go to work, and you can see in their faces how unhappy they are,” he adds.
“It doesn’t matter whether I am in the office for one hour or ten hours because I am enjoying every moment of it.”
While many of us can barely drag ourselves out of bed at the start of the day, Creevey wakes up at 4:30 every morning just to plan the hours ahead.
Unsurprisingly, he works at a pace faster than the rest of us can imagine. But he’s built a strong team of creative minds that help him in the process.
He admits that he’s not everybody’s ideal partner: “If you’re expecting a traditional 9-to-5 pattern, you’re going to hate me! I don’t ever switch off.”
“My teams knows that they may get phone calls at 10pm. In saying that, I make it very rewarding for them. I’m not trying to invade their private time, it’s just that we work across different time zones.”
So how easy is it for Creevey to recruit the right calibre of staff for his businesses? He says trust is most important. It needs to be established before a new member is accepted into the team.
“When I employ someone they need to understand that I want them for at least five years,” says Creevey.
“I haven’t advertised jobs for a very long time. Any one of us in the team may meet somebody we feel would fit nicely into the fold and I’ll have a chat with them. But given we’re at the forefront of digital media, and it’s hard to find anyone who’s got the experience that my team has. So instead, I try to find people who I can know I can mould into stars.”
With multiple businesses going full speed, Creevey, now 41, shows no sign of slowing down. Although, he does admit that by 50, he wants the spotlight shining on other stars of the team.
“I said to myself that I was going to slow down at 40 but I didn’t! Ten years from now, though, I want to be in the position where I can have some down time,” he says.
“Over the next few years, I see myself becoming a little more ‘behind the scenes’ while someone else in the team is up there, front and centre of the stage. I just want to sit back and focus on some amazing deployments and new technology.”
Australia’s startup investment culture
Creevey reveals his intentions to help the Australian startup community. In fact, he plans on setting up an incubator, Emerging Moments, to help nurture and provide funding for young Australian entrepreneurs. The reason he feels this is important is because “we don’t have the right investment community in Australia.”
“Venture Capitalists reject a lot of businesses. The truth of the matter is that a lot of them are not experts in technology. Some of them have never even built a business, so I don’t think they’re always equipped to know which businesses will work or won’t work,” says Creevey.
Remarking on the number of Australian startups that have had to go to Silicon Valley and other locations around the world to raise investment capital, Creevey believes the problem is lack of vision.
“If you bring a startup idea to the table, generally the good ones are something that hasn’t happened yet. But not all investors are visionaries. A technology entrepreneur may see something that the investor doesn’t see, which works to their disadvantage. That’s why so many of them go to Silicon Valley, where the culture is completely different,” he says.
“No matter what rationalisation Australians investors use, when there are over 100 startups in Silicon Valley, and many more in Singapore and New York, you have to ask yourself ‘why are they there?’ They are gravitating towards an environment where they know they will be looked after.”
Emerging Moments aims to bring the Silicon Valley culture into Australia, so local entrepreneurs don’t have to fly abroad to pursue their ideas. The incubator will be funded by Creevey and others in his extensive network.
Creevey says he feels for local startups because he was in that position once: “It’s such a lonely world.”
“You start off with an idea that your parents don’t want you to pursue because they’d rather you go to University of College. The failure rate is so high, that you have to be extremely believing and motivated to turn the idea into a successful commercial reality.”
Emerging Moments is Creevey’s way of giving back to the community in which he has thrived in for two decades.
Creevey’s advice for young entrepreneurs
Creevey says, first and foremost, you have to believe in your product more than anybody else, and you have to be the best person to sell it.
“It’s going to hurt. There is no easy way around it; you are not going to earn the same income as your friends. It’s going to be a constant struggle everyday; but if you stick to it, and remain 100 percent dedicated, you will make 10 to 50 times what your friends are making before they are 30 years old. The rewards always come,” he adds.