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Customer Service as Innovation: Launtel Founder Damian Ivereigh Receives the 2023 Tasmanian Pearcey Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Announcement posted by Pearcey Foundation 13 Nov 2023

The Pearcey Foundation today announced the founder and chief network architect of Launtel, Damian Ivereigh as the Tasmanian Pearcey Entrepreneur for 2023. Damien was presented with his award by Tasmanian Minister for Small Business and Science and Technology, the Hon Madeleine Ogilvie at the TasICT Conference Gala Dinner last Friday night at the C3 Convention Centre in Hobart.

This year the Tasmanian Pearcey Entrepreneur of the Year Award was judged by a panel of Australian entrepreneurs and ICT professionals, with representation on the panel from the Australian Computer Society (ACS), Pearcey Foundation and past Tasmanian Pearcey Award recipients. The Tasmanian Pearcey Awards recognise outstanding ICT entrepreneurs making a significant impact in South Australia, who have taken a risk, made a difference and are an inspiration. Previous recipients include (2022) Andrew Davies (founder of Taz Drone Solutions); (2021) Nina McMahon (cofounder of PopUp WiFi); (2020) Mike Cruse (founder of Definium Technologies); (2015) James Riggall (founder of Bitlink); (2014) James Cuda (founder of Savage Interactive); (2012) Jared Hill (cofounder of Insight 4); and (2010) Paris Buttfield-Addison and Jon Manning (cofounders of Secret Lab).

"Damo and the Launtel team have made history in Tasmania, being the first ISP in the country to provide gigabit services to their customers over the NBN," said James Riggall, chair of Pearcey Tasmania. "Due to Launtel's trailblazing network, Launceston was declared the first 'gigabit city' in Australia in May 2017, with Hobart following a few months later. While leading the charge on gigabit service provision in Tasmania is what Damo and the Launtel team are most known for, they have also innovated in a range of other ways. Damo was selected for this award by a panel of peers from the Tasmanian ICT sector and the judging committee recognised the importance of Launtel's role in pushing Tasmanian to the forefront of high-speed broadband adoption in Tasmania."

Damian Ivereigh, founder and chief network architect of Launtel

Damian (Damo to his friends and customers) was born in the UK and spent the early chapters of his career working in IT in London and California. During a stint working at CISCO in California, Damian organised a trip to Indonesia for a caving holiday. When the caving adventure ended, he spotted some cheap flights to Australia and thought he would give it a look. He fell in love with the place and requested a transfer.

After some time working in Sydney, Damian relocated to Tasmania with his partner and daughter. They settled in Launceston and, after seeing that the local IT job market was extremely thin, Damo decided to start his own IT support business, Launtel, in 2007. Initially, Launtel focused on business telephony and IT support services.

Years later, in 2014, two new opportunities emerged for Damian and Launtel, both connected to the rollout of the Australian National Broadband Network (NBN) and Tasmania's first mover advantage as an early rollout state. The first opportunity was a market gap created by traditional telecommunications companies having minimal capacity to respond to a shift from copper-based telephony to voice over internet protocol (VoIP) using the NBN. Launtel saw a dramatic uptick in interest in its services as more and more Tasmanian small businesses experienced outages and other issues relating to their migration to the NBN. Given its existing experience and track record with VOIP services, Launtel had a head start on many incumbent businesses at the time.

While the opportunities relating to customers shifting to NBN-enabled VOIP connections for telephony were an important pivot point for Launtel, there was a bigger opportunity inherent in the NBN rollout. In 2016, a couple of years into the NBN rollout in Tasmania, Damian found himself at Enterprize (a Tasmanian startup incubator) for a networking event. He participated in a lively conversation about the opportunity that the NBN represented and how disappointing it was that no telco was really leveraging the full capacity of the new network. In short, the NBN was capable of gigabit connectivity, but nobody was utilising that capability. The conversation explored what would be required for gigabit internet to be a business reality in Tasmania. That night, Damian decided to explore whether Launtel might be the first Internet Service Provider (ISP) in Australia to seriously entertain the idea of providing gigabit services over the NBN.

There was substantial risk in taking advantage of this opportunity. At the time, there was no proven market for gigabit internet and there were few local case studies as references. Enabling high speed connections would require significant investment in back-haul equipment, not to mention the necessary bandwidth costs. The wholesale pricing model for NBN services meant that unused capacity would still be billed, so Launtel needed to take the risk of provisioning excess capacity, without any early guarantee that the capacity would be utilised.

Acknowledging the inherent risk, Damian decided to press ahead and position Launtel to offer gigabit services over the NBN. Launtel was the first ISP in Australia to do so, with Launceston and Hobart being recognised as the first two "gigabit cities" in Australia. Early customers for the Launtel's gigabit product for business customers included ARTAS Architects who used the network to work collaboratively with engineers and other specialists in real-time over the NBN.

Since those early forays into providing gigabit internet services in Tasmania, Launtel has continued to grow. Damian now employs 50 staff and the Launtel service offering has expanded to include a range of residential internet services. Throughout this period of growth, Damian and the Launtel team have continued to innovate. Innovations that are rare or unique in the Australian market include: self-service (with Launtel customers being able to set up their own internet connections and often having the new connection activated within minutes) and daily pricing (with customers being charged a daily rate for their internet connection, and able to increase or decrease speed for a single day or pause their connection while they are away).

Throughout the Launtel journey, Damian and his team have prioritised customer service in a way that is rarely seen in the ISP or utilities sectors. Launtel is genuinely beloved by its customers and has won the Product Review Award for best ISP over multiple consecutive years. Launtel has managed to maintain its exceedingly high levels of customer service as it has scaled to provide internet connections Australia-wide, a feat that has eluded many of its competitors.

While Launtel has undoubtedly been a trailblazer in terms of ISP business models and the technology required to deliver high speed connections to Australian businesses and consumers, for Damian it is the consistent prioritisation of customer service that is Launtel's most important innovation.

For more information about previous Tasmanian Pearcey Entrepreneur of the Year Award recipients, go to https://www.pearcey.org.au/awards/state/tas.

Other State Award Recipients

ACT: Marcus Dawe, co-founder and CEO of MCi Carbon

NSW: Emma Weston, co-founder and CEO of AgriDigital

QLD: Yas Grigaliunas, founder and evangelist at Circonomy

TAS: Damian Ivereigh, founder and chief network architect, Launtel

VIC: Didier Elzinga, founder and CEO of Culture Amp

WA: Pia Turcinov AM, Fund WA director

National Pearcey Awards

The recipients of the prestigious 2023 Pearcey National Awards - including the Pearcey Medal, Hall of Fame and National Entrepreneur Award - were announced at an event in Sydney on Monday 30 October. David and Aidan Tudehope were jointly awarded the 2023 Pearcey Medal; Professor Jean Armstrong and Richard White were inducted into the Pearcey Hall of Fame; and Didier Elzinga received the National Entrepreneur Award. More information on these awards can be found at https://prwire.com.au/pr/112095/achieving-a-25-year-milestone-pearcey-foundation-presents-its-2023-national-awards.


About the Pearcey Foundation

The Pearcey Foundation Inc. is a non-profit organisation established in 1998 to raise the profile of the Australian Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry and profession. It was created in the memory of one of the greatest pioneers of the Australian ICT industry, Dr Trevor Pearcey. By celebrating the heroes in our industry, past, present and future, the Foundation is looking to attract and encourage young Australians into this most exciting of global, high technology sectors of our nation.

Web: www.pearcey.org.au

Twitter: @Pearcey_org #PearceyAwards

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