When we started Digital Motorworks (DMi) in Australia in 1999, our total focus was the automotive industry.
This made sense since our experience was automotive and the DMi technology base out of Austin, Texas was developed for the automotive space aggregating inventory data from over 6,000 car dealers in the US at the time.
So how then was our revenue split 35% auto and 65% jobs classifieds just 3-4 years after starting?
It was about pivoting our niche core competency and getting out of our comfort zone, quickly.
Within 6 months of incorporating the company in Australia, we had signed a significant sized contract with a leading Australian media company giving them exclusivity over our data aggregation and normalization services in the automotive classifieds space for the next 3 years.
We were precluded from working with other major media players in the automotive space although there was still scope for more expansion in auto.
Pretty soon after this, we learned that News Limited’s new digital arm, News Interactive, was keen to get all the job ads advertised in all News newspapers around the country seamlessly into their Careerone.com.au website.
Could our data aggregation and normalization services be used outside of automotive? There was no reason why it couldn’t but it was big change to the business focus and to our head space.
We were given some sample job feeds to test and the results were encouraging but News threw another curve ball – the vast majority of ads are encapsulated in a pdf, image or an image in a pdf. Can we extract the jobs from these file types as opposed to a more logically formatted text file?
Long days and nights followed experimenting with OCR (optical character recognition) software to integrate into our systems and the results started to come slowly at first but the samples were encouraging.
Before we knew it, The Times of London newspaper group (a News International company) had heard about our technology and sent us samples to send back. It was starting to move.
Fast forward a couple of years, thousands of man hours, lots of perseverance and DMi was processing display and lineage job ads from every News Limited newspaper in Australia, The Times of London, the UL’s largest educational group TSL Education (UK) and Emap (UK) for display online in searchable formats.
Was this in our detailed business planning that we used to underpin financing and starting the company? Not even close.
It would have been very easy for us to not try our hand at this new business and stick with automotive, after all we were automotive people with automotive technology.
Sometimes stretching your niche core competency is ok as long as you have a handle on the effort versus reward and more importantly, a handle on what it might do to your business good and bad.