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This startup risked all of its $1.67m revenue on a thought bubble, and it’s paying off


An astute knowledge of marketing and a vision for how small businesses can leverage automation led Micheal Jankie to risk $1.67 million in revenue on a totally new business venture.

The Melbourne-based entrepreneur was sure that social media check-ins were the future of marketing for businesses, so he started PoweredLocal using all the revenue from his existing business, Searchwords, an SEO optimisation platform.

PoweredLocal is a Wi-Fi and social media marketing startup that helps connect small businesses to their customers. At it’s most basic level it gives customers access to free Wi-Fi in return for a check-in on Facebook or other social media platform.

More deeply: It’s brining the data analytics revolution to the SMB space, empowering them to know as much about their customers and business trends as a major company knows.

Almost a year old and the startup is already turning over a month-on-month revenue growth of 100 per cent, with 369 locations across 272 businesses signed up.

The startup is premised on broader marketing trends that show social posts, including check-ins, from friends and family are most influential to consumers – similar to a word-of-mouth referral. It’s been found that over 50 per cent of shoppers have made a purchase based on a recommendation through a social network.

PoweredLocal works out of Revolver Creative, an inner-city Melbourne co-working hub, in which CEO Michael and his business partner Gary Tramer also have a stake. It’s located beneath the notorious 24 hour Melbourne nightclub and institution Revolver Upstairs, the number one Uber’d spot in Melbourne.

How exactly did PoweredLocal come to life?

Founders Michael Jankie and Gary Tramer, are veteran entrepreneurs: they’ve been savvy business partners since the age of 12, when they used to bootleg lollies they’d bulk bought on the school bus, turning over a nifty cash profit.

Since then, they’ve founded two sales and marketing startups in the past and the experience of running, scaling and selling both have led them to PoweredLocal.

Gary Tramer and Michael Jankie
Gary Tramer and Michael Jankie

“Marketing and customer acquisition has always been hard for small businesses that often struggle to make ends meet in a competitive space, let alone find the funds for sophisticated marketing campaigns, but that’s where we’ve found our niche,” says Michael.

“It’s a no-brainer, 90 per cent of customer referrals are through word-of-mouth so transferring these online makes sense because it turns them into social media word of mouth marketing services for small businesses,” he said.

Using his and Gary’s extensive business networks, Michael surveyed 5000 former small business clients. The responses were overwhelming: owner operated small businesses don’t have the time, money or energy to spend on marketing.

“Our experience in sales and marketing have helped us know how to scale quickly, so we’ve managed to open office in Queensland recently and we have everything ready for when we want to take the business overseas,” Michael said.

To make it worked, they went all in. Using their knowledge of sales and conversions, they designed a rapidly scalable business model for PoweredLocal, hired a cracker sales team and diverted their annual revenue stream from Searchwords into PoweredLocal.

It’s paid off: Their success so far has seen interstate expansion after only six months and Michael is eyeing both the UK and Asia for expansion over the coming year and aims to have 10,000 WiFi hubs in 3 years.