Home Articles Cool Company Awards 2008 – Quotes, notes, judges and trophies

    Cool Company Awards 2008 – Quotes, notes, judges and trophies

    The Cool Company Awards 08

    Our Judges

    Caroline Siler,
    Keep Left PR

    Caroline Siler was 22 and working in communications for IT consulting firm Ingena when she pitched her boss the idea of going it alone. Her ‘offer’ involved operating a fledgling PR business from her current office space, on lease, and taking on Ingena as her first client. It worked, and Keep Left PR was born. Now with six staff and a business doubling in size, Siler is putting in place structures to extract herself from the day-to-day client work and focus even more on developing the business.

    Michelle Mathews,

    Deck of Secrets

    Michelle Matthews is the creator and publisher of Bar Secrets Melbourne. To date there are Bar Secrets decks for Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, London, Hong Kong, Edinburgh, Dublin, Barcelona, Ibiza and other cities. Other decks include brunch secrets, daytrip secrets and spa secrets, with more in the works.

    Steve Sammartino,


    Stephen Sammartino escaped his cubicle after 10 years marketing global brands. He is now founder of two start-ups, recently launching Rentoid – the place to rent anything – www.rentoid.com.

    Robelen Bajar,

    Melbourne IT

    Robelen Bajar is marketing manager for Melbourne IT, which helps business managers, marketers and entrepreneurs start, grow and manage their businesses online. She also contributes regularly to Australian Anthill and a number of other prominent business resources and magazines.

    Nerissa Mapes,


    Nerissa Mapes was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at 28. Facing a life-long battle against the disease, Nerissa established POP (Perspectives on Parkinson’s) with a very clear goal: finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease in her lifetime. As an ambassador for Parkinson’s, Nerissa generates awareness and understanding about what it means to live with Parkinson’s by sharing her unique story in the media, at fundraising events, seminars and corporate functions.

    Luke Martin,

    Design & Industry

    Luke Martin is the business manager of Design + Industry Melbourne. Starting with D+I at the beginning of 2008, Luke’s role is as an account and project manager developing successful product design strategies and managing key projects through the D+I design studio. Having studied industrial design at RMIT, Luke has worked in the design, manufacturing and media sectors for the last 10+ years, both locally and overseas. His experience covers the development of products in the consumer, medical, scientific, architectural, automotive and technology industries. In his spare time he talks about becoming a good surfer (kite surfers are cool!).

    Damon Henshaw,

    Davies Collison Cave

    Damon Henshaw joined Davies Collison Cave in 1990, becoming a partner in 2000. Damon has extensive experience in the area of patents and registered designs in the physics and electro-mechanical fields. His work principally involves the preparation of patent specifications and prosecution of applications both locally and internationally. Damon also provides detailed advice and opinions in relation to patent infringement, validity and patent opposition matters.

    Malcolm Thornton,

    Starfish Ventures

    Malcolm Thornton joined Starfish Ventures in January 2003 and focuses on investments in medical devices and information and communications technology opportunities. He is responsible for all aspects of the investment lifecycle from deal sourcing and execution through portfolio management and exit creation. Prior to Starfish Ventures, Malcolm worked in venture capital for several years as Investment Manager with JAFCO Investment (Asia Pacific) Ltd as well as Business Development Officer with Platypus Technology Inc, a JAFCO portfolio company in the USA. He has spent many years travelling to and living in Japan while at Starfish Ventures and JAFCO and also as a Monbusho scholar researching technology commercialisation.

    Greg Hodson,


    Greg works with Australian-owned SME business and subsidiaries of multinationals setting up in Australia. His key skills are business planning, taxation and accounting. He has a broad commercial skill base having been an insolvency practitioner for 10 years running and advising businesses in distress, selling businesses and assets as well as advising businesses that have been growing and operating profitably over the past nine years. Greg has a Diploma of Franchising.

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    No proactive company gets away for long without making at least one serious gaff. Our cool company Top 50 are no different. Of course, as our entrants agreed, there are no such things as mistakes, just learning experiences. So, next time it’s your turn to salute the gods of chaos (ie. Slap your forehead in dismay), just remember, you are not alone!

    “Most embarrassing mistake was scanning and printing a fifty dollar note under instructions from a client to be used as one side of a nightclub pass. A drunken patron at Crown Casino tried to feed it into a machine where it jammed. The casino contacted the police who confiscated 10,000 passes from the club. On the following Monday morning I was bailed up in my office by the Federal Police and in something straight out of an episode of ‘Law and Order’ was threatened with charges of counterfeiting in a tape-recorded interview. I was very contrite, pleaded my ignorance, promised never to do the same again and was duly forgiven by the DPP.” DNA ARTWORKS

    Carbon Planet is not easily embarrassed. We’ll stand by everything we do and say. However, while Dave, our CEO, was in London, he answered the door to accept an Amazon delivery wearing nothing but his pajamas pants, sans keys, phone, money or shoes (it was 2ºC). Door slams shut. Cut to Dave jogging briskly through rainy old Soho to a mate’s advertising agency, to beg for spare keys. She did not have them. Cut to more freezing cold jogging through Soho, another ad agency, where there were keys to the aforementioned locked apartment containing Dave’s shoes, shirt, phone, money and keys. The curious thing was – nobody gave him a second glance.” Carbon Planet

    “Before Service Central was ‘Service Central’ it was ‘Free Workers Agency’ – named to signify the unshackling of the chains of employment. Co-founders Danial and Bruce Ahchow were passionate about freeing contractors from the whims of their bosses – empowering them to take control of their trade. Great in theory – not so great in execution, as the company was often mistaken for an escort agency!” Spin/Service Central

    “Early on we accidentally transferred $500,000 to our local printer. That was a nervous couple of hours.” World Nomads

    “The incident that left us most red in the face was when a Flip Screen bound for Moruya, NSW actually ended up in London, UK. It was embarrassing to say the least when we got a call from our UK dealer saying that they weren’t expecting any deliveries followed by a call from a semi-angry customer in NSW saying that his Flip Screen still hadn’t arrived. Nevertheless, the situation was overcome to our advantage. We immediately dispatched a new Flip Screen to the NSW customer, followed with a visit from our General Manager. We then persuaded our UK dealers to purchase the stray Flip Screen.” Flip Screen Australia

    “On one of our contracts we have a requirement to have our surgeon and anesthetists available 24 hrs a day in case there is a surgical requirement. This contract is in a remote region overseas in a high risk environment. The surgeon decided, without our approval, to go scuba diving and got the bends. This meant that the surgeon was unavailable to meet the contractual requirement. We had to source a new surgeon while the surgeon went through the decompression process, tell our customer what happened, and update them everyday till the surgeon had recovered.” Aspen Medical

    “We once sent an email to a very prominent European head of securities regulation, warning him of possible corrupt circumstance in his department. We found out later that he was the one who was corrupt! The corrupt forces temporarily stopped the police investigation thinking that would get them off the hook. Unfortunately for them, this allowed the files to be released to us exposing far more damaging corruption than we could have ever discovered without their help!” MMEOWW

    “We recently secured the contract to sell all the tickets to the hugely popular music festival Splendour in the Grass via our ticketing website Qjump. Demand was enormous with around 70,000 people logged on simultaneously to purchase 17,500 tickets. There was an unexpected technical issue with the bank’s payment system which led to some people being in a queue for several hours only to miss out on tickets. The public vented their anger via radio stations, online forums and blogs. We overcame the issue by making a public apology and contacting each and every person who was unable to process their purchase to offer them tickets, which took us several weeks but was well worth it in the end!” Sound Alliance

    “Ah, the danger of the cut-and-paste email. In our early days, we gained leverage by aligning ourselves with certain major players in our market, offering special long term deals and sacrificing any hope for commercial recompense in favour of in-kind promotion. Somehow, one of these offers was accidentally emailed to a group of not-so-major players, effectively offering them free promotion for good. They couldn’t believe their luck. We couldn’t believe our stupidity, but a promise is a promise and we’ve kept our word.” Cursions

    “Some Russians hacked one of our partner’s sites! The site was defaced and the ‘Contact Us’ link redirected to their website, which featured a song about the hack-in Russian! We had to work closely with the client to eliminate the site defacement. We even discussed bribing the hackers to bring the client’s site back to order. Ultimately, no bribes were required. Obviously it was embarrassing and our programmers took it personally – if nothing else, testament to their dedication.” Portable

    “One of our technical people accidentally made a mistake on a back up job and used over 20 Gigabytes of Internet bandwidth within a few hours. The major downside to this was that our internet service was disabled for the rest of the month… which is not good when you are an internet business! Some good negotiation skills from our manager resulted in a replacement internet connection so that we could keep operating. The team member responsible is now affectionately referred to as “The 20 Gig Guy”.” OurWishingWell.com


    Motivating staff is something that cool companies seem to have a knack for. From Karaoke to Beer-Pong, our cool company Top 50 are naturals at getting the most from their people. Of course, cool companies attract cool staff.

    “There is a lot of chocolate in this office! Lindt and Max Brenner are across the road from the building!” Provident Cashflow

    “To be honest, the whole idea of “motivating staff” never really sits well with us. Having said that, we do spent lots of time trying to remove any motivation killers from the business. For example, we never work more than eight hours each day and certainly don’t work weekends. We provide fully closed offices to our developers to make sure they’re not distracted easily and can ‘get in the zone’.” Freshview

    “We now have a Hawaii-o-meter up on the wall for when we sell our 25th, we will be taking our whole head office to Hawaii for a weeks holiday to show our thanks. Along the way we continue to have events to mark the occasions. Currently there are 14 sold. Hawaii here we come!” Chocolateria San Churros

    “To be honest, the whole idea of “motivating staff” never really sits well with us. Having said that, we do spent lots of time trying to remove any motivation killers from the business. For example, we never work more than eight hours each day and certainly don’t work weekends. We provide fully closed offices to our developers to make sure they’re not distracted easily and can ‘get in the zone’.” Freshview

    “The most unusual method we have to motivate staff is our ‘Iron Man’ competition. Basically this motivates good attendance because the person with the least sick days for the quarter gets a generous gift voucher for a locally owned business to spend on what they wish and has the right to call themselves the ‘Iron Man’ for the quarter.” Flip Screen Australia

    “It’s about the environment you work in and creating the right vibe. Whether it’s hanging wall paper, hanging chandeliers, having members of the team come in on the weekend and paint the ceilings or picking plants to create an ‘office jungle’, the staff work hard to make the office their home. Every now and then one of the staff members is honoured with the highly coveted ‘Flamingo Award’ and an eco gift, to thank them for their outstanding efforts.” Green Pages

    “NOT firing someone every month is always motivating. Just kidding!” Superior Service

    “Coffee can only do so much… One morning we covered our office doorway from top to bottom with paper, painted inspirational slogans on it, waited for it to dry and then ran through it like a football team. Gooooooooooooo Cursions!” Cursions

    “In Timor, there is a traditional item of clothing, which is a ceremonial scarf, called a taise. We get a local manufacturer to make tiases with project name in the scarf, which is presented to the staff member at their farewell function.” Aspen Medical

    “We celebrate achievements at DNA with what has come to be known as the ‘clap in’. This can be an individual ‘clap in’ as in “Chris’ design for the National Safety Awards has just been nominated for the finals… Let’s clap him in” (we all applaud Chris) or a group ‘clap in’ as in “We bloody finished it on time! Let’s clap us in” (we all applaud each other). A recent achievement was the completion of a large interior design job in a record turnaround involving overnight and weekend work. The celebration was a two-week DNA holiday for all of us to Vietnam and Cambodia. We had a hoot!” DNA ARTWORKS

    “It hasn’t happened yet but with the next rising Saturn coinciding with the full moon and the launch of Swappler. com in November, we will likely strip naked and paint each other’s belly buttons while worshipping the sublime mother ocean forces.” Portable Content

    “On the 13th of every month an employee at Service Central gets awarded with the ‘Plant of Appreciation’ – a living award to celebrate a staff member’s appreciation for one of their peers. What started off as a staff member’s leaving present has now turned into a ritual that forms the backbone of the culture at Service Central. As the legend goes, on the 13th of a particular month a few years back a beloved staff member left Service Central and wanted to show her appreciation for one of her co-workers, so presented her with a lovely plant. From that day the recipient who was bestowed with such a lovely gift presented it to a co-worker on the 13th day of the next month whose hard work and assistance she really appreciated. From this, the Plant of Appreciation has become a monthly event that thanks co-workers for making their lives a little easier – in whichever way possible.” Service Central