It was Christmas 2013 when Adam and Steve stumbled upon ‘the idea’ they both knew would work and their product KoalaSafe was born.
Steve’s niece and nephew were given iPads for Christmas and his sister asked him to help find a reprieve from the constant fights between parent and child about putting down the iPad and getting off the computer.
Desperate for an easy solution Steve’s sister asked him to turn off the internet on the kid’s tablets, something which instantly proved challenging for even a technology wizard like Steve.
“You had to find a solution for the iPad, you had to find a solution for the Windows laptop, for the gaming console. It was all too disjointed and difficult for her to do,” Adam says.
Adam was living in the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean at the time working for a startup from the UK when Steve called him with the idea.
“Once Steve knew he was onto something, he got in contact with me. I started having a look around and couldn’t find anything that would control all of the devices in the house easily and so we started working on it,” he says.
The pair started tinkering around with a Rasperry Pi, a credit card sized single board computer, and built a first prototype which allowed Steve’s sister to turn off the internet with a touch of a button.
Called KoalaSafe, the product plugs into a router or modem to create a second wireless network which parents can monitor. It sets internet time limits, provides usage analytics and is able to be controlled from a smartphone.
In a world where internet and gaming addiction in young children is a concerning problem, KoalaSafe allows parents to easily manage the time their child spends on the internet.
Adam says their first ever shipment to Kickstarter backers went out to 400 people in 23 countries, proving they had a worthy product.
In 2016 it was selected to take part in the Queensland Government’s HotDesQ startup relocation program.
While Steve heads-up the USA arm of KoalaSafe in Silicon Valley, Adam has moved the Australian office from New South Wales to a coworking building in Cairns.
Adam says the funding has been vital as this year they will launch the KoalaSafe product to retail stores across America.
“We are moving into retail this year which is very capital intensive,” he says.
“We have to put a lot of stock upfront and having an external investment has helped us get through this period. It has been key for us.”
Adam is relishing in the Cairns lifestyle but most importantly the supportive startup ecosystem offered by the HotDesQ set up.
“On the weekends, I am an outdoor guy. In Cairns I can sail, I have joined the dive club here and we go diving on the reef, there is a lot of great hiking into waterfalls and swimming holes. The non-work lifestyle is great,” he says.
“There is also a great startup community I have become a part of here. I am meeting farmers who are bringing tech to their farms with Internet of Things (IoT) and sensors and construction people who are building tech around their industry.”
Adam is very impressed by the talent being supported by HotDesQ and says the generous Queensland Government funding is allowing students straight out of high school to start businesses.
“These kids either have to leave or try and find work, which is difficult, or start a business and there is a great entrepreneurial spirt in some of the youth we have met,” Adam says.
Adam says to any young Australian living in rural and regional areas who have an idea or a passion for innovation to go for it.
“Anywhere you have an internet connection you can run a global business. It’s an era which hasn’t happened before.”
Adam is confident of his future in Queensland and looks forward to the next stage for KoalaSafe.
“I think the Queensland Government is doing a great job of spending money on innovation. It’s something we can keep producing long after we have dug everything out of the ground. Our people are the best renewable resource we have,” he says.
**This article originally appeared on Medium