Meet the maker – Steve Barrett

Meet the maker – Steve Barrett
May 14, 2019 Ana Bellico

I think people, more often than not, see companies as mere entities. Like an emotionless machine, or a giant faceless corporation with little to no heart. That’s because companies tend to hide the people behind them. We at Teamgo don’t like that ideology. So today I want to pull back the curtain, Wizard of Oz style…


Teamgo is a company built by people, for people. And one of those people who built Teamgo is Steve Barrett. 


Steve is what’s called a “serial entrepreneur” (sounds dirty I know). Although he wasn’t born into an entrepreneurial family, there he was, at 13 launching his first (but not formal) business venture. I sat down and interviewed Steve about what this means and how his entrepreneurial ventures led him to co-creating Teamgo.



When Steve was still legally a child his father worked at a communications company manufacturing high-end radio hardware for civil and military purposes (right here in South Australia). One day while eavesdropping, Steve overheard the company was experiencing high delivery failure rates due to ineffective packaging. The idea, then, came instantly to Steve:


“Why don’t you just secure the parts with bubble wrap and moulded containers?”


To what they responded:


“That’s too time consuming. The moulds are easy to acquire but the bubble wrap would have to be cut to order.”


Where others saw inconvenience, Steve saw an opportunity. He set about cutting bubble wrap manually at an extremely “competitive” price. Materials were sourced at low cost and much bubble wrap was cut by the hour. The profits flowed (straight into computer games and comic books of course).


Flash forward 3 years. Steve is now 18 and officially an adult. He started his second business venture while working as South Australia’s youngest security and investigations licence holder in private surveillance. The business was an e-commerce platform where gamers could build custom computers, a hobby turned into a business. While an impressive idea, it turned out his online ecommerce skills were his true talent. He started receiving more inquiries as to who built his website platform than he was receiving orders for custom PCs. In true entrepreneurial fashion, he pivoted, and created a website development agency – specialising in ecommerce.


At the time (basically the dark ages of flash animation and GIFs), companies were starting to migrate to the dot com atmosphere. Demand was high, life was great, and Steve was struggling to keep up with all the work coming his way. He had to search for office space to continue growing his agency, finally settling on a home business, then a shop front. Several entrepreneurial twists and turns along the next 15 years, he ended up at Majoran, a coworking space for startups, one of the first of its kind in South Australia. This is where Steve met Chhai, our now CEO and Steve’s co-founder.


Steve and Chhai hit it off straight away. They discovered they had very similar views, and complementary skills. An unbeatable combination of marketing, sales and development. They knew if they joined forces they could build something great together. This led them to start their search for the perfect technology business. One that would translate who they are as entrepreneurs and manage to actually solve a real world problem with the goal of making people’s lives easier. Is there anything more honest than that?


This began the prototyping stage of their relationship. Together they tried and tested several ideas in the market, spinning out MVP after MVP (minimal viable product) and finally created Getyo. Getyo was a loyalty check in app for small retail stores and cafes. Although it was a solid product, the market became incredibly competitive very quickly after the product was launched. As a small company it was difficult to thrive among the larger players with significant venture capital. While David vs Goliath is an inspiring story, it’s a hard battle that many start-ups lose, but Steve and Chhai knew better than that.


One day, while waiting in the lobby of Adelaide City Council for a meeting to pitch Getyo to the local retail community, Steve had an idea. Once again, he came up with a pivot into a tangible business model backed by already developed tech.


Over the years working on Getyo and his web development agency he had walked into many meetings just like this one. You arrive at the reception, fill out the paper sign in book, and are given a visitors pass. Then the receptionist has to call whomever you’re there to see. Steve couldn’t help but think “Why do I have to sign this thing every time I come here? It’s annoying. It takes up my time and other people’s time. And I doubt anyone will be able to read my handwriting anyway. Not to mention my data is no longer private, it’s just sitting there for anyone to read.. or worse”


He turned to Chhai and explained his thoughts. There are three key issues with that sign in book:


  1. Anyone could see who had been to that office before him and could easily change his business pitch according to that.
  2. They were a massive security risk. Someone could steal the book and suddenly have names, phone numbers and addresses of everyone who has visited the building.
  3. They were compliance issue. What if there was a fire in the building and the book ended up being destroyed? There would be no record of who was in or out of the building on what day.


There had to be a better way. And there was.


He thought “why not use an iPad instead?”. And thus Teamgo was born.


They used the basic modus operandi of Getyo but modified it to cater to office receptions and anywhere you need to register at the door. Then simply put Teamgo was ready to… go!


Steve continues, “I’m not going to say it was rainbows and unicorns from day one. Far from it, it was a tough and windy road, but eventually we got there. It was a journey of trying, failing, learning and trying again. But eventually we discovered that we can solve and overcome challenges if we apply ourselves with focus, patience and discipline. Every small change and iteration is progress towards a total picture and the next goal.”


During the evolution of Teamgo, Steve and Chhai also launched several local initiatives including a co-working space (SouthStart Co-work) and technology accelerator program (SouthStart Accelerator), both acquired in 2018. Applying their entrepreneurial spirit with organic philanthropist notions, they gave back to the community that supported them.


The team also participated in a national accelerator program themselves and launched Payhero, a micro payments platform (acquired 2018).


Teamgo continued to receive their full time focus and today, Steve passionately takes pride in what he does. Even going as far as saying that the joy he finds in his work which takes away the stress of being an entrepreneur. He continues to build a team of focused and eager people who want to learn and grow with that developed knowledge and earned experience, people with a mindset that fits in with the company he and Chhai have built.

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