In Focus: Ivor Gaylard, co-founder of SWAN Systems

WA startup SWAN Systems co-founder Ivor Gaylard gives us his top tips for entering international markets.

Charlotta Kemp by Charlotta Kemp,

SWAN Systems is a startup from Western Australia looking to the ‘Internet of Things’ for solutions in water irrigation. We talk to its co-founder Ivor Gaylard about how it all started, about working from Australia’s Landing Pad in Tel Aviv, and to hear his top tips for entering markets abroad.

Give us a brief overview of SWAN Systems

SWAN is an acronym for Scheduling Water and Nutrients – a decision support system for helping people who are irrigating to apply the right amount of water and nutrients at the right time. It is technically an “Internet of Things” solution, but is hardware independent, programmed to receive data from a wide and increasing range of devices and brands. It’s suitable for use with any irrigated operation, including field crops, horticultural crops and turf. 

Where and when did it all start?

In 2010 we started consulting for a mining company that was using waste water from mining activities to irrigate crops in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia. Being in an environmentally sensitive area they were under strict regulation, with several conditions to meet as well as trying to grow crops well. We needed to know a week in advance exactly how much water to apply to each field, and from that we developed systems using various data sources enabling us to meet these challenges.  Due to popular demand from other people irrigating, including city councils and golf courses, we rebuilt the system to be a cloud-based subscription service, making it accessible to anyone who irrigates.

You’re currently working at Australia’s Landing Pad in Tel Aviv, what’s that like?

Tel Aviv really is a buzzing hive of activity.  I’ve met numerous people who are relevant to our business through Landing Pad Manager Omri Wislizki.  This experience has helped to understand where we fit in the market and where our key points of difference are. I’ve also attended numerous seminars and training courses on marketing, managing start-ups, scaling internationally, fund-raising, and several other topics.

What is your view on future market opportunities for your company in Australia and internationally?

We are very upbeat about the potential market for SWAN. Last year we focused on piloting the new version of the system, and ran about 20 projects across Australia. We’re now focussing on securing commercial clients and just signed up our first international client – a golf course in Singapore. With great assistance from Aziz Saba at the Government of Western Australia’s Dubai office, we’ve met several companies in the UAE interested in using SWAN in their operations.

Your top two tips to Western Australian start-ups wanting to make it overseas?

Go to the potential overseas market and explore it, before rushing into anything. Understand the culture, how things work, where the opportunities are, and find potential partners. The Australian Landing Pads are a great way to do this, as it gives you a huge head start compared to trying to do things on your own. I would highly recommend seeking help from Australian Government offices and agencies, as this can help open doors. International conferences also play an important role.

Keep your home-base ticking over well, so make sure your team has enough capacity to manage things in the absence of one or more of its members. It takes time to get established overseas, so it’s not practical to wait until things are perfect at home, but at least make sure the wheels still stay on!