Vivid chairman Charles Macek shines light on success
Mr Macek, who has an executive career spanning 30 years in financial services, says he “started from the top and is working his way down”, shifting focus late in his career from guiding business heavyweights to listed start-ups such as Vivid Technology, a smart-lighting firm starting to win big multinational contracts.
The director says it is in Australia’s national interest to weed out the companies lacking fundamentals, and called on investors to take action.
“We have some smart technology-based businesses here and the challenge for the market is to distinguish between the cowboys and those buildings serious businesses,” Mr Macek said.
“That’s not easy if you’re a regulator. The challenge for the investor community is to take the genuine tech businesses, stick with them and help them grow. Get them to the other side of the valley.”
Mr Macek said Australia was “a hard place to raise true venture capital; the investors are asking ‘where’s your revenue, and where’s your profitability’.
“So a lot of Australian companies unfortunately get on to the ASX and many of them probably way too early. There are good companies out there with really good technologies but they shouldn’t be on the ASX.”
One company Mr Macek said had largely got it right was Telstra, which he said was forced to reinvent itself given telecommunication in 2018 was by and large a utility.
“One advantage for Telstra is the NBN, even though I think NBN is a disaster and a catastrophe personally,” he said.
“It will move Telstra out of being the operator of large extensive networks outside of its wireless networks, and a lot of its workforce are technicians. It has to evolve to be more customer-focused, and that will be easier with a slimmed-down workforce that is closer to the customer.
“It has a window of three years in cash flows from NBN, it has to invest it, and technologies that are adjacent to telecommunications makes a lot of sense. The jury is obviously still out in terms of how well it will invest it.”
Mr Macek said he was attracted to Vivid given it was in the sustainability space, with its core business focused on energy efficiency. With sensors that turn up or down automatically, Vivid’s smart-lighting products use up to 95 per cent less energy than other options. The company is starting to find momentum, signing multi-year deals with Chinese petrochemical firm Sinopec — which has about a million employees, more than all the companies in the ASX 20 combined — and Hong Kong-based Kerry Logistics.
Vivid Technology chief executive Sam Marks said the company was “finishing Year 12” and was now looking to graduate.
“Having someone like Charles on the board is unusual for a company of our size, and if you look at our executive team they’ve all been there done that’,” Mr Marks said. “We’ve gone through the hard yards now, having sold to Linfox, to Goodman Group, Coca-Cola, they’re all blue-chip names and we’re now taking this to the world. We’re starting to see some serious traction.”
According to Mr Marks, “everyone leaves the lights on” and that’s human nature playing right into his company’s hands.
“It’s a huge waste of energy we’re seeing,” he said. “Lighting technology adds a lot more value to a customer than just saving money. The only thing in the way is a lack of imagination.
“We can set up a heatmap of where staff move, and we can improve productivity by reworking the stockroom and things like that. We’re starting to work more with CFOs, who understand the return on investment. We’re saving power costs, and radically reducing their carbon emissions.”