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Taking his eye off the ball was a winning decision for Tommy Bugg

The Technology Fast 50 program ranks the 50 fastest growing public or private technology companies, based on percentage revenue growth over three years. The competition has been running since 2000 and the 2019 program was proudly sponsored in Australia by the ASX, DLA Piper and NAB. In this blog series, we take a look at the 2019 winners to find out how they got to where they are.

From side hustle to successful start-up. How do you know when to back yourself with a business idea? 

We caught up with Tommy Bugg, ZOOZ Group co-founder and CEO, on being a budding entrepreneur and what it takes to drive a business – one social media influencer at a time. 

Tommy Bugg could always spot a business opportunity.

In fourth grade, the ZOOZ Group co-founder and CEO found the sweet smell of success in the form of his mum’s chocolate eclairs – a perfect product to sell in the school canteen.

They proved to be a tasty, and profitable, treat and while his mum didn’t see any of the proceeds, Tommy’s enterprising spirit was recognised and actively encouraged.

“Mum has always been supportive of my ventures, in hindsight I should have offered her a profit share,” says Tommy.

His dessert business didn’t last beyond the school gates, but his ability to see potential, grab it and run with it did. He took this skill with him into his professional football career and then into his social media and influencer management company ZOOZ.

ZOOZ started as a side hustle when he was playing for the Melbourne Demons. He’d been in the football world for a long time and had been managed by a number of agencies and gained a lot of knowledge from that, so when a friend asked him advice on getting management, Tommy decided to do it himself.

“Then I helped a few more friends and a few more and it grew from there,” he says.

“I fell into it and I guess I really took it on and made the most of that opportunity.”

Eventually the side hustle took over his fulltime job playing professional football and he had to make the difficult decision to either give up his career, which he had dedicated his life to, or follow his passion with ZOOZ.

“It was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made, but I knew the numbers were very strong with ZOOZ, so I just needed to back myself in the end and that’s what I did,” he says.

Tommy credits the success of ZOOZ with getting great people involved, who helped set the strategy and had a clear vision to take it forward.
Technology has also enabled ZOOZ to build a successful business model and as well as using third-party technology the company has its own proprietary technology for talent identification, digital asset valuation and analytics.

“Our technology incorporates artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data. We've been able to leverage technology in every aspect of our operations from talent selection to optimisation of deals and the automatisation of day-to-day activities,” he says.

The influencer management agency has successfully launched into the US market and with an increasing demand for influencers around the world, they are now looking to expand into UK, Europe and Asia.

We're industry leaders in what we're doing at the moment and we've got a business model that works.

Winning the Tech Fast 50 Rising Star award is further proof that the business model is working. 

Growth was calculated at 5,215% in the last year and Tommy says the award is recognition for the hard work that’s gone into the company.

“Winning the Rising Star award has been overwhelming. Some great companies have gone before us and everyone globally has recognised it… our partners in the US think it's the most amazing thing ever!”

Tommy confirmed that ZOOZ will be entering the 2020 awards and as the 2019 Tech Fast 50 overall winner, WithYouWithMe, was the 2018 Rising Star, it’s a smart move.

“There’s no downside to entering and the networking around the award is amazing.

“ZOOZ is setting the standard in our industry and really establishing ourselves as a technology company, which will stand us in good stead going forward, especially in the awards next year.”

Find out about more about the awards, meet all the 2019 Tech Fast 50 Australia winners and pre-register for 2020 Tech Fast 50.