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Canberra couple exit their world-class software start-up of 28 years

John Thistleton 1 August 2019
Michelle Melbourne and Phillip Williamson

Michelle Melbourne and Phillip Williamson. Photo: Supplied.

She was raised in Canberra’s south, he was from the north side. They teamed up at ANU and created a software platform now used every minute of the day around the world.

Intelledox is the quintessential Canberra start-up story. If you have applied online to renew your passport, or a new insurance policy, or enrolled to go to hospital or university, you have used Intelledox software.

And now its creators, Michelle Melbourne and Phillip Williamson, have sold it to Smart Communications, the leading global cloud-based platform for enterprise customer communications.

Michelle went to St Clare’s College, Phillip to Campbell High School and Copland College. At ANU Phillip studied computer science and Michelle studied psychology and statistics. They began their business venture from a Star Wars-themed bedroom at Michelle’s parents’ home in Garran before the move to an apartment in Kingston.

Intelledox was their second software product. Their first, built 10 years ago, was a learning management system, Capabiliti, which they sold about five years ago, and from which they learned on the way to perfect Intelledox.

“We did everything right when we designed and built it,” Phillip says. “We had thought a lot about the market, the position, the way the product was built and how we took it to market.”

Consequently, Intelledox has stayed ahead of the curve for many years, spreading globally in a digital communications market growing rapidly.

“What we were seeing was a consolidation in the market and a number of complementary Tier One companies were coming and making overtures to us,” Phillip says. “We said no we were not interested in selling.”

Last financial year was a record for Intelledox. The last thing on Phillip and Michelle’s agenda was selling. That was until a private equity firm, Accel-KKR came knocking on their door in December, with a strategic and compelling offer to join with the best-in-class Smart Communications.

Intelledox was growing at a healthy rate but the Canberra creators knew it had to be wrapped into the hands of someone bigger.

“Smart Comms is many years further down the road than we are, they are 10 times bigger than what we are,” Phillip says.

“The two companies are super complimentary, it is a good fit for all of us, plus a blue-chip private equity firm with deep expertise, we thought it won’t get better than this!”

Phillip jokes that after leaving the business, he and Michelle are without jobs. “We are unemployed bums,” he says with a laugh.

But the humour is tinged with sadness, as they watch their platform help customers in the banking sector and in insurance, government agencies, and a whole range of others.

Intelledox leads people through a conversation online, asking questions in relevant order. “People don’t realise they are using it. There is a spinner, a red spinner that comes up, once you know and recognise it you will see it everywhere,” he says of the intuitive, seamless online tool.

“It’s like one of your children leaving home. Chelle and I are a little conflicted. We are very, very happy with where Intelledox is, where it is going and where it will continue to go. We are also sad, now that we are essentially out of that day-to-day journey. It is a happy/sad moment.”

Michelle will be on the board of Smart Communications. Phillip will return to Canberra’s entrepreneurial and innovation landscape to help other businesses grow.

Conceiving a good idea is one thing; finding someone to fund it, and a market of willing customers is more challenging.

“Now we have a lot of experience around that, we can help other innovative companies in Canberra and we both want to work with the team at the Canberra Innovation Network to do just that,” Phillip says.

Smart Communications chief executive James Brown says the acquisition will enable both companies to continue providing personalised, relevant and interactive communications at tremendous scale.

“Since our start, we have been wholly focused on empowering companies to deliver personalised, relevant and interactive communications at tremendous scale,” Mr Brown says.

“Through our acquisition of Intelledox, we are now even better equipped to deliver best-in-class, two-way customer conversations throughout the entire customer journey.”

Intelledox’s cloud platform connects to any system of record and provides next-generation forms, built-in workflow and on-demand customer communications. It is designed to digitally transform traditional forms-based processes into intelligent, conversational user experiences that streamline internal systems, manage risk and reduce demand for support services and, as a result, delivers more customers ready to transact.

The company has enabled hundreds of enterprise and government organisations and more than 22 million users globally to rapidly transform paper or PDF-based processes into intelligent, data-driven customer experiences.


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