Start Up

Disrupting Telecoms - Norwood Systems Company Story

Invention and entrepreneurship are in the blood for Paul Ostergaard. Paul’s start-up company, Norwood Systems, is named after his grandfather, Arthur Norwood, who invented processes for extracting gold and silver from ore bodies in the 1940s.

The first incarnation of Norwood Systems listed on the ASX in 2001 with a concept and technology to extend the reach of fixed telephone networks to mobile phones using Bluetooth communication. Instead of leaving a voicemail on the office phone, a caller would be transferred to the recipient’s mobile phone if they were within Bluetooth range.

In the heady days of the dot com boom, Norwood was wildly successful, winning the first ever tender for a large telco company to supply dual-mode converged telephony. Norwood was ranked by Time Magazine as one of Europe’s hottest tech firms in 2001 and 2002.

Norwood partnered with a major handset vendor to commercialise their technology but the idea conflicted with the financial interests of the mobile carriers who preferred to carry the call over their networks (and charge for them). The project foundered and Paul sold the company in 2004.

The Apple iPhone launch in 2007 changed the balance of power. For the first time consumers could choose their own phone services via the app store and the position of mobile carriers changed to merely transporting the data.

Paul saw another opportunity for his fixed and mobile convergence patents and in 2011, with David Wilson, relaunched Norwood Systems.

Now taking advantage of Wi-Fi instead of Bluetooth, Norwood launched ‘Work Phone’ as a smartphone app that could extend the range of an office phone. When they upgraded this technology to support multiple Wi-Fi networks it was obvious that the technology was applicable far beyond the geography of the office environment.

But Work Phone required modifications to a corporation’s PBX and that was a barrier to fast adoption of the solution. A lighter version was needed and in mid-2015 a consumer app called “World Phone’ was released.

World Phone, offered significantly reduced mobile roaming fees and easy access to local phone numbers while travelling internationally. With more than 4,000,000 downloads, World Phone is a leading app in the Travel category on both the App Store and Google Play. Underpinning World Phone is a federation of high quality fixed Telco networks which carry the voice signals using internet protocol but with high fidelity.

Norwood did not forget its original mission to provide low cost converged telephony for businesses and in 2016, using the lessons from the Word Phone and inspired by the success of ‘Uber for business’, Norwood relaunched a corporate version of World Phone  called 'Corona Cloud', which avoids the need to integrate with a customer's internal telephone exchange (The PBX) but still offers control and manageability of work phone usage regardless of whether its a company or personal phone.



Norwood Systems

Source: Mike Adams conversations with Paul Ostergaard, Steve Tot and Nick Horton

Story Type: Company


For Story Students:

The Setting: The early 2000's when fixed telephony is being seriously disrupted by mobile telephony

The Complications: A business failure due to entrenched market forces

The Turning Point: New technology that allowed a re-entry

The Resolution: A booming business that is disrupting the Telecommunications industry

The Point of the Story: Get on board with Norwood Systems, you can improve your company's productivity and pay for the improvement with the telecom spend cost savings

Innovation Downunder

In the early 2000s, Matt was working as a geophysicist at BHP Petroleum. He was also adjunct associate professor of geophysics at Curtin University in Perth. Keen to start his own geophysics software business, Matt saw in PhD student Troy a potential partner with a brilliant mind who could ‘do anything’. Matt and Troy were working on software techniques to ‘invert’ seismic acoustic survey data to a quantitatively useful parameter such as the probability of hydrocarbon. In late 2003, Matt left BHP and together with Troy, founded Downunder GeoSolutions (DUG).

Processing seismic data requires banks of computers to perform parallel computations on terabytes of data. Matt and Troy installed a network of PC computers in a shed they built in Matt’s backyard. They immediately encountered an overheating problem with their massed PC computers. The solution was to stack the PCs on their sides, fit the shed roof with an array of exhaust fans sourced from the local hardware store, and drape a curtain from the window to direct outside air up through the PCs to cool them. After about three months, the processor boards started turning green from the humid air and within a year they fell apart, but the first DUG supercomputer had done its job.

The company struggled to make money in the early years, surviving on grants and piecemeal consulting projects. Then in 2006, Matt and Troy had an opportunity to apply their technique to a data set from Western Australia for US oil and gas giant Apache. Three dry holes had been drilled in the licence area and Apache had an obligation to drill one more well before they could relinquish the licence.

Matt and Troy took on the job with more bravado than confidence, and after six months of processing they produced the world's first hydrocarbon probability volume map. Their interpretation showed why the initial wells had failed, and Apache used their results to drill the first discovery well and a further 18 accurately predicted oil and gas wells. The Julimar oil and gas field, which now supplies gas to the $30 billion Wheatstone liquid natural gas plant, is the result. This success launched the company, allowing Matt and Troy to open new global offices and invest in new supercomputers, expand their processing capability and take on new customers.

Today the company has outgrown the shed! DUG has grown to 350 employees and is the third largest seismic processing company in the world, and the largest land seismic processing company in the United States. They operate a network of massive supercomputers in London, Houston, Kuala Lumpur and Perth, each cooled with DUG-patented oil cooling baths, and service the seismic processing needs of oil and gas companies around the world.



Downunder Geosolutions

Source: Matt Lamont and Troy Thompson discussions with Mike Adams and Sue Findlay


Story Type: Company


For Story Students:

The Setting: Early 2000s in Perth, Western Australia

The Complications: Struggling to succeed as a company

The Turning Point: A successful interpretation that discovered a gas field

The Resolution: DUG operates supercomputers in Perth, Houston, London, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta serving oil and gas companies all over the world.

The Point of the Story: DUG is great compay

How to use this Story:  Used by DUG customer facing staff and a great example of a company creation story

Our Story - Growth in Focus Story to The Story Leader


In 2003, after a career in government procurement, Growth in Focus Managing Director, Sue Findlay started a tender consulting business helping companies win tenders and grants.

Sue built an enviable track record of success, winning tenders and grants for hundreds of companies across Australia but a constant source of frustration was companies coming to her (late) for urgent tender assistance without basic information about their customer's critical issues and decision making process.

Sue's business partner, Growth in Focus Director David Black, with his background in IT operations and business development, identified the issue as inadequate sales training for their customer's sales teams and poor management of those sales people. Between them, David and Sue had compelling evidence for an endemically low level of sales professionalism across a broad range of industries. But how to make a difference? It seemed like an intractable problem.

When David and Sue met Growth in Focus Director Mike Adams in early 2015, they heard a different perspective on sales professionalism. Mike had spent his career as a salesman and sales manager working all over the world for blue-chip multi-national technology companies across several industries and Mike understood the 'poor salesmanship" problem from the perspective of leading, mentoring and training to get the best from diverse sales teams.

Between them, Sue, David and Mike identified two critical issues. The first is that that a majority of sales people are unconsciously unskilled. That is, they significantly overate their sales skills. The fact that these unskilled sales people do occasionally succeed (because buyers need to buy) just makes them overconfident unskilled sales people. The second critical issue is most company's failure to provide either adequate sales skill development or a suitable working environment for sales people to thrive in.

As they discussed these two issues a simple idea was born. Why not combine Sue's knowledge of buying, David's expertise in operations and IT with Mike's sales management and sales training experience to tackle the issue of poor salesmanship and poor performing sales teams head on?

And so, Growth in Focus was born.

Since its inception, Growth in Focus has helped a wide range of clients in industries ranging from IT, Telecommunications, Building Services, Oil and Gas, Mining and Professional Services. Offering a full suite of sales and procurement services. We avoid 'quick fix" point solutions like CRM systems or 'one size fits all" training courses but focus on sustained long-term improvement by carefully diagnosing each company's sales and business situation.

We've developed tools to assess the true skill level of sales people and apply appropriate development interventions and we've created programs to build effective sales collateral and sales management methodologies in support of our ongoing mission to improve sales professionalism and make buying routinely easy for our clients' customers.



: Growth in Focus (Renamed The Story Leader in 2018)


: Mike Adams, Sue Findlay and David Black

Story Type

: Company


For Story Students

The Setting

: Perth 2014

The Complications

: Sue's frustration with sales people and a belief that there must be a better way

The Turning Point

: The chance meeting of Sue, Mike and David and the seed of a business idea

The Resolution

: Growth in Focus and its unique service offerings - assessment based recruiting with ongoing coaching for sales recruits, unique training and selling with story sales development programs and sales management coaching

The Point of the Story

: Growth in Focus and its service offerings - assessment based recruiting with ongoing coaching for sales recruits, unique training and selling with story sales development programs and sales management coaching

How to use this story

: We tell this story to prospective customers, usually business owners who have sales teams