Zusa: Businesses tailor-made for everyone in one app

This article is part of In Conversation with Contemporary Web Startups at the Web Summit

Zusa is the world’s first diversity directory business search provider. The app categorises businesses by a range of diversity filters, and allows users to find small and medium enterprises based on personal preferences. Zusa filters businesses by language, ethnicity, race, religion, age and gender of staff or customers, as well as listing businesses that share alliances with specific sporting or social clubs, and employ or support disabled, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender workers.

Its founder James Hazelton told us about his expectations and the government support offered in Australia, where the company resides, towards his company and towards startups in general.

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Helena: What are the most important objectives for you right now?

James: We’ve just recently launched our Android beta, and are currently developing our iOS beta, which should be live in the AppStore by around December/January. We will be canvassing Sydney in greater numbers over the coming months and plan to have our market proof of concept by mid-2016, at which point we’ll be looking for Series A funding to expand into a number of international cities simultaneously.

Helena: Are you satisfied with the way Australia is encouraging new startups? Do you feel adequately supported by your country’s government?

austiJames: We have registered and are currently midway through processing a refund from the Australian Government’s R&D Tax Incentive (http://www.business.gov.au/grants-and-assistance/innovation-rd/RD-TaxIncentive/Pages/default.aspx). The application process is quite involved and therefore we have engaged with a specialist organisation to assist in the completion and processing of our application. There are a number of these firms operating in Australia, and it is common for them to provide this assistance for a flat percentage commission based on what the return amount is from the government. If there is no return, there is no fee. For early-stage startups with many expenses and little capital like ourselves, this risk-free approach in regards to cost is very attractive. We have also expressed our interest in a “commercialisation acceleration” grant with AusIndustry, operated by the Australian government. We are currently in early-stage discussions to determine suitability. The grant is very heavily focused on politically popular industry segments. The overall tax system in Australia is quite complex, and the assistance from accountants to meet the completion of quarterly business activity statements and annual lodgements is practically essential. Our corporate tax is quite high and there are many overseas locations where moving headquarters can make more sense financially basically, what the big companies like Google and Apple do already.

We’re founding Zusa in Sydney, and although we’re not internationally known as a leading startup destination, there are numerous government initiatives working towards increasing this reputation. The biggest problem with Sydney and Australia is the costs of doing business. Employment wages/salaries are very high, along with the costs of most business services being significantly more expensive than those of our overseas counterparts. The benefit, though, is we get to live in Australia, which is great for its lifestyle and local communities.

Helena: As Euspert is focused on recruitment and the world of work in general, my last question relates to your preferences between standard employees, freelance cooperation, or subcontracting.

James: For our core operations and product development, an in-house full-time team is essential for our preferences. The ability to have reliable team members in-house that you can work with in person and get feedback and solve problems with instantaneously is most efficient. For our canvassing requirements, the use of subcontractors works best for us due to the infrequent and time-variable nature of the work required.

Many thanks to James for taking the time to speak with us. Euspert wishes Zusa the very best in its future endeavours.