What do children’s playgrounds and multi-billion dollar tunnelling operations have in common? They both need geotechnical surveys before ground can be broken.
Every residential, commercial, infrastructural, and transportation project - major and minor - needs surveying before kick-off. That’s a big marketplace.
Tablogs founder Declan Vanderhor came to Skalata with a product designed by geotech engineers, for geotech engineers.
The product - a borehole logging and site investigation reporting SaaS tool - sounds niche, but has vast potential. However, dragging an old industry away from its familiar, muddy, pencil-and-paper format and into the digital era is a tough task to face alone.
How it started vs. how it’s going
A year after its 2019 launch, Tablogs was still running part-time, but was already the largest and fastest growing private source of subsurface information in the country. The aim was to take what was learnt in Australia and apply it on a global scale.
Founder Declan felt change in the lumbering old industry could no longer be put off. He wanted to secure 30% of the total Australian market within the first 12 months, and 5% market penetration per month.
To do this, taking operations full time was non-negotiable. And despite his technical expertise, he needed support filling the knowledge gap of how to develop a scalable and sustainable startup.
Declan pitched to Skalata and we invested AUD $200,000 to fund rapid expansion.
With major players including Aurecon and Construction Sciences now on board, Tablogs is seeing its current market penetration increase at a rate of 5% per month at a total market penetration of 8.8%.
Here’s how they got there.
Before Tablogs could take what it does best and distribute it at scale, there were a few gaps to fill.
Firstly: team members.
Sole founders can face a lonely struggle. Declan didn’t have an immediate team to bounce ideas off of, or to push him to think bigger. There were also the practical elements of staffing to consider. Bogged down in the day-to-day, Declan was unable to focus on serious growth.
His other major struggle was setting up a business from scratch with no experience in software.
Thirdly, and perhaps most surprising considering Declan's drive and technical ability, confidence levels were a hindrance. Declan struggled with public speaking and worried about taking up peoples’ (investors, mentors) time.
Team development was a critical risk and limiting factor to Tablogs potential.
Before Skalata’s involvement, Tablogs was comprised of Declan and four contracted offshore developers. Skalata helped with the additional placement of a CFO, two more developers, a content marketer, and a part-time product manager, allowing for greater diligence across the business and - crucially - for key responsibilities to be delegated.
Advice from regular board meetings led to an overhaul of the Tablogs Chart of Accounts, general ledger, and numbering hygiene to level that of a mature SaaS company.
Tablogs’ focus on a niche sector meant they could be strategic about finding product-market fit. This also allowed them to focus on developing their growth engine with repeatable and scalable inputs throughout their time with Skalata. Within months, Tablogs was growing revenue 30% month on month and had scaled from 3 customers to 21.
The US Expansion was one of the key objectives and most transformative elements during their time with us. Tablogs mapped their US go-to-market strategy with assistance from us in regards to in office leasing and US sales and support hiring, and identified key target customers and geotech firms versed in local regulation and market dynamics to provide valuable product feedback.
Finally, being a SaaS product coming into a pen-and-paper industry, Tablogs faced a significant adoption chasm. The team focused on building functionality to reduce onboarding barriers and increase customer stickiness. Working closely with key customers, Tablogs have been able to onboard customers after one call with only a 3% churn rate.
Results you can plot on an upwards-trending graph are what we’re here for, but the founder experience and changes in mindset are a huge part of what founders take away. Declan shares some thoughts from his experience.
The first meet
”I was really nervous during my first interview at Skalata. I was so daunted by being in a room with a heap of successful entrepreneurs. It's completely different than talking to a roomful of engineers, so it took a bit of getting used to. But after a few months of regular meetings, I saw them as peers instead of people who intimidated me.”
Declan has since lectured to final year students at his old stomping ground, The University of Queensland.
”Guy was my Venture Partner and I also worked with Wahid, an Associate. They both added a tonne of value in their own ways.”
”Wahid helped build my go-to market strategy and even dived into things like writing email copy for outbound emails, mining contacts, and setting up audiences. Coming from a fast-moving startup himself, he had great customer insights. Guy was super helpful with the operational stuff like setting a recruitment strategy, while Mark was instrumental in helping me navigate the move the the US.”
The board meetings
Advisory board meetings are a whole new experience for founders who have been going it alone. Declan found they brought about “a massive change in mindset”.
”It made me so much more receptive to advice. Being able to walk up to fellow CEOs two, five, ten years ahead of me and ask for help was a game changer. I never would have done that before, because I wouldn't have seen myself as worthy or I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time. That huge change in mindset allowed me to see it all as an even playing field where I could identify potential collaborators.”
The Skalata portfolio
”As someone removed from the ecosystem, working with other founders was really inspiring. You could bounce ideas off each other because you're at the same stage. Every company would be further ahead in one area where I wanted to get to.”
Tablogs has grown from a one-man Aussie startup to a Denver-based scale-up, surrounded by highly technical networks (Google, Microsoft, and Asana have offices near Tablogs HQ).
The future is expanding global markets. Tablogs is now predicting growth of 5% per month at 8-10% cumulative market adoption for the US.
Declan wants to serve not just geotech but broader civil engineering, bringing the ease and efficient UI of modern software across the engineering sector.
Two rounds of follow-on funding from Skalata is now enabling Tablogs to:
- Grow their tech, sales, marketing, and support teams to support further US Expansion and kick off EU sales
- Build and release TabLabs, and upsell this product to their existing client base to double TAM
- Build a EU standard optimised version of TabLogs and TabLabs.
So often, it’s not about being prescriptive or telling founders how to run their day-to-day. They’re already experts in their fields. It’s about having the conversations and pushing the boundaries that get them to realise their own potential.
This ongoing positive discourse - which Skalata will continue to provide - led to something of a lightbulb moment for Declan.
“It was so affirming to be told that Tablogs is a great company. It gave me more confidence and motivated me to keep reaching higher goals. When I was ecstatic over hitting a 10k recurring monthly revenue, the first thing Guy said was: “when will you hit 50k?”