Why it’s the right time to say farewell to the Flamingo flock

The end of any era always comes with a degree of sadness, and today marks the end of a 4-5 year period of significant investment of my time and focus.  We’ve announced today that I have concluded my term as Chair of Flamingo AI Limited, where I have worked with my good friend and colleague Dr Catriona Wallace since she first pitched her business idea to me in the middle of a rainforest at Commonweath Bank’s Women in Focus conference back in late 2013.

Since that initial pitch I’ve seen the business grow from an initial proof of concept developed via some seed funding of family and friends, which Catriona then took to the US and determined there definitely was a market for cognitive virtual assistants – not that anyone knew that was what they were going to be called back then!

That validation gave us the confidence to raise funds to build the platform proper, which saw Catriona then able to return to the US.  She re-engaged with those same companies who’d delivered that initial positive feedback, one of whom put their money where their mouth was and signed a paid proof of concept agreement.

As the team grew in number, skills and expertise – I remember Catriona introducing me to Joe Waller (CTO) and Dr Jack Elliott (Chief Data Scientist) for the first time – so did the realisation that if talent like this wanted to be on board, this company really had the potential to be something very special.

Back in that rainforest in 2013 we would never have dreamed that just over three years later we would be ringing the bell at the ASX, to mark the second ever female CEO/female Chair combo hitting the boards.

But Flamingo is only one of the hats I wear, and in recent times my other hats have been competing for my time.  The Icon Group expansion across Australia and into Asia is requiring more and more travel as I work with our teams on our digital and data strategies, and as AUCloud, the Canberra based sovereign cloud infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) company that I chair prepares for launch, it also needs some more of my attention.

None of these competing needs for my time have appeared overnight, so Catriona and I, along with our fellow board members and executive team have been preparing for this transition for a period of time.  New directors and new executives have been sourced and appointed, all of whom deliver not only replacement cover for my skill contribution, but an enhanced level of expertise in the areas the business now requires.

My primary role has been to work with Catriona to take an idea and turn it into an international business, ensuring that the appropriate funding, structure and business disciplines are present and matched to each step of the journey.   That’s also why it’s time for me to go, irrespective of my competing hats.  The business no longer needs my experience in taking an idea from concept to reality, it now needs expertise in commercialising and selling high tech software products into large enterprise clients, and our new directors and executive have fantastic track records in doing just that.

It hasn’t always been easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.  I’m incredibly proud of the role I’ve played at Flamingo, but I leave with an enormous amount of confidence in the great team we’ve assembled, and their ability to fly to new and greater heights.  Stuart and my ongoing shareholding in the company, not to mention the inordinate amount of Flamingo decorated merchandise I’ve collected over the past 4 years, also means I’m in no danger of forgetting this particular era of my life!

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