Moore’s introduction to Willow, which has sold its software to half a dozen Fortune 500 companies in the United States, was completely by chance.
He sat next to Adam Geha, a former Macquarie colleague and one of Willow’s foundation investors, at a charity dinner in Sydney in the middle of last year. Geha’s funds management company, EG Funds Management, was a founding shareholder in Willow,
‘‘Come and have a look what we’re up to over at Willow and come and meet our CEO Josh and our chief product officer and co-founder Dale and the team and see what you think,’’ Geha said to Moore.
Moore said: ‘‘Here we go, this will be interesting.’’
Moore visited the ultra-modern Willow offices in Governor Philip Tower. Soon after, he agreed to join the Willow team on a trip to the United States to visit customers and partners in New York, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
‘‘The co-founders, Joshua Ridley and Dale Brett, are both really talented people doing things that are different,’’ Moore says.
Ridley says Moore got to see first hand ‘‘the potential for the company but also the challenges we faced with the scale of the opportunity’’.
‘‘This is just a small Australian business doing its part trying to scale up internationally,’’ Ridley adds.
Brett says: ‘‘One of the key things was giving him the ability to hear from our partners and from our customers directly by taking him to the Microsoft campus, hearing from Microsoft executives and being taken into the executive briefing centre where Willow is featured.’’
Microsoft has been a strong supporter of Willow. When he was in Sydney in November, Nadella said Willow was a prime example of the exciting work happening in the cloud.
After the US trip, Ridley said he had a serious chat to Moore. ‘‘I said, ‘We see this huge opportunity in front of us, we’re just two humble guys trying to do something great in the world, and if you want to get on board, there it is’.’’
Not long after that Moore agreed to join the board and invest in the company. He has assisted with the company’s first capital raising, which has brought to the share register new strategic investors.
Making a difference
Moore’s decision to become chairman of The Smith Family is in keeping with his long-standing association with not-for-profit organisations. The Smith Family, which celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2022, will this year provide 50,000 disadvantaged Australian children with educational support.
‘‘I was very happy to step up and help them just before the end of last year,’’ he says. ‘‘I enjoy working with The Smith Family and the work they are doing with disadvantaged kids. My work with them is a continuation of my interest in this area.’’
Moore’s decision to join the charity’s board followed conversations with Lisa O’Brien, who has been CEO since 2011, and the former chairman, Christine Bartlett.
Moore was impressed with its evidence-based approach to providing educational support to disadvantaged young Australians. It was a logical move given his 13-year chairmanship of the Police & Community Youth Clubs.
O’Brien says under her leadership The Smith Family has become very focused on achieving measurable outcomes.
‘‘We have a long history of working with disadvantaged kids, but more recently our focus has been entirely on supporting disadvantaged kids with their education, because we know that’s one of the most effective ways to break that cycle of inter-generational poverty,’’ she says.
Those kind of employment and study figures are very impressive given the background of the kids that we’re supporting.
— Nicholas Moore
‘‘We delivered 20 programs and they reached 170,000 children and young people last year, so we have significant reach.
”But for me and for the organisation today, we are really focused on making a difference. What are the outcomes that we’re achieving? Is anyone better off as a result of the work that we’re doing? And it’s quite difficult to assess that, it’s not a simple proposition.’’
O’Brien says The Smith Family now has a longitudinal database for its 50,000 students. Each student has a unique student identifier which means it is possible to track their progress over time, including school attendance, the proportion that finish year 12, and what they are doing after they exit the program.
‘‘We’ve also just recently started measuring the tertiary completion rates for the ones who go on to further study at TAFE or university, because we know with disadvantaged kids enrolment rates are going up but completion rates are not strong,’’ she says.
O’Brien is pleased with the latest data analysis, which shows four out of five students that The Smith Family has supported are in full- or part-time work or study 12 months after they exited the program.
‘‘These are highly disadvantaged kids, 20 per cent of these kids are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. So those kind of employment and study figures are very impressive given the background of the kids that we’re supporting.’’
Moore’s other not-for profit commitments are chairman of the Sydney Opera House Trust, chairman of Screen Australia and chairman of the Centre for Independent Studies.
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