From mergers and acquisitions lawyer to managing director of one of the fastest growing companies on the BRW list in just over ten years, Mount Scopus College alumnus Adam Schwab has quite a story to share. A very large lunchtime attendance came to hear that story on Tuesday 16 June at Chabad of Melbourne CBD – some old acquaintances and others just interested to find out how he achieved such success in such a short space of time.
The initial motivation for Adam Schwab and his old school friend Jeremy Same was simply doing something different, venturing out on their own to at least match their previous incomes at Freehills and the ANZ Bank respectively. Entrepreneurship, said Adam, was still a dirty word back in 2004 – something that has changed dramatically over the intervening years when today, many young people (and many of them Jewish young people) are looking to emulate his success.
Schwab and Same began with what Adam Schwab described as “high end backpacker apartments” – first one, then two, then ten – before realising that the low rentals characteristic of the mid‑naughties could not last forever and that landlords would become reluctant to rent to them when rentals increased. They therefore went up market, moving from backpacker apartments to executive apartments that were smartly furnished and cleaned weekly. Their business, Living Corporate Apartments, reached $2M a year in turnover.
After coming to the realisation that in order to grow their income further, they would need a business that was scalable as well as sustainable, Schwab and Same came across the US‑based online discount website Groupon and decided to duplicate it in Australia. Zoupon was born, offering multiple discount coupons to local businesses. Once they had found a creative way to build a customer list, the business took off. Zoupon later bought deals.com.au.
Their next and most significant change came when “almost by accident” they stumbled across the travel business. After battling with the challenge of local merchants not always providing the quality that they had promised, negatively effecting the website’s reputation, they saw the relative merits of the travel business. Having started with bed and breakfast, they soon realised that many good hotels in places like Thailand and Vietnam had minimal opportunities to market themselves in Australia. Recognising that this was an untapped market, they moved their focus increasingly into travel – hotels, restaurants, bars, spas – with multiple websites, including Cudo and LuxuryEscapes. In the first quarter of 2015, their combined businesses had a turnover of over $200M.
So what was their secret? “Don’t force an idea: let an idea come to you”, be aware of your potential weaknesses, hire good people and perhaps most of all, just be in the right place at the right time.