I first met Steven on the football pitch when I was filling in for a social 5-a-side team that he was a part of. In my eyes, we spoke a little and played some good passes to each other, although he takes a bit more of an embellished view. Something that has, over time, become mythologised, we enjoy reflecting on our one-two passes as a symbol of what was to come.
In the many months after that game, I would occasionally run into Steven around the college, always trying to catch a word amidst his busy schedule as a management consultant. At the time I had my hands in a number of unrelated start-up projects and felt ruled by chaos. For that reason, I always enjoyed the chance to speak to someone working with focus, especially when in an area of my personal interest. There were many occasions when I thought about giving up on my start-up projects, to instead seek his advice on how to get a job as a Data Consultant.
Another few months later Steven caught me as I was eating lunch in the dining hall. I told him about an idea that I had been working on to simplify the process of data analysis for small businesses – like Canva but for data I said. In return, he told me about an idea he had to build a management consulting business that was more of a people platform, that prioritised personal and professional growth. Our lunch was unfortunately cut short by other commitments, but we were quick to schedule a follow-up at a local cafe in the following days.
We met at the nearby french cafe, La Galette. I explained, in more depth, the problems I had observed facing local not-for-profit organisations and businesses. As we spoke, I focused half of my attention on Steven and the other on the delicious Croque Monsieur in front of me. It was important, however, that I heard more about Steven’s background. By challenging each other’s values and ambitions we realised how much we had in common.
crafting our shared vision
It wasn’t long before we decided to go into business together. Taking parts of the ideas we had both had, we realised that we would be stronger together, and slowly formulated the outlines of what we would later call Zentient. We started by crafting a vision and mission statement, which turned out to be the perfect catalyst for many engaging conversations about how we could play a role in shaping a better future. Over a couple of weeks, we had designed a technology consultancy for SMEs that would put people before profit and eventually offer easy-to-use low-cost SaaS solutions.
the naming fiasco
The seemingly trivial task of choosing a name turned out to be a bigger ordeal than we had bargained for. Initially, we chose “Ponder”, since we liked its combination of thoughtfulness, tranquillity and informality. For about a week we were sure we had found a name until it was pointed out to us that more than one hundred other businesses had already trademarked that name. We were, to be completely honest, devastated. Our renewed search efforts lacked the energy of the first attempt. We spent an entire month desperately searching for a new name. There were spreadsheets of words, synonyms of those words, and even translations to different languages. Steven spent hours scouring through textbooks at the UWA library looking for words or inspiration before we had finally cracked it. It wasn’t the eureka moment we had hoped for. In the end, we resorted to a purely quantitative process. There was a requirement of 3 or fewer syllables, 8 or fewer letters, domain availability, trademark availability, ease of spelling, ease of pronunciation and positive connotations. “Zentient” was victorious over “Nebulate”, “Valenco” and “Curiate”, but in all, we were probably only about 70% sold on it.
the first clients
Having named and registered the business we began to seek clients. We were fortunate to hear that Teach Learn Grow (TLG) were searching for their next Finance Director to manage their Systems and Finance teams. Steven and I discussed how often a consultancy would fill a vacancy for a client by placing one of their own consultants in the role. Speaking with the CEO of TLG, we proposed a similar solution, where I would be nominally the Finance Director, but with the ability to delegate any work to Zentient team members as required. They relished the opportunity to have the experience of both Steven and me working in the position and soon the contract was signed – we had our first client!
The next projects weren’t too far off either, with the Hydrogen Society of Australia and Innovate Australia both requesting a member’s portal through which they could sell memberships and event tickets, publish information, and communicate with their members. As we worked to deliver existing projects, we would find new ones inevitably taking their place.
Growing the team
With the demand for our services increasing, it was clear that we needed to grow the team beyond just Steven and me. We started our recruitment efforts with a few bumps and hiccups but slowly began to refine the process. With each interview, we gained a better understanding of the kind of person we were searching for, although the image remained blurry.
That is until we met Angela, at exactly the right time. Someone who can turn any room into a community and able to bring out the best in those around her, she very quickly became the new standard to which other candidates were evaluated. It’s no surprise, then, that she passed the interview process with flying colours.
Angela will primarily be working within our People and Growth divisions, to pioneer the future of work. By experimenting with recruitment, onboarding and workplace design, she will no doubt leave her mark on Zentient’s culture. We are thrilled to be welcoming such a kind-hearted and talented person into the team. As we continue to grow, I very much look forward to the privilege of sharing this organisation with other team members as wonderful as her.