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  • Raveen Kuhadas

The Secret to Building Fast Growing Software Products with Harry Hamilton

Updated: Jan 1

“SafetyCulture is truly the most customer centric company I’ve ever seen.” Harry Hamilton is the founder of Minnow and a former Group Product Manager at SafetyCulture

Safety Culture is a fast growing unicorn with a valuation of over $2bn serving 65,000 businesses in 180 countries. Its workplace safety app is powerful but what I love is how easy it is to use. I never felt lost while navigating the app. In this article, Harry’s reflections show how this simplicity is the result of deliberate product strategy decisions. The user engagement it generates is key to SafetyCulture’s rapid growth.

Harry played an important part in growing SafetyCulture’s user base. For investors and product managers, this is a rare opportunity to learn the tactics and strategy behind SafetyCulture’s Product-Led growth.

Since leaving SafetyCulture in June 2022, Harry continues to give back to the Product Management community through his education startup Minnow. It shares Harry’s strategic approach along with the views of other Product Managers from leading Australian startups like Canva. You can learn more here.

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Harry Hamilton, founder of Minnow and former Group Product Manager at Safety Culture

Harry Hamilton, founder of Minnow and former Group Product Manager at Safety Culture

How Harry Created His Opportunity in Product Management

Is there a clear career pathway in product? I don’t see many ‘Bachelor of Product Management’ degrees out there. Harry’s journey to Product Management is a case study of how anyone has the power to define her/his career.

Like many of us, Harry did a commerce degree and chose the consulting route with Deloitte. Consulting taught him to look at a business strategically. For example, is the size of the new opportunity worth pursuing? If so, what capabilities does the organisation need to pursue it?

Harry enjoyed the challenge and working in high-performing teams. However, he wanted to go beyond PowerPoint presentations.

“It was a great place to learn but I worked out pretty quickly that I wanted something where I was tied to outcomes in a meaningful way over the longer term.” Harry Hamilton

What excited him was coming up with ideas and bringing them into the world. The startup world beckoned, and he started having conversations with people in the space. The problem was, he had no experience in startups or product.

Despite this, his enthusiasm got him an audience with SafetyCulture. Here, he found an organisation willing to turn the traditional hiring process on its head. To them, Harry was a strong cultural fit and his enthusiasm was exactly what they were looking for. Two years and a day after he began in consulting, Harry left for a new role SafetyCulture created for him in ‘Product Strategy and Commercialisation’.

SafetyCulture Logo

Harry’s initial focus was building a new business unit that would complement SafetyCulture’s workplace safety app. As this business unit moved beyond the early proof-of-concept stage to commercialisation, Harry’s role transitioned from Strategy to Product Management.

The learning curve was steep. Yet it took 3 years before Harry was sent for his first Product Management course. How did he manage in the meantime? Harry has 2 pieces of advice for anyone scaling steep learning curves.

The first is to lean into your strengths. Stakeholder management is an important part of Product Management and Harry was well versed in this from his time in consulting. He led through collaboration and influence rather than exercising his authority as a Product Manager.

“Everything you do, you’re working in a team, never in isolation.” Harry Hamilton

The second is finding mentors to develop relevant technical skills. For Product Managers, this includes understanding design fundamentals such as user experience concepts. Harry credits colleagues such as Brian Swift (now Head of Product at Dovetail) for his development in this area.

As Harry grew as a Product Manager, he was given the responsibility to drive the growth of SafetyCulture’s core app (previously called iAuditor).

It was a rare opportunity to work on such a unique and fast growing product. His insights take us behind the curtain of SafetyCulture’s remarkable growth.

How Safety Culture Stands Out Through Its Customer Centricity

“Why don’t I help people not have these problems? Nobody goes to work and wants to have an injury. The checklist was the tool that pilots were using since the 1930s.” Luke Anear, Founder of SafetyCulture

SafetyCulture Founder Luke Anear

SafetyCulture Founder Luke Anear as profiled in Business News Australia

Luke Anear worked as a private investigator verifying workers' compensation claims for private insurers. He saw firsthand the impact of these claims such as a loss of self esteem and purpose from workers who weren’t able to work.

What began as selling word documents for workplace training in 2004, evolved into a workplace safety platform that companies use to build checklists to improve workplace safety. SafetyCulture’s rapid growth resulted in it serving 65,000 businesses with over 600 million checks being completed. Not bad for a business initially funded by $10,000 that Luke borrowed from his dentist and a handful of investors.

The secret behind SafetyCulture’s success – customer obsession.

“We have a value called ‘think customer’…the way that it was applied to SafetyCulture was absolutely next level.” Harry Hamilton

At SafetyCulture, Product teams live and breathe the customer. Every member of the team including the engineers speaks to customers several times a week. Their office has rooms and even artwork designed around their customers.

SafetyCulture meeting room designed around their client Coles

SafetyCulture meeting room designed around their client Coles

Harry credits this obsession to the founder, Luke. Product teams needed to frame their presentations around the customer. For example, ‘Here’s a specific customer ‘x’ who has a real problem ‘y’ and we are going to build ‘z’ to tackle the problem.”

Harry recalls a presentation where Luke rang a customer on the spot to see if a product idea made sense. Harry took this example to heart.

“I always took the mark of a good Product Manager as having 5-10 customers that they are close enough to call their mobile at anytime to ask questions. That’s how close you need to be to build valuable products.” Harry Hamilton

The reason for this obsession – SafetyCulture employs a Product-Led Growth model which relies on highly engaged customers for its success.

Leveraging Your Users – How SafetyCulture Fuelled Its Product Led Growth Model

PLG companies Source: Open View Partners

Recognise a few names? Source: Open View Partners

Venture capital firm Open View Partners, defined the Product-Led Growth (PLG) business model where the product itself (rather than a big sales force) is the primary driver of user growth. Users get hooked on the product and recommend it to their colleagues who spread it throughout the organisation.

There is a catch. Users aren’t known for their patience. The product must be easy to use and demonstrate quickly how it makes work life easier.

This is especially true for SafetyCulture as most of its users came from a ‘pen and paper’ or spreadsheet environment and are not used to complex products. To be customer centric, SafetyCulture needs to be simple.

“It’s very often the simple things done well that were the ‘wow’ features, rather than the things that were rich and complex.” Harry Hamilton

You really need to try it to understand how easy it is to use. After downloading it for free, I created my first checklist in minutes. I also had great feedback from my fire alarm inspector.

“We use SafetyCulture for our fire and gas inspections. It’s so easy to use and to flag issues. The public library templates are great and help us design our checklists.” Gabriel Sedacca, Founder of Guardian Smoke Alarms

As the name suggests, Product-Led Growth models are known for their rapid adoption by users. SafetyCulture’s strategy amplifies this model with a combination of product design and pricing.

Firstly, it’s much easier to rely on a user to bring in members of her/his team rather than acquire them individually. How do you promote team expansion in your product design? At SafetyCulture, Harry and his team used the following tactics:

  • Priming the User: Set clear expectations during the product experience that this is a product for teams. “You should feel like your team is missing if you’re using the product by yourself.”

  • Respecting Context: The process of inviting team members must feel natural. For example, prompting the user to invite the team member that she/he is sharing a report with.

  • Thoughtful Onboarding: All your users go through this process which makes it an essential place to promote team expansion.

SafetyCulture In-app experience

The SafetyCulture app experience. Left to right: Priming on the Onboarding Screen, Contextual Sharing of Inspection Reports and Inviting team members

The next step is to design a pricing model that leverages team expansion. SafetyCulture’s freemium pricing model gives away a large amount of value upfront, allowing for ten free users. In return, it magnifies SafetyCulture’s team expansion product strategy.

“In a B2B SaaS freemium model, team expansion has incredible leverage.” Harry Hamilton

SafetyCulture Pricing Page. The free plan allows for up to 10 team members.

SafetyCulture doesn’t stop there. As discussed in a previous post, sustainable growth often requires expanding the products offered to customers. This is always a challenge and requires thoughtful product design.

Customer Centricity and SafetyCulture’s Product Expansion Model

“The journey from a fundamentally single product company to a platform company is incredibly hard.” Harry Hamilton

SafetyCulture started as a simple checklist app but has evolved into a workplace safety and operations platform. Harry’s reflections show how customer centricity is the centre of SafetyCulture’s successful approach to product expansion.

Respecting User Context

It starts with a deep understanding of how users accomplish their tasks. The goal is to make your products fit seamlessly into the user’s workflow. For workplace safety inspections, SafetyCulture creates a natural flow for the user to discover and adopt their Checklists, Actions and Reports products.

Workplace safety user workflow and SafetyCulture products

Workplace safety user workflow and SafetyCulture products – Checklists, Actions and Reports

Managing Complexity

All multi-product platforms continuously manage a trade-off between additional functionality and complexity. Building more features makes your product more powerful but also makes it harder for users to understand resulting in a poor user experience.

“You end up with a laundry list of stuff, but customers don’t care about the features. They are looking for the product to solve their problems” Harry Hamilton

Complexity vs User Experience tradeoff

At SafetyCulture, Harry managed this in 2 ways:

  • Team Communication: As your product teams grow, it’s important to create opportunities for them to communicate. Harry organised weekly meetings where the product, design and engineering leads of each team gave updates on their learnings, progress towards their goals and if they needed further support.

  • Simplifying: Harry was continuously looking for ways to simplify the product experience. Particularly, keeping the navigation menus simple enough for users to find the features they needed. For example, Harry’s team integrated their numerous Help tools into the product experience itself. It’s done so intuitively that I never felt lost while using the app.

SafetyCulture in-app Help prompts

SafetyCulture in-app Help prompts act as a natural guide as users discover the app’s various products and features

Measuring Success and Sustainable Growth

For PLG companies, Net Revenue Retention is a key indicator of success. Why? Retained users continue using your product and invite new users. This is the reason PLG businesses tend to have Net Revenue Retention Rates of over 100%. The secret behind this metric is engagement.

“It comes back to the customer centric approach. Everything we did was framed in customer value creation. The way you measure it in B2B SaaS is through engagement.” Harry Hamilton

Engagement is at the heart of the Product-Led Growth model. At SafetyCulture, engagement was measured in Monthly Active Users (MAUs).

Importantly, this wasn’t just users who logged onto the platform every month. They had to do some action of value. For example, opening the app and completing an inspection. As SafetyCulture launched new products, they actively measured the number of users who engaged in 2 or more products each month.

What are the benefits of focusing on engagement?

“You’re afforded many options if you have a healthy engaged user base.” Harry Hamilton

An engaged customer base gives your product strategic optionality. In the current inflationary environment and tech downturn, this could be your greatest asset. Engaged users are more likely to accept price increases or stick to your product as customers slim down their subscriptions.

Strategic product optionality

Harry’s Next Chapter - Building a Product Management Community With Minnow

Customer Centricity is at the heart of SafetyCulture’s simple user experience and strong engagement. Engagement gives a business the flexibility to achieve its strategic objectives. Harry’s insights build on our understanding of how customer centricity can help businesses succeed.

Venture Journeys Customer Centricity Framework

Venture Journeys Customer Centricity Framework

SafetyCulture is one of a growing number of successful Australian technology companies. Yet, we don’t often hear from Product Management experts like Harry who have unique insights on the problems Australian companies face. This is the motivation behind Harry’s new cohort based learning platform Minnow.

Learn product management from Harry and other successful Product Managers

Unlike most courses, learners are taught to apply strategy and structured problem solving to product management. This was Harry’s ‘super power’ throughout his career as he dealt with the daily emergencies product managers in startups face.

Perhaps the biggest opportunity is to join a growing product management community from interactions with fellow learners and guest speakers from success stories like Canva, Atlassian and SafetyCulture. In true PLG fashion, you can learn more with a range of options:

  • Preview Minnow’s course content with a 7-day free trial to watch any product leader session recorded in the course.

  • Sign up for one of Minnow’s courses

  • Join his Product Management 101 course with Startmate in February

It’s encouraging to see a generation of Product Managers giving back to the community. I’m excited to see the impact Harry and Minnow will have on the Australian startup ecosystem.


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