Acusensus is taking the fight against distracted driving global  - LaunchVic

Acusensus is taking the fight against distracted driving global 

Case Studies

Alexander Jannink is on a mission to stop phone addicts from making deadly errors on our roads, and he’s ready to take the fight global.

When the Melbourne entrepreneur co-founded ASX-listed startup Acusensus in 2018 with the help of the Melbourne University’s Melbourne Accelerator Program, he was determined to build world-leading tech that would help curb road trauma caused by distracted driving.

There was a strong personal motivation behind the business idea: a friend of Alex’s was killed in a collision with a driver who was believed to be distracted close to a decade ago.

Over the past few years, Acusensus has been proving the value of its AI-powered solutions on roads across Australia. Its flagship smart camera system, Heads-Up, takes high-resolution photos through a car’s windshield and then uses artificial intelligence to identify drivers who are illegally using their phones while behind the wheel.

When Heads-Up launched in New South Wales in 2019, the number of drivers using their phones dropped from one in 82 to one in 532 over a three-year period.

Alex says the technology has strong community support at a time when distracted driving is contributing to the nation’s stubbornly high road tolls.

“It’s something that the public actually relates to – most people hate other drivers using their mobile phones,” he said.

Acusensus has also inked contracts with three other Australian state governments, and revenue increased by 46% to $42 million in the 2023 financial year. Following several local successes, the company is now focusing on international expansion.

“There should be a market for this in every country in the world, basically – 1.2 million people die on roads globally each year,” Alex said.

“The sad bit about where we’re at globally is that we’re in a rising road toll environment.”

Acusensus has already been building traction overseas, including a number of technology pilots in the US and the UK.

“When we do it right, the offshore revenue will be larger than our Australian revenue,” Alex said.

Gearing up for growth

Pursuing this next stage of growth brings new challenges. Alex says the approaches that helped Acusensus secure its early successes won’t necessarily work for the company’s next chapter.

“I’m finding this every day in the business at the moment – you have to keep breaking things you have been doing and reset them,” he said.

The business has been drawing on the advice of expert mentors to prepare for its next phase.

Acusensus recently completed LaunchVic’s 30X30 program, which helps upskill leadership teams in areas like human resources and finance so they are ready to tackle barriers to growth.

This gave the Acusensus team access to mentors from more mature businesses who helped the company workshop how to approach scaling its workforce, building a great culture and maintaining productivity during a period of significant growth.

Hearing from startup leaders who have already faced these problems has been invaluable, Alex said.

“These mentors absolutely know what they’re talking about… They say something and it sounds easy, but it would have taken me weeks to get to the same conclusion.”

Drawing on an ecosystem of mentors

These days, Acusensus has offices in Queensland, New South Wales, Nevada and London – but the business continues to call Victoria home with their headquarters in Melbourne’s CBD.

Alex sees several advantages to building a global brand while being based in Melbourne, including the availability of high-quality talent from the city’s universities. The costs of doing business are also more reasonable than in many startup hubs overseas.

“If you’re trying to grow a tech business in Silicon Valley, you’ll have to pay twice as much to achieve it.”

The strength of the local startup community is another major drawcard, he says. It means there are plenty of mentors available to pass on their knowledge to the next generation of founders.

“Really good advice is extremely important – it’s worth a lot,” he said.

“That’s really where the value is, in that ecosystem of trained people who understand what the challenges are.”

Acusensus have been named Scaleup of the Year at the 2024 Governor of Victoria Startup Awards.