Friday, 21 October, 2022
The Pearcey Foundation has announced Rebecca McDonald, Founder and CEO of Library for All, and Sarah-Jane Peterschlingmann, Managing Director and owner of ATech, as joint recipients of the 2022 Queensland ICT Entrepreneur of the Year Award. The awards were presented in Brisbane by Jill Martin, Director of Start Up & Scale Up Programs, Department of Tourism, Innovation and Sport.
The Queensland Pearcey Awards recognise outstanding ICT professionals who have demonstrated innovation, taken risks, made a difference and are an inspiration to others in the industry and the wider community. Nominees for the award this year alongside the joint winners were Ali Stokes, Anna Harrison, Britnee Chamberlain, Justin Falk, Maree Beare, Matt Kirby, Petriea Skitek, Tim Hadwen and Thomas Dowling.
“As founder and inaugural CEO of the non-profit Library for All, now part of Save the Children Australia, Rebecca’s team delivers digital education programs in 14 countries, including Vietnam, Laos, Papua New Guinea and Ukraine. They currently reach over six hundred thousand children every day,” said Paul Gampe, Chair of Pearcey Qld.
Rebecca is an award-winning global authority on the nexus of technology and education for low-connectivity environments. She has spent the last decade leading a team of literacy advocates, authors, technologists and change-makers focused on supplying digital books and educational products for millions of children disconnected from traditional publishing and educational ecosystems. Rebecca’s expertise spans technology-based educational tools for remote communities, software as a service (SaaS) product development, digital-first publishing and distribution of illustrated children’s books, and strategic planning for Save the Children’s global technology and development initiatives. An entrepreneurial humanitarian at heart, Rebecca commits her life to the belief that reading is a basic human right.
“Starting as a web developer, Sarah-Jane helped to grow ATech from humble beginnings to multimillion-dollar revenues and an impressive list of high-calibre clients including airlines, software as a service companies, and all levels of government. ATech provides military-grade Australian cloud hosting, managed services and web development through its flagship ‘X as a Service’ product offering,” Gampe said.
Sarah-Jane is Managing Director and owner of ATech, an international award-winning company that delivers cloud hosting and web development for mission-critical websites. Sarah also held seats on the Central Queensland University ICT Advisory Board, plus the Australian Computer Society (ACS) and Women In Technology (WIT) executive committees. Sarah-Jane holds a Bachelor of Information Technology majoring in Artificial Intelligence from Central Queensland University and an Executive MBA from the Quantic School of Business and Technology.
Meanwhile, in the ACT, Ben Bromhead and Adam Zegelin (the technical inspiration behind Instaclustr) are this year’s recipients of the ACT Chief Minister’s Pearcey Entrepreneur Award.
Instaclustr helps organisations deliver applications at scale by operating and supporting their data infrastructure through its SaaS platform for open source technologies.
Formed in 2013 as a Canberra-based startup, Instaclustr was initially bootstrapped by co-founders Peter Lilley and Doug Stuart and incubated on campus at the Australian National University (ANU). It was acquired in May 2022 by US hybrid cloud data services and data management vendor NetApp in a deal that industry sources have estimated to be above $500 million.
ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said NetApp’s acquisition of Instaclustr “transforms a local company into a global giant …. [it] is massive for ANU, it’s massive for Canberra, it’s massive for Australia and it’s massive for every university across our nation”.
“Instaclustr provides secure and cost-effective cloud solutions for some of the world’s biggest companies using massive amounts of data across their cloud-based solutions. The company’s cloud-based, open source offerings help power solutions millions of people use every single day and Instaclustr’s solutions are called upon the world over. It’s fantastic to see the company truly going global,” Schmidt said.
Instaclustr operates an automated, proven and trusted managed environment, providing database, analytics, search and messaging. The platform enables companies to focus their internal development and operational resources on building cutting-edge customer-facing applications. Instaclustr works with cloud providers including AWS, Heroku, Microsoft Azure, IBM Cloud and Google Cloud Platform. Its customers include online streaming services, app stores, social media and ride-sharing companies.
“The achievements of Ben and Adam and the success of Instaclustr is a perfect example of how technical innovation, academia and venture capital can come together to deliver more than the sum of its parts,” said Brand Hoff, ACT Chair, Pearcey Foundation.
Ben is Chief Technology Officer and co-founder at Instaclustr, setting the technical direction for the company. Ben is normally located in the California office; however, post-COVID finds him working from Christchurch in New Zealand. Ben is active in the Apache Cassandra community.
Prior to Instaclustr, Ben had been working as an independent consultant developing NoSQL solutions for enterprises and was running a high-tech cryptographic and cybersecurity formal testing laboratory at BAE Systems and Stratsec.
Studying together at ANU, Ben and Adam founded relational.io — somewhat of a precursor to Instaclustr. The initial problem was a need for access to highly scalable databases to help with a project on which they were working. After some research, they began using Apache Cassandra and saw its value first-hand for implementing the infrastructure required to support and deliver datasets.
“As we were building tools to help us better operate and manage Cassandra, we began wondering if other businesses out there might be interested in what we’d developed. We then launched an early version of Instaclustr with minimal expectations but had five customers in production soon after — and quickly realised the market demand if we turned our attention there,” Bromhead said.
Adam is Technical Fellow and Systems Architect at Instaclustr, which he describes as “a natural progression of sorts” after being interested in computers from an early age. Adam was a casual PC game player but was always more interested in how video games worked, rather than playing them. In high school Adam enrolled at the Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE), started by former Pearcey National Entrepreneur of the Year Award recipient John De Margheriti.
After earning a Diploma of Computer Games Development from AIE and working as a game developer, Adam took up employment with a local Canberra company and contracted at Geoscience Australia where he worked on its satellite data processing tools and pipeline. It was big data processing with hundreds of gigabytes per day, leading Adam to the view that real-world challenges are more interesting than theoretical problems.
As a member of Instaclustr’s engineering team, Adam spends most of his day working on the software powering its hosted Apache Cassandra solution. That includes implementing new features, improving existing ones based on customer feedback and assisting Instaclustr’s technical operations team in resolving issues. Adam is also focused on providing Instaclustr’s contribution to the broader open source community on which its products and services rely, including Apache Cassandra, Apache Spark and other technologies such as CoreOS and Docker.