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Celebrating a co-founder’s legacy

After almost 14 years of incredible service my friend and business partner, Adam DeGiorgio, has left the Salsa Digital building. We wish him all the best for his future...it’s been one hell of a ride!

Alfred D 3 May 2017

In the beginning

For those of you who don’t know how Adam and I met, and eventually started a business, here’s the story...

It was many years ago when I first met Adam...back in our uni days in the 1990s. We formed a great bunch of friends, so much so that we all travelled together in 1999 aboard a P&O cruise to celebrate our graduation.

Adam (right) and Alfred (left) on the P&O Cruise (New Year’s Eve, 1998)

Adam and I went on to land our first professional jobs together at Cambridge Technology Partners and travelled to Boston together for the company orientation. One of the projects we both worked on at Cambridge was the Pacific Access project for the White/Yellow Pages. Adam worked on the White Pages, and I worked on the Yellow Pages. During this time we established some noteworthy relationships, namely Paul Morriss (the technical team lead) and Phil Baddock (the client sponsor for the project). In terms of Salsa’s history, that was a pretty important project as the four of us would later become Salsa Digital’s directors.

After about three years with Cambridge, I left to help my father in the family business. Not long after, Cambridge was acquired by Novell and then Adam got offered a package.

The work gods had aligned. Adam and I both had an itch to start a business. This was our moment of entrepreneurial seizure. Phil and I had bounced the idea around of PizzaPages.com.au (doesn’t actually exist), but in the end Phil convinced me it was a silly idea. He thought we should move into Open Source instead. We had lunch with Adam at Southbank. The condensed version of the conversation was pretty much:

Alfred/Phil: “Adam, what do ya reckon?”

Adam: “Let’s do it.”

A business is born

And so “Webolutionary” was born. Adam was an active director and Phil and I were silent investors. (Paul then joined ‘unofficially’ in 2015, but that’s another story.) We hit our first snag early on…”Webolutionary” was already trademarked. So it was back to the drawing board (well whiteboard literally) and “Salsa Internet” was born. (I was outvoted...I think I wanted "Koala Internet"...thank goodness for democracy!)

We started off with three basic Salsa Internet website packages:

  1. Mild ($199)

  2. Medium ($299)

  3. Hot ($499)

And a final favourite:

4. The Big Enchilada (call us)

See the ‘Salsa’ theme?

The rest is history...our history...your history.

Adam as a Salsarian

When thinking about this blog and all the many things I wanted to say about Adam, a few striking memories popped into my head. Memories of Adam as a Salsarian, Adam in action.

  • 2003: The nursery. This is where it began. Adam setting up Salsa HQ in his baby’s nursery churning out our first set of $199 websites — yep an office desk and Windows PC (running LAMP) set up in his first born’s nursery room. Sorry and thank you, Sienna! Not quite the garage startup but a cool and true story nonetheless. Note: The banner of this blog is a picture of one of the first business cards with a cute little girl with rosy cheeks on the cover — that’s Adam’s daughter, Sienna.

  • 2010: Selling me The Dream (yup, capital T, capital D). I was thinking about returning home from overseas (Amsterdam) and considering a role at Salsa. His response: “Freddy, you're gonna love Salsa. It's cushy, a breeze. You get to work the hours you want. Also, we see great businesses come and go and know what works and what doesn't. You'll love it.” Some of that (I think) was true.

  • 2011: Coming back to Salsa and during my second week sitting next to Adam delivering the “You’re fired" message to at least five staff (following GFC). I remember thinking holy $#@!. Talk about hitting the ground running.

  • 2012: Our first really big project together. Coles (thanks Phil!). The pitch was big. The budget was big. The team required was big. The scope was fixed price. I was nervous, but Adam was like: "Freddy we're gonna rake it in...How we can lose money?" He persuaded me to be the technical architect on the project, and we hired five people in less than 10 days. (Con take notes!)

  • 2013: In The Zone (another capital T, this time coupled with a capital Z). Sitting alongside Adam and seeing him in the zone, in his element negotiating the second phase of the Coles project, representing $1M+. He was impressive in action, to say the least. It was our biggest project of its time.

  • 2014 onwards: My sales mentor. In 2014 I decided to take the plunge to the dark side - sales. I shadowed Adam in sales, watching him work his magic and learning from him. In those first few, harder years he counselled me during poor sales performance. And he’s always been there for me professionally, as a sounding board. One noteworthy example was the night before one of our very first big government BAFO pitches, with Adam staying back late to help me rehearse the pitch as well as “simplify” 100 slides into 20 :)

My main, more general, takeaways from Adam professionally are his strong leadership skills, the respect he commands from those around him and how good he is at creating a great culture. And let’s face it, he’s also a cool dude.

Above all else Adam has been responsible for positively influencing many lives by providing great jobs for many Salsarians throughout our journey.

Adam as a friend

Adam is much more than a business partner, a fellow founder of Salsa Digital. First and foremost he’s a friend.I remember meeting Adam in 1993 at our RMIT course orientation. Adam casually and confidently walked in dressed in shorts, thongs and a tank top. I remember thinking: “What a Skippy.” (As opposed to a Wog). :)

Upon meeting Adam it was instantly obvious he was exceptionally smart and a high achiever. He got into the ‘elite’ course at RMIT— a double degree — and went on to excel at his studies and later his professional life.

Adam has been a close friend for many years now, and the role model family man I have admired dearly. He’s got too many good qualities to list them all and give you examples, but an early example of his caring and supportive nature is stuck fast for me. Way back when, in Boston (Massachusetts) 1999, he showed his support during a drunken night on the town. I was drunk. Really drunk. Probably even poisoned with alcohol. I was congregating with the “porcelain god” :(, but Adam helped me get it together! He said something like: "Trust me, Freddy. I’ve been there many times before. Head back, drink water, breathe..."

 

Adam (right) and Alfred (left) in Boston, Sober...

One of my funniest memories of Adam was an incident in the early hours of the morning at 7/11 after a big night out with the uni gang (at the Nu Hotel, Dandenong). We would have been 20 years old. We all went to 7/11 to grab hot dogs and meat pies, as one does after a big night out. Perhaps a little tipsy and a lot happy, Adam walks out of the 7/11 door entrance with a mouth full of food. Out of nowhere this girl started physically attacking Adam, obviously mistaking him for somebody else. The girl had Adam literally in a headlock but he was laughing and still eating his hot dog, in between screaming you <!#insert offensive vulgar words here#!> :)

I remember us all in hysterics, watching it unfold in what felt like slow motion.

Finally…

Well, it's been one hell of a ride full of lows and highs followed by more lows and highs.

We (Salsarians) are all here because of Adam. We have (or had) employment because of Adam. We’re here because Adam decided to take the risk and start Salsa Internet out of nothing, despite initial low wages. He didn’t give in to the temptation of a secure, high-paying consulting job.

He stuck at it. For this I have the utmost respect and appreciation.

What more can I say but express our gratitude to our fearless founder.

Thank you Adam for your legacy.

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