Local tech play Bridge is gearing up for its much-anticipated IPO later in Q1 FY22 with a powerful new addition to its team.

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) former chief executive Martin Hoffman will join the board of Bridge as a non-executive director.

Hoffman announced his resignation from the NDIA in June with Bridge founder and chairman Rupert Taylor-Price describing his appointment as having two great benefits for the company.

“Firstly, it’s an enormous validation on the need for the software in the market and his belief in the quality of the business, our software and how it can solve a deficiency in the market,” Taylor-Price said.

“Secondly, Martin’s ability to strategise and navigate the sector for us will be unparalleled.”

Taylor-Price founded the Bridge platform back in 2008 to streamline compliance and organisational tasks for providers in employment services market before the recent entry into the care market.

The software as a service (SaaS) offering is one of five that has Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) accreditation and has now advanced to the NDIS.

Navigating a behemoth, complex NDIS

The NDIS was introduced in 2016 to provide support to people with disability, their families, and carers. It is jointly governed and funded by the Federal Government, states, and territories.

According to budget estimates the Federal Government’s NDIS spending is forecast to provide $33.9 billion to over 500,000 Australians who have permanent and significant disability in 2022 23, growing to $44.6 billion in four years and exceeding expenditure on Medicare.

“Martin understands the nuances and complexities of the market, which is made up of support co-coordinators, plan managers, allied health professionals all the way through to people building disabled facilities for people to live,” Taylor-Price said.

“Having the former CEO of the programme come in and help Bridge navigate that environment successfully will be of enormous benefit.”

He said every business entering the mammoth NDIS will have to place bets as to where the greatest opportunities are.

“The more capital you have the more bets you get to place and having someone like Martin on the board means we can place fewer bets with more accuracy” he said.

Helping inefficient sector navigate bureaucracy

There are ~17,000 NDIS providers in Australia. The Bridge platform enables providers to manage their client appointments, tasks for the day and bureaucratic documentation for compliance and claims from the government.

Taylor-Price said the NDIS sector has significant opportunities to improve efficiency and hasn’t had time to mature or refine itself.

“We have seen high demand for software and automation for the NDIS, it is a massive opportunity. The challenge is less of a sales challenge and more of a product fit challenge – we need to make sure customers realise the efficiencies and increases in revenue so that our customer grow with Bridge” he said.

He said the challenge for Bridge is building a platform which is synonymous with customer satisfaction.

“The real key for the business to be successful is investment in customer service, simplicity of software, automation of onboarding,” he said.

Bridge makes it money from invoicing its provider clients based on how many participants it is supporting.

With such a huge potential market, Taylor-Price says Bridge must think of itself like accounting software Xero (ASX:XRO).

“We have a good heritage in enterprise software, solving complex problems and making things simple, compliant, secure and that is probably the harder bit to get right,” he said.

“The challenge in the new market is servicing such a large customer base, keeping them happy and making the value of our software very clear to them.

“The value part is almost self-fulfilling because of the challenge the industry is facing.”

He said all Australians want the NDIS program to work well and be an efficient use of taxpayer funds.

Well set-up to lead company

Taylor-Price has a background in improving government efficiency. He started the company having worked for a group of not-for-profit organisations that delivered social service programs.

He now has several roles focusing on government efficiency, security and supporting Australian business growth.

Among his roles is the Co-Chair of the Data Sector Group for the Department of Home Affairs and he is on the Artificial Intelligence Think Tank for CSIRO Government. He also has top secret security clearance for the Department of Defence.

“There’s two big bets we are making with Bridge, one is that compliance will grow because taxpayers will want to see integrity in the system and the other is the government’s focus on cybersecurity,” he said.

The federal government has become increasingly concerned about security breaches when handling private citizens’ data.

Bridge has already gone through the necessary massive security audit and controls as part of its DESE accreditation.

While the NDIS is a newer program and doesn’t have full accreditation yet, Taylor-Price believes it gives Bridge an advantage as a proven, more secure platform with less risk of being hacked.

“A major competitor of ours had a major cybersecurity breach and we think that this will result in the government accelerating cybersecurity regulation as was seen by DESE” he said.

“By us already being at that high security level we think it will be very challenging for start-ups in the space to succeed and compete with us.”

Bridge CEO Jamie Conyngham was appointed in 2020 with a growth mandate.  Taylor-Price said the company is now planning on an IPO in mid-September.

This article was developed in collaboration with Bridge, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.

This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.