When Brad Lorge, Matthew Moss and Kenneth Wong met each other during their first semester at UNSW in 2011 it’s unlikely they thought they would go on to create a successful startup logistics company that just over 10 years later would be valued at $20.5m.

Indeed, Moss – the Chief Engineer and co-founder of the company Premonition – admits that his expectation on starting University was far more mundane.

“I came to UNSW expecting to do a good degree, get a decent nine-to-five job and a reasonable paycheck. But now look where we are!”

The inspiration for what ultimately turned into Premonition came from a project that Lorge, Moss and Wong were involved in during their second year as students in the School of Computer Science and Engineering.

As part of their Special Project block they created and developed a prototype program specifically designed to be used by Foodbank Australia to help coordinate the movement of fresh produce from those with surplus to those in need. The aim of the technology was to increase efficiencies and greatly reduce food wastage.

The trio also entered the project into the 2013 Imagine Cup, a global competition run by Microsoft for student innovators tackling social issues with tech.

They won the Australian regional final and then travelled to St Petersburg in Russia for the World Final where they finished third in the World Citizenship category.

“The Imagine Cup was such a springboard for us,” says Moss. “I think it’s great that there is a multi-billion dollar multinational company who hold a competition just for students all around the world who are trying to do some cool things.

“And that was also a huge opportunity for us – one of many that are available at UNSW – and looking back we can see how tremendous it was to be a part of it.”

Although their system was originally designed for Foodbank Australia’s needs, unfortunately, the charity did not have the resources to support a major rollout and the full-time team needed to run it.

However, they were so impressed by the project that in 2016 they recommended it to one of their partners, field sales and marketing experts Crossmark. The founders then incorporated Premonition as a new business.

In the next six years, Premonition grew rapidly, based on the NowGo Platform which provides real-time, predictive logistics to clients from end-to-end.

“There's been a real kind of recognition recently that the logistics industry has some fundamental room for improvement,” Moss says.

“I’m sure everyone has experienced it in terms of having deliveries missed and then they go walkabout for two weeks before coming back at some point. That is just a symptom of the deeper issues in the industry.

“No-one is happy. Delivery drivers might not earn as much as they should, managers are stressed, customers have a poor experience and overall the merchants don’t get to give the consumers the experience they want.

“This is the core thesis of Premonition. That things can be improved to make everyone happier through more efficient use of delivery fleets, through smarter tracking of the deliveries and through better decision making.”

Learning experiences

Between 2016 and 2022, the Premonition client list grew to include CouriersPlease, Aramex Blu, DeliverE, Reece and News Ltd, with their system powering more than 40 million deliveries daily from more than 3,000 drivers. In early 2022, the company was acquired by fellow Sydney-based logistics company Shippit for $20.5m.

“The whole journey has always been one giant learning experience,” says Wong. “I definitely might have been one of those people that settled for having a nine-to-five at a big tech company.

“Instead you get thrust into trying to understand how a business works and interacting with clients on a negotiating level. That’s not something I suspect the ordinary Computer Science student would experience in a normal role at a tech company.

“We also had to learn how to build a team, almost from first principles, and then how to organise that team. It’s definitely an experience, and one worth having, but it can be difficult at times also.”

So what advice would the Premonition team give to current or potential future Computer Science students hoping to follow in their footsteps?

“I would grab all the opportunities that are there at UNSW for students which will help you to learn, and to grow and to excel,” says Wong.

“UNSW provides so many opportunities and as a student you really should try to take advantage. Looking back, once you’ve graduated and learned a bit more about life, you don’t want to feel like you missed any of those opportunities.

“And also, make friends. Get to know people and let people get to know you. There are so many students and being involved with the whole cohort can introduce you to people who might want to start a team, or a project, or even a business.”

Moss remembers being particularly inspired by Professor Richard Buckland, currently the Director of First Year Experience of UNSW.

“I would call him a significant influence. He had a really clear, straightforward way of thinking, but he was always very encouraging of students to just go out and give things a try. He definitely instilled that mindset to chase big dreams and big ideas,” he says.

“I also remember Prof. Buckland always talked about needing to wear three hats in order to write software: one as a scientist, one as a designer, and one as a craftsperson.

“You need to wear all three to succeed and I think that’s a philosophy we’ve carried through all the way from the very start to today.”

Neil Martin