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Martin Hill turns a dream into software

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AS a child, Martin Hill always wanted to make his own mark in the world.

Young, inquisitive and with a passion for science, he watched his mentor, the late Paul Trainor, in awe as Trainor took his Australian technology to the world.

Trainor was the man who developed the pacemaker and bionic ear.

"I used to go to his house and he used to have a record player and listen to American business management records on how to grow a business, which was pretty unusual in those days," Hill says.

"I remember him talking about tiger teams . . . and I would wonder what the hell he was talking about."

A tiger team is a group of people a company hand-picks to test out its internal security system.

Members of the team are also used to uncover or sort out problems.

Fast-forward about 35 years, and Hill is fulfilling his dream and making his own mark.

He is the creator of Estate Master -- a property feasibility software application, which is used for development and hotel feasibilities, corporate consolidation and investment appraisals.

For example, the development feasibility software allows a person to appraise property development opportunities, estimating things such as how much they should pay for a site, the profit they are going to make and what return on equity the person is going to get.

Such has been the success that the company has signed up 32 universities around the country for its partnership program, which allows students to do its Estate Masters software course online, as part of their real estate finance-land economics studies.

Nearly all Australian real estate agency firms today have his application, along with a large number of property development companies.

The idea for the software first came to Hill during his days at a merchant banking firm. While working in the finance area, he was exposed to lot of corporate takeover activity, but Hill says he would always find himself doing financial models, specifically discounted cashflow analysis (the value of an asset or company based on future cashflow).

"I saw an avenue, having done the property masters (degree) . . . to take this technology to the property area," says Hill, who already had a taste for property thanks to his father, an avid hotel and property investor.

"I recognised that from a financial side of things and a mathematical side, that there was a lot of areas you could improve the analysis of property."

At the age of 31, he started his business and, as Hill puts it, "took an each way bet". The business was made up of two arms -- software and the property consulting division.

Initially, Hill started writing up customised financial models for clients, but he soon realised that there was repeat work and that property development analysis was global. So he developed a standard program.

That was the start of the Estate Master software product.

Within a few years, the software business took off and became the biggest component of the company's total sales.

Clients such as Knight Frank, Colliers International, Ernst & Young, Grant Samuel Property, Grocon and Lend Lease flocked to the new software in droves.

Although there was temptation to go overseas at that point, Hill resisted and made the decision to dominate his own turf first.

That goal took him just three years to achieve.

"Things happen in steps, Hill says. "You have a dream, but you've also got to double check, is (it) just a dream or is there some foundation in it."

By 2003, he was ready to take on the world. The first destination was Britain.

Estate Master picked up Knight Frank and CB Richard Ellis as clients and never looked back.

The move was also the start of an international expansion, which today sees the software present in 42 countries across Asia, India, the Middle East and Europe. It is used by more than 12,000 people. China still has not fully embraced Estate Masters, but this should soon change.

The company has had some early success with Chinese real estate firms, but has struggled to get traction with the nation's development companies.

The company is about to release some new software technology, which will allow them to go back into the Southeast Asian markets and the US.

Sitting in his Sydney city office in George Street, Hill says he feels proud about what he has created: "I'm very proud that . . . some vision that I had about analysis is now become common practice," he said.

Date Published: 05 Mar 2010
Category: General News

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