That Alicia Navarro co-founded world-leading technology firm Skimlinks should come as no surprise. The B. Information Technology and University Medal winner for Computing Sciences has always had a passion for technology and innovation, and by the age of ten had taught herself how to program on her Commodore 64.
But the CEO of a multi-national company needs more than technical expertise. Navarro has taken her business, launched in the midst of the global financial crisis, to the brink of world domination in online content monetisation.
In just three years, the London-based Navarro acquired investors, a co-founder, a growing and passionate team of 28, and thousands of clients around the world. Navarro's journey toward the creation of Skimlinks began with an idea for a social decision-making tool – conceived in Australia – that would ease the frustration of making decisions: organising group holidays, buying furniture with a partner, finding a home with flatmates.
"I hired a team of developers in Romania and worked nights and weekends while working full time," explains Navarro, who had intended to license the technology to other websites. When she discovered the product links collected and shared by users could be automatically turned into money-making 'affiliate links', Navarro realised the focus of the business needed to change.
"It was two years of my life, my savings, my pride and my energy that I had to essentially throw away. But I did it to survive, and it was absolutely the turning point. Skimlinks was born from that decision."
It wasn't long until Navarro secured investors and then co-founder, fellow UTS B. IT graduate Joe Stepniewski. He now heads up the London team while Navarro develops a presence in the US.
Affiliate marketing is a common way for online publishers such as blogs to earn revenue – they earn commission by incorporating product links into their content. Skimlinks provides the technology for websites to automate this linking and commission process.
Having worked for the likes of IBM, Fairfax Business Media and Vodafone, Navarro's enthusiasm for her business – and her staff – is palpable.
"Every day I considered giving up, and every day I was inspired to keep on going. It was, and remains to this day, the hardest thing I have ever done, and no one should go into entrepreneurship thinking it will be easier than working as an employee. But it is also what inspires me: to build something that matters, and to be my own master; to know that my hard work is benefiting me."
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Words: Vanessa Marks