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From Footy To Wall Street: How AFL Player Joel MacDonald Become A $100 Million Man

Joel MacDonald, 33, has just made it onto the AFR Young Rich List.

28/10/2017 1:42 PM AEDT | Updated 28/10/2017 2:57 PM AEDT
Christopher Pearce (Fairfax Media)/Scott Barbour (Getty Images)

Five years ago Joel MacDonald was on the bus after playing an AFL game with the Melbourne Demons, but it wasn't football on his mind.

He and two other teammates had their laptops open, doing the sums to see if they could get their idea for a booze delivery business off the ground.

It was the seed for an idea which has today evolved into $200 million software empire GetSwift and seen the 33-year-old join the likes of Atlassian founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar on Australian Financial Review (AFR)'s Young Rich List with an estimated personal wealth of more than $100 million.

Business is more of a 24/7 sport -- and your scoreboard is your revenue."

"I love football but towards the end of my football career I started to notice myself internally just focusing so much of my time and my passion towards these businesses," MacDonald told HuffPost Australia.

"I've always looked at things a different way and along the journey tried to solve some problems.

"If I see a problem I just want to solve it and all of a sudden 24 hours have past and I've hardly slept or eaten."

A self-described "average player" when it came to AFL, MacDonald has proved himself anything but in the business world.

Scott Barbour via Getty Images
Joel played for the Melbourne Lions until he quit to focus on his LiquorRun business in 2013.

His company GetSwift's on-demand delivery software now operates in 630 cities worldwide and has been taken up in Australia by the likes of the Commonwealth Bank and Pizza Hut.

But like most businesses, its success has come at the cost of many sleepless nights and a lot of risk.

"Business is more of a 24/7 sport -- and your scoreboard is your revenue," he said.

"Whereas with football it's only two hours on Saturday and you always had the chance if you had a bad game to come back the next week, business, well, it's a bit more ruthless."

When the footballers' on-demand alcohol delivery business, LiquorRun, started to take off in 2013 MacDonald quickly realised they had a problem -- and it was one shared by countless other businesses around the world.

Trying to coordinating their scooter-riding deliverers with nearby suppliers and delivery addresses in order to get alcohol and food to customers in under 60 minutes was becoming a logistical nightmare.

"We got to the stage where we were running a hundred miles an hour but we were still operating on email dispatching, two-way radio and paper – it was a really clunky system," MacDonald explained.

So they started designed a software program that could track and coordinate the deliveries in optimal time -- and GetSwift was born.

It wasn't long before the demand for their software, which GetSwift claims can "dispatch like Uber, track like Domino's and set routes like Fedex", was outstripping the desire for speedily delivered alcohol.

At the age of 30, MacDonald moved to New York and started negotiating with US giants over multi-million-dollar contracts.

Fairfax Media / Christopher Pearce
Joel McDonald and Executive Chairman Bane Hunter believe this is just the beginning for their $200 million company.

"It was frightening... how many of these large corporates with multi-billion dollar balance sheets were still operating on paper, were still operating on two-way radio. It didn't matter how big you were, the problem was so broad," MacDonald said.

But in the end, MacDonald and his executive chairman Bane Hunter decided to hold onto ownership of the company in a decision that's paid off with its unprecedented success.

Since GetSwift was listed on the ASX at 20 cents just ten months ago, its stocks have skyrocketed by 740 percent.

And while he misses the camaraderie of the AFL locker room, MacDonald is looking forwards, not backwards.

"There is no real ceiling on our growth -- that's the exciting thing.

"I feel like we're just at base camp."

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