James Henderson

Building great software with a strong sense of purpose

In a market crammed with corporate virtue signalling – those empty words endlessly rolled out as marketing collateral – it can be easy to take a cynical view of impactful work.

Cynical in the sense that for most businesses, such a declaration usually transpires into surface-level or non-existent commitments. But while this appears to be the current industry rule, notable exceptions do exist.

“Everything we do has some type of impact attached to it,” shared Faith Rees, Founder of SixPivot.

Faith Rees (SixPivot)

For the Brisbane-based software specialists, that translates into a refusal to work in industries such as gambling, gaming or debt collection.

The caveat is in sectors like mining for example. If the project is anchored in an attempt to make a positive contribution – such as by reducing carbon emissions or improving environmental efficiency – then these types of efforts will be supported.

“But as a general rule, we don’t just go and work in any industry,” Rees added.

With customer acquisition determined by a strict values framework, SixPivot is guided by a moral compass when selecting future application development projects. This is a business excelling in the world of software creation but equally, driven by a “strong sense of purpose”.

To understand the impact however, first understand the individual.

Having built SixPivot, Cloud Ctrl and 6X Ventures, Rees is a serial entrepreneur, innovator, angle investor and advisor. Whether working with best known or not yet known brands, this executive has combined a background in psychology with technology expertise to deliver community value.

Software for good… SocialProtect and Neuphoria

Take SocialProtect, an application built to shield users from online hate.

The brainchild of Shane Britten – based in Canberra as CEO of Crime Stoppers International – the product is designed to link social media accounts to identify and delete ​comments that contain abuse, in real-time.

If racial abuse, sexual comments, offensive language, spambots or scams are ​identified, the comment is deleted automatically. Deleted posts are kept in the system’s Quarantine Zone in case users decide to ​refer it to the platform or law enforcement.

The application – which launched in January – was built by SixPivot and runs on Amazon Web Services (AWS), in addition to leveraging Azure OpenAI capabilities. Integrated social media platforms span Instagram, Facebook, Discord and Twitter, with TikTok and Snapchat set to follow pending API (application programming interface) approval.

“The original version had been outsourced but fell over every five minutes so we spent three months rebuilding the platform,” Rees explained.

“Shane required support not just from a build perspective but also in terms of commercialisation and growth. We now act as the company’s CTO division to provide additional advisory services and continue to build enhancements on the application.

“But once we built the application, I fell in love with it so now we’ve invested under our 6X Ventures arm.”

In addition to investing capital, 6X Ventures also throws software development and advisory services into the mix with a primary focus on companies that “make a positive impact in the world”.

“If you’re getting abused in a public chat whether through comments or posting, SocialProtect will remove that in real-time,” Rees explained. “The user will never see the abuse nor will anybody else in the comments but the option exists to check back in the Quarantine Zone.”


The application – which doesn’t cover direct messages, just public forums – doesn’t require any user passwords and is configured based on individual requirements.

“It’s all in the moderation,” Rees explained. “The difference with Facebook moderating is that Facebook chooses what it will moderate so it becomes subjective and the user has no control. With SocialProtect, users can select the keywords that are offensive to them and set the same preferences across multiple platforms.”

Within the space of three months, the largest uptake has been across professional athletes who are constantly targeted by abusive fans.

Citing the National Rugby League (NRL) as a leading case in point in Australia, Rees said users have maximised the application to tailor protection levels based on sporting context.

“In rugby league, they are certain offensive words that they don’t care if someone calls them,” Rees outlined. “But other words – which might appear random – can trigger them which is why they customise their experience.”

On club and league pages, organisations can deploy an enterprise licence to manage social media accounts in the same manner.

“Take a social media or welfare officer at a club, they can assess abusive trends and react accordingly,” Rees stated. “For example, an Indigenous player might be on the receiving end of this hate so the club can use that information to start to build resilience for them, in addition to taking action.

“One club identified that the most abusive person targeting their players was actually a member so they said, ‘you’re not a supporter, we don’t want anything to do with you’ and cancelled their membership.”

SocialProtect has also partnered with ActiveFence, a US-based trust and safety provider tasked with moderating all content on Facebook.

“Facebook uses ActiveFence which covers 100+ languages and can also identity images,” Rees outlined. “But Facebook is not deleting the information, only hiding it whereas SocialProtect completely removes the abuse and only provides access via the Quarantine Zone.”

Rees’ strong sense of purpose also extends to Neuphoria, a human performance platform built to provide real-time neural feedback.

The start-up improves productivity via “immediate neural feedback” and training that works on the principles of training the brain into a “flow state”. This neuro technology has helped professional athletes, organisations and biohackers reach an “optimal state of performance”, while also tackling conditions such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

“There’s obviously ECG machines in the hospital that access neural feedback but this fits into a normal baseball cap,” Rees shared. “It’s used like a velcro band and can also work in motion.”

Leveraging both Google Cloud and AWS environments, Neuphoria is also part of the 6X Ventures stable of purposeful businesses. As a result, SixPivot – which launched to the market in 2015 – provides CTO-as-a-Service expertise which includes managing the company’s offshore development team and delivering “complicated roadmapping” and associated build work.

The journey of Neuphoria started as a father-son duo in Queensland – Graham Boulton as father and Henry Boulton as son.

The business started by helping to improve golf swings but evolved into focusing more on mental headspace rather than technical proficiency. Through its FocusBand product, the entrepreneurial pair helped take Australian golfer Jason Day from world no.40 to world no.1.

Faith Rees (SixPivot)

“It’s proven in golf but also rugby union is taking interest,” Rees added. “They’ve ran tests around line-out throws and increased accuracy by 40% – now they’re exploring concussion protocols.

“Outside of sport, they’re also running trials with Facebook around the workplace in recognition that everyone’s still on Zoom meetings and are still not focused. Through FocusBand, they’re exploring how to make highly-paid executives more productive and change their behaviours.”

Unleashing corporate creativity through custom dev

From a SixPivot standpoint – who counts Coles and JB Hi-Fi as strategic customers – Rees said enterprise headspace is emerging for innovative software projects across Australia, following a period of hesitation and delayed decisions. This is in addition to industry-wide holds on contract or internal hiring.

While most organisations pressed ahead with initiatives that were already budgeted, the bulk of businesses refrained from executing new ideas until early February – reflective of a turbulent economy and a preference to hunker down during the quiet period.

“It’s opening up again but there’s certainly a desire to consolidate applications and be more ruthless,” Rees said. “As a general rule, organisations are getting rid of contractors but not necessarily professional services partners – that’s a big distinction because they’re usually all lumped into one bucket.”

Despite an intention to downsize general contracting, Rees reported an uptick in business for partners delivering “true value” during the innovation process.

“I know everyone says that but businesses are realising that more people doesn’t mean more stuff gets done,” she cautioned. “There’s more attention on value for money and we’re getting questioned more because of that.

“Our model involves billable principal consultants who are project managers in the sense that they contribute in many areas of the project – which isn’t always highly visible.

“That was previously never questioned but now organisations are seeking explanations for what exactly every person is doing. They want a greater understanding which you could argue is something they should have been doing anyways.”

At the top-end of town, Rees said SixPivot is invited into software build projects for one of two reasons:

  1. To rebuild
  2. To innovate

“We’re involved in lots of projects that have failed,” Rees shared. “Some large-scale partners have been involved which usually offer formulaic commodity-based services that don’t always move the needle.”

In response, SixPivot is tasked with evaluating the issue before accelerating the solution which usually requires “a whole different approach”. This involves reverting back to a smaller-sized team with a more agile mode of delivery.

“There’s lots of conversations around whether agile works anymore, we’re seeing companies try and throw that out again,” Rees observed. “We’re still agile but that doesn’t mean no requirements or no budget.”


Specific to innovation, SixPivot goes against the grain of most custom development partners when developing proof of concepts. In most scenarios, regardless of the question, the answer is always “build”.

For Rees however, that is not only out-dated thinking but untrustworthy behaviour.

“Please, stop building,” she affirmed. “There’s so many off-the-shelf products capable of doing what an organisation requires, there’s no need to always start from scratch.

“It’s a simple line of questioning to uncover this. Is that what you want? Why do you want it? Does a product already exist that you can use?”

While current economic conditions have invited more custom development scrutiny than before, a section of “let’s blindly blind” users remain in an Australian market hungry for innovation. Usually, the in-house CTO will favour building but line of business executives won’t care providing the application meets stringent requirements.

“If a business has looked at out-of-the-box products that haven’t worked, then they’ll have a desire to build,” Rees qualified. “There’s risk in both directions which is why an initial investigation is crucial. How much needs to be customised? Can you forgo 10% of your requirements with an off-the-shelf product?”

Answers naturally vary depending on the use case with SixPivot now also required to evaluate out-of-the-box application purchases.

“If the vendor promised that it could do everything but 80% is customised, then a business might as well build their own,” Rees noted.

“We’re doing a lot of business application work internally on risk mitigation, productivity and simply making old processes better. That extends into consolidation because organisations still have a ridiculous number of applications they don’t use or that were created by someone 10 years ago with security flaws.”

The other motivation is customer experience – “there’s not one company who isn’t focused on this”.

From a technology standpoint, SixPivot runs a customised version of Microsoft Copilot during the custom development phase, which is an advanced chatbot built on artificial intelligence (AI).

For example with SocialProtect, this powers the applications’ Education Hub which allows users to ask questions and consume privacy content.

“But if you’re a football club, you can upload your own Code of Conduct and Copilot will ask questions of that specific document,” Rees explained. “This is how the market wants to utilise this technology, in a very customised and specific manner.”

When enterprise organisations do elect to build custom applications however, the biggest challenge facing companies is not related to software. Yes to creating something new… no to changing the business workflow.

“Users always want it just like it was before, so keep what you had before,” Rees challenged. “This is your opportunity to change your logic but people don’t always want to change.”

In looking ahead, Rees said priorities for the next 12 months centre around rolling out CTO-as-a-Service offerings at scale to better uncover organisational appetite for innovation.

“But if they already have strong technical people then we offer a source of validation,” she added. “Some CTOs have been with companies for 10 or 20 years so they’re very experienced but might require a different viewpoint from outside – a 40-foot view rather than always being stuck in the detail.”


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