29-year-old Kiwi entrepreneur Max Ferguson, founder of software company Lumin, is a finalist in the 2021 EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.
The Christchurch-based company has become the fastest-growing PDF software company globally, with more than 60 million users.
After completing his degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Canterbury, Max worked on the Canterbury earthquake rebuild – repairing collapsed bridges around the city, including the Bridge of Remembrance.
"I saw first-hand the significant amount of documentation that was being used, and signed manually, just in the construction industry alone," says Ferguson. "I thought there has to be a better way, and it inspired my initial idea for Lumin."
He says Lumin is designed with ease of use and collaboration in mind. Users can upload or sync existing documents for reviewing, annotating, commenting and signing, then store or share them – all from one workspace.
Lumin allows people in remote teams to work together as if they were in the same room – replacing back-and-forth emailing, printing and scanning of PDF documents.
The company is the world's largest Google Cloud PDF software partner and integrates seamlessly with the Google ecosystem, including Google Docs, Sheets, Classroom, Drive and Gmail.
Ferguson says in 2021, users have viewed 1.5 billion document pages in Lumin.
"The COVID-19 environment has accelerated people's interest in Lumin globally," he says. "More and more businesses need teams to work remotely, and for the industry to provide software that supports that need effectively."
The software has a wide range of uses, for real estate agents, Lumin can help with reviewing and signing contracts, construction workers can fill out and sign compliance checklists on-site from a phone or tablet, and it provides a collaborative workspace for accounting and invoicing, for approving purchase orders and signing off invoices.
Ferguson believes everyone should have access to software that solves daily problems, which is why, he says, Lumin is priced lower than most of its competitors and offers a flexible, free version. The company also provides its premium version to students and teachers worldwide for free – with 12,000 taking up this offer so far.
"When I was a kid growing up near Greymouth on the West Coast, I wanted to use and edit images, but the software was really expensive," says Ferguson.
"My dad paid for me to have access to a programme, which was a lot of money for my family at the time.
"I've never forgotten that, and when I first started Lumin, I was inspired to create software that's not just easier to use than existing products but is financially accessible for young people – in particular those who can't afford it."
Lumin has no debt and is owned by Max Ferguson and Lumin employees, who have 'bootstrapped' the operation since its outset.