Spotlight on Innovation: HLS Software

Key points at a glance

  • Through their DashSketch app, Canberra-based automotive startup HLS Software is changing the way driving data is visualised for drivers.
  • With no time to see a tax agent, the DashSketch team turned to the Nifty platform to file their R&D Tax Incentive in the evening hours.
  • Following the success of their R&D claim, the team have been able to expand their core offerings and pivot into other industries and technologies.

While many tech companies trace their origins to a founder’s garage, for James and Kevin of Canberra, the garage serves a practical purpose. Two years ago, they created DashSketch, a smartphone and tablet app that connects through Bluetooth to provide ‘smart car’ features to decidedly-less-smart automobiles, visualising data such as engine diagnostics, turn-by-turn navigations, battery voltage – even the location of speed cameras.

Moving their startup from zero to a hundred, the founders soon pivoted into data visualisation for other industries, leveraging the exciting opportunities offered by virtual reality and 360-degree photography platforms to take their tech out of the driver’s seat and into new spaces, such as the world of retail.

This bold vision for the company required a war chest, so the pair – previous recipients of funding through an ACT government innovation grant – applied for the R&D Tax Incentive, having learned about it during a trade mission to the United States. To get them over the finish line, they chose Nifty to be their pit crew.

Claiming R&D in the wee small hours

Having worked with PwC in the past, James and Kevin settled on Nifty to process their R&D claim, liking its straightforward service and accessibility beyond standard office hours; they worked on their submission when it suited them, sometimes as late as four in the morning.

The dynamic duo also praised Nifty for its clear and upfront fee structure. The team also found the R&D documentation process useful – appreciating the exercise of describing everything they were doing and then being provided with documentation at the end.

Turbocharging innovation

While James and Kevin began their business before they knew about the R&D Tax Incentive, the scheme has put their ambitions for DashSketch and their technology into overdrive.

Beyond developing data logging for mechanics, the team were able to invest substantially their technology stack, purchasing hardware upgrades they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford without the refund – at least not at this stage of the race.

The capital injection also allowed them to supercharge their business growth, investigating cutting edge technologies such as machine learning technology, and presenting data through virtual and augmented reality experiences – two areas they’re particularly passionate about.

A victory lap for the R&D Tax Incentive

Thanks to the R&D Tax Incentive, James and Kevin are in pole position to expand on their core work with DashSketch. They’re also well-placed to develop new VR offerings, commercialise their innovations, and grow their little empire globally – with an idea for another SME in a new field in the works.

“Every dollar of the claim money went back into buying new hardware we didn’t yet have access to,” said James.

“Without the incentive, we wouldn’t have been able to offer some of the services to our clients as quickly, showcasing visualising core data in interesting ways. That’s what keeps the lights on every day.”