Great ideas, big ambitions and wads of cash have made digital media a deal-maker’s delight. And Damien Tampling, Deloitte’s youngest ever partner, is the go-to guy for getting handshakes made across the industry.
Sure, he gets much of his power from a powerful and well-resourced organisation, but Damo’s influence also comes down to his reputation and personality. He’s young enough to have dabbled with web development during the early days of the net (he built Deloitte Australia’s first online presence with then-boss Peter Williams). But he’s also flexible enough to speak the corporate jargon, don the power suit and relate to the needs of programming geeks. Indeed, says Mick Liubinskas, a Pollenizer founder famed for his time at Kazaa: “He’s more of a start-up guy in a corporate world.”
Tampling’s role is important, because if Australia is to become a breeding ground for successful ideas that can be sold to the rest of the world, digital deal makers are essential: to connect the big guys with the little guys and both audiences to venture capitalists overseas, chasing the next big thing.
Tampling and his team are doing just that. He has worked on acquisitions, partnerships and securing finance for some of the country’s most celebrated digital companies including Seek, Catch of the Day, SportingPulse, Ingenico, NTT and Hitwise. More recent highlights include Tampling’s leadership on the acquisition of Spreets by Yahoo!7, as well as the Australian end of the BBC’s takeover of Lonely Planet.
He gets it done with a deep understanding of what will work and make money and via a broad network of contacts that allow him to track developments. A genuine passion for technology and new ideas — Tampling’s an investor in a number of entrepreneurial start-ups — also helps. As does hard work.
Impeccably dressed when The Power Index visits his Sydney office, Tampling looks very much the consultancy partner that he is, ready to present to a highly charged board meeting and get the pesky numbers out of the way. And when he picks up a pen to highlight a point by drawing a diagram, we’re offered a glimpse of the deeply analytical thought pattern that’s going on inside his head.
While he claims to have never set out to become powerful, Tampling’s move to the top is a lesson that could be taught in the text books. Recognising the potential of the dotcom boom, he quit his comfortable job at Deloitte’s Melbourne CBD office and took a risk by joining a small suburban technology start-up known as Eclipse. Within a couple of years the company was acquired by Deloitte (and rebadged as Deloitte Digital) and Tampling landed right back where he started, only much further up the consultancy ladder. He was made partner at 25.
Tampling says he left Deloitte because he wanted to get on fast. He also craved the hands-on experience. “One of my old mentors used to say good strategy lives and dies in the execution,” he says. “And I was frustrated at only having the opportunity to do strategy work at Deloitte, never being able to see it implemented.”
Tampling values his reputation, and believes he’s worked hard enough to pick and shape the deals he takes on.