Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW
Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW

Creator of BridgeClimb discusses success in business

Paul Cave’s speech after formal dinner

When he spoke to Warrane College residents, Mr Paul Cave AM, made it clear that success in business does not come easy.

The man who established BridgeClimb to enable visitors to Sydney to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge and became National Entrepreneur of the Year (Business) said business success is truly a marathon endeavour.

Speaking in Warrane’s Main Common Room on Wednesday 8 August 2013, Mr Cave gave a detailed account of the long struggle to open the summit of the Harbour bridge to people from all over the globe.

During the process he said he had to struggle to raise millions of dollars in capital and then pay it back with interest well before the project got off the ground.

He said he also had to clear many regulatory hurdles along the way, including seemingly insuperable safety regulations. What he expected would be a two-year task turned into a 10-year ordeal that would have forced many less determined entrepreneurs to give up.

One of the things that urged him on was a close personal connection with the opening of the bridge. Mr Cave’s now-deceased father-in-law had purchased the first rail ticket for the crossing of the Bridge in 1932 and passed it to him before his death.

“I actually used to carry the original with me and I have since insured it for a million dollars,” Mr Cave said. “This is what is called a museum authenticated copy of this ticket. I have since collected another 6,800 pieces in my collection of Bridge memorabilia. I have got to tell you that that collection is now insured for nine and a half million dollars…”

Mr Cave encouraged residents to be in love with what they do, and to be passionate and obsessive about it. He said that despite all the problems in getting BridgeClimb up and running it had been worth it. Since it opened in 1998, 3 million people have made the crossing and BridgeClimb has become the second largest digital photo outlet in the world.

Although he had been forced to borrow $6 million to get the project underway, all the money had been paid back in the first year of operations.

To date, the level of satisfaction with the experience of crossing the Bridge is at 99.2 per cent, but Mr Cave is not resting on his laurels. Every day he is given a detailed response from the hundreds of people who climbed the Bridge the previous day and he always looks for ways to improve the experience.

He said the main ingredients for success in business included being fascinated with the project you are working on and to be completely determined to succeed.

“I am often asked if entrepreneurs are born or can they be made and I think that it has to be a combination of both of those things,” he said. “There has got to be a real drive, a real fascination and interest in business. People who succeed in business are normally very competitive and they’re normally very determined …”

[Warrane College offers more than just accommodation to students at UNSW: Details of other guest speakers are available here]