A Best of British Christmas Bash
The Value of Stakeholders – Alan Brannigan, CEO of Vigil Monitoring
Building your future, today – Daniel Batten
With daylight savings providing an extra boost of sunshine, the October NZSA networking evening was off to a bright start. The evening kicked off on a high, with the sharing of fantastic news from many members. Its great to hear about all the new and exciting activity and achievements. Regan, Glengarry’s resident wine expert, prepared us for the upcoming barbecue season by educating and entertaining us with his wine tasting session. We were treated to a Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio 2014 (Italian Pinot Gris) and a Church Road MacDonald Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 – perfect accompaniments to sip on a warm summer’s evening, or to enjoy alongside a delicious steak.
With the audience wined and dined, it was time for Daniel Batten, our guest speaker, to take to the stage. Daniel drew everyone in with an entertaining recap of the experiences which lead to him developing his Founder2.0 concept. One of the attendees, Ollie Mikosza of Metrino PRT, had worked with Daniel and was able to share experiences as well. The underlying theme for the evening was: If you want to grow your business to the next level, invest in growing yourself. Nobody knows your business better than you and that equips you to be the best person to sell it! A simple message which was greeted by accepting nods from around the room. It was an enjoyable evening with delicious food & wine, excellent networking, and an inspiring guest speaker.
Mitchell Pham, co-founder & Director of Augen Software Group
September’s NZSA networking event was a more intimate affair, following on from the stellar turnout in August. Nevertheless, the atmosphere remained lively, with the room humming with the flow of conversation over a few drinks as guests began to arrive. Once seated, Roger Ford made his inaugural introduction as NZSA President and quickly got the evening under way. Attendees were treated to a selection of wines including a Domaine Romanin Macon Villages 2014 (Chardonnay) from France ($17.99 per bottle in September) and a Finca Cuco Tinto 2014 (Carignan, Grenache, Syrah) from France ($17.99 per bottle in September), both easy drinking wines perfect for upcoming barbeque season.
Then it was time to meet our guest speaker for the evening. Mitchell Pham, from Augen Software Group captivated the room with his charming recollection of their journey since launching in 2005. Mitchell highlighted the challenges Augen have faced maintaining a unified culture between their New Zealand and Vietnamese offices. The different cultures between the two countries proved to be a substantial hurdle which the team has worked hard to overcome.
The evening concluded with a round of questions for Mitchell and attendees left with an understanding of what is required to operate successfully in diverse cultural settings.
Managing Growth – Perspectives from aviation software Hosted by John Quirk – Howard & Company
August’s NZSA networking event was a sell-out, with a packed house turning out on a wintry Auckland evening. The evening got off to a cracker start thanks to a round of drinks kindly sponsored by Howard & Co, followed by (once everyone had found a seat) some entertaining stories from Regan on German Rieslings and German winemakers. John Quirk from Howard & Co then hosted a panel discussion with 3 leaders from the aviation software industry (Mark McCaughan from merlot.aero, Simon Mitchell from Matchbyte and Martin Grant from Private Flight) on managing growth. Each of the speakers gave an overview of their business then discussed issues such as market positioning, innovation, crowd-sourced development, and the ability of Kiwi companies to take on larger offshore players. The panel format created a very interesting and interactive evening, and it was interesting to hear the 3 presenters’ different perspectives on a number of issues.
Angel at My Table
July 2015 A great evening – a full house listened to, and along with our three ‘dragons’, judged five early-stage companies pitch for the judges investment money.
Our five entrepreneurs were: VestaStore – Charles Nicolson – e-Commerce solutions Wherewolf – Ben Calder – Digital Check-ins HR Executive Solutions – Angeline Long RoleMap Ltd – Carol Brown – On-line knowledge transfer ecoPortal – Logan Wait – on-line health and safety The Peoples’ Choice winner was: VestaStore The Overall Winner was: Wherewolf
Many thanks to our three judges: Rudi Bublitz – Co-founder at Flying Kiwi Angels, director & investor John Quirk – Director, Howard & Co. Peter Dickinson – CEO, Greentree and ex-president of NZSA
Geoff Olliff, co-founder and director of ViFX
Geoff Olliff, director and co-founder of ViFX, gave a fascinating and frank overview of the ViFX journey and future. By focusing on top-end clients and riding the virtualisation wave, ViFX experienced significant growth since their founding in 2007. Lessons learnt included bringing in (and exiting) an external CEO, board structure, and challenges on scaling a services business internationally. Geoff’s infectious honesty and articulate vision of future challenges and opportunities made this one of the best presentations this year. You can view the presentation slides on SlideShare.
Richard Gill of CLOUD M
Richard Gill, founder and CEO of CLOUD M, gave a summary of his 20 years as a serial entrepreneur. Starting in 1987 with Monstar Labs, Richard created a series of companies including Startrax, Cyberglue, Solar Island and Digital Water. All these companies had their genesis in solving customer problems. Four years ago, Richard saw a convergence of major technology trends: mobile and cloud computing; CLOUD M was born. The focus of Richard’s presentation, however, was on the role of, and lessons learnt from early-stage company boards. His insights included how to build an A-class board, picking the right chairperson and making sure you’ve got cool technology for the board to show-off!
Media Panel – Is traditional media dead?
April 2015 Four media experts provided their insights into how software companies work with the media to get their message across to their target audience. Decade of experience was tapped into during the panel session hosted by Bob Pinchin, director of Swaytech and ex-CEO of IDG publications. Bob, and the audience, asked Bill Bennett, Clare Coulson-Dalton and Rob O’Neill questions like: what have been the most dramatic changes in the industry and the way reporting takes place? Does the tech media have a future in NZ and if so what roll will it play? Or, what’s the best way to engage with a journalist?
Anne Fulton & Jo Mills of Fuel50
Anne and Jo, co-founders of Fuel50, gave us a view of their company’s strategy and progress to date in entering the US market. Their vision of providing ‘meaningful career paths for millions’ focusing on companies with 1000 or more employees was compelling. Fuel50 have invested in brand from day one – reflected in their consistent and eye catching collateral and digital offerings. Lessons such as why it’s a good idea to on-shore your development team and embracing the culture of customers were presented. Their vision-led product development strategy means they have multiple releases of their SaaS product every year. You can view the presentation slides on Slideshare.
Murray Holdaway of Vista Entertainment
Murray Holdaway, co-founder and CEO of Vista, gave a fascinating summary of Vista’s story from start-up to IPO and the plan for future success. Vista started in 1996 when Murray was asked by a global cinema company to produce ticketing software to ‘enhance the cinema experience’. The result was ground-breaking technology and they’ve been innovating and growing ever since. This expansion has resulted in Vista now employing more than 200 people in four offices, providing market-leading services to customers on all continents. Murray’s key lessons were: trust people (and do good things with good people), sales are more important than software, UI is more important than functions, and get an a plane and meet the customer! You can view Murray’s presentation slides on Slideshare.
Panel Session: All I want for Christmas is… Sales in the USA!
Four experienced panelists were interviewed by Gavin Lennox, NZSA President, on their insights and lessons on how to make it in the USA. The panelists were: John Blackham, CEO of XSol based in Minnesota, Richard Wells, sales director for Valliance, recently returned from the US and Japan, Kevin Ptak, recently the communications director for Mako Networks and Owen Scott, MD of Concentrate. Insights into where to hire people, whether a CEO should be in-country, remuneration levels for sales staff and cultural nuances vital for sales were all discussed.
John-Daniel Trask of Mindscape
John-Daniel, co-founder and CEO of Mindscape, shared many of the lessons he’s learnt while building a successful software business now growing at 30% per quarter. Mindscape was built on a philosophy of having fun and building great software. John-Daniel’s journey started with a $10k investment from each of the then three founders, to raising >$1.5m angel capital and on the way turning down an opportunity to work for Xero. In JD’s words, “I’d rather own my own Lambourghini than drive Rod’s Porsche”. Raygun, Mindscape’s most successful product to date, is now eclipsing the company brand and represents the bright future of the company. The audience asked many great questions confirming an engaged and intrigued group at this event. You can view the presentation slides on Slideshare.
Josh Daniell of Snowball Effect
Josh Daniell of Snowball Effect introduced equity crowdfunding at our October event. New Zealand is an early adopter of this new platform which allows small businesses to raise up to $2 million per year without the usual red tape of share issues. In the UK, experience has proven it’s particularly fruitful in consumer products, tech and retail sectors as issuers turn enthusiastic customers into investors and brand champions. A plethora of great questions confirmed a highly engaged and intrigued audience at this event.You can view the presentation slides on Slideshare.
Preparing our Youth for Tomorrow’s World – with Frances Valintine
In September, Frances Valintine presented “Preparing our Youth for Tomorrow’s World” – although her work to address the IT skills shortage is really about preparing all of New Zealand. The Mind Lab, which she calls an ‘incubator for kids’, will teach countless students and more than 10,000 teachers and about digital and collaborative learning to help our country stay competitive amid a ‘tsunami of skills’ coming from overseas as education becomes free and accessible to all. Frances’ passion for creativity and innovation shone through as she encouraged us as parents to talk to our kids about courses and careers that will equip them for the digital jobs of the future.
Angel at my Table
Our August Angel at my Table event was thoroughly enjoyed by the sell-out crowd of 80. Three ‘dragons’ Mike Riley, Brett Roberts and John Quirke bet their monopoly money on investment pitches by our five participants:
- Jennifer Clamp of Garden Genie, a cash-flow positive company developing an app to help first time home gardeners (and 5400 customers already). Click here to view the presentation slides.
- Ollie Mikosza of Mister-Metrino PRT – a new concept in personalised rapid transit. Click here to view the presentation slides.
- Nick Hadley of Riscoveri International Ltd, a worker safety and risk mitigation SaaS with patents and agency sales models in place. Click here to view the presentation slides.
- Christoph Drefers of Pass the Idea, a ‘group genius’ cloud collaboration platform with funding from Callaghan Innovation and a strong revenue pipeline.
- Dima Ivanov of Powerstats, a competitive benchmarking platform. (The following day Powerstats was named as finalist in two categories at the Westpac Auckland Business Awards North.)
Congratulations to our winners: Pass the Idea (Dragon’s Choice) and Garden Genie (People’s Choice)! Because so many people were interested in a free demo of Pass the Idea, Christoph has setup a 4-module process specifically for NZSA contacts. You will ideate around a particular Challenge: ‘How might we close the talent and skill gap in the NZ software sector?’ It will run over 2 weeks, and will take less than an hour in total; little effort individually, extraordinary group results. To participate, visit http://www.pass-the-idea.info/nzsa.html password ‘PTI’. We also had updates on winners from previous years: our 2013 winner Victor Yuen of AuraHQ (was Collective Consciousness) described lessons learned on his journey so far and 2012’s The Story Mint.
Keystone: Global Expansion, first stop the UK – with Graeme Frost
At a UKTI-sponsored event, Graeme Frost recounted for the audience his journey from Wang to Keystone, Cadabra and Brilliant Software, including the how’s and why’s of Keystone’s success with legal practice management software in the UK. Their late 90’s search for VC funding hit at the start of the tech boom which enabled US expansion. Graeme shared his pro’s and con’s for NZ software companies targeting the UK vs the US and Australia, and his recommendations for getting started in the UK – including leveraging the powerful and practical resources within UKTI, NZTE and KEA. You can view the slides from Graeme’s presentation here.
Disrupting the future of Software: Aviarc’s story so far – with Shane Mercer
Shane spoke of his journey from consulting on a number of strategic systems developments such as police and housing applications, to Aviarc, a successful 70 person software company based in Wellington. He explained how focusing on core values, rather than simply financial results, is critical to long term success, and his excitement about cloud computing and the ability to scale applications was palpable. Shane believes that anything’s possible, however one of the lessons learnt is that change is hard – you need a balanced team and to continually work to reinforce and prepare for the inevitability of industry and organisational change. In the early 2000’s Shane spotted the opportunity to develop software, but in a disruptive way; the result was Aviarc. Using ‘reverse prototyping’ and looking at the method of developing a new process for the development of user experience software, Aviarc created UXaas (user experience as a service). Key lessons shared were accurate thinking and encouraging Kiwi companies to ‘think scale’ rather than just small. Leveraging our network and government organisations such as NZTE were vital to make introductions to new global prospects. You can view Shane’s presentation here.
How Fisher & Paykel Healthcare built a cloud – the lessons and challenges, with Ben Casse
Ben Casse talked through some of the challenges and lessons learnt during his tenure looking after software product development at Fisher & Paykel Healthcare. During his six years with the company they have transformed from traditional waterfall to Agile methodology in the development of online patient data systems, and it took openness, courage, focus & commitment. View Ben’s presentation slides here.
In April, VMob CEO Scott Bradley shared with us the company’s journey so far, including lessons learnt from international expansion with a mobile marketing platform that helps drive more traffic into their clients’ retail outlets, increase transaction size and measure real return on marketing investment. There was an audible gasp when Scott said “telco’s don’t ‘get’ mobile” – the bottom line after working with an Indonesian operator to impact churn and revenue figures. Instead VMob started working directly with major brands like McDonalds and went on to raise over $1m in capital. View Scott’s presentation. We also unveiled the new NZSA logo and website and the rationale behind the rebranding, with some great feedback.
Business Development expert Hal Josephson shared 8 strategies for export success, including being present at all the big events, understanding what’s happening in your ecosystem, leveraging available networks through KEA and NZTE, and build a great customer acquisition team (noting that business development, marketing and sales are very different roles and skill sets). View the slides from his presentation here.
Mike Riley shared the journey of Endace’s acquisition by NYSE-listed global network equipment manufacturer Endace in 2013. Some of the wise gems Mike shared with the NZSA audience included: Getting listed is not the end, it’s the beginning; Don’t lose the connection with the end user; and Agree up front with potential investors what you mean by ‘growth’.
A festive Christmas celebration to cap off the end of a great year.
Don Christie from Wellington-based Catalyst IT discussed open source opportunities, life in the IT services sector, and UK market expansion. For Catalyst IT it was important not to simply setup a UK sales office that would farm the work back to New Zealand. They wanted to have competencies in-market, close to the customer. Another key learning: don’t rely on a single person to run your remote office. You need one focused on business development and one focused on delivery. Having funding support from NZTE played a big role: “People are impressed if they know your government is behind you, especially financially.”
SmallWorlds Co-Founder Mitch Olson shared his thoughts on New Zealand’s
startup ecosystem and raising the export profile of digital technology startups. “New Zealand has a great education system, smart and creative thinkers and lower costs.” Plus staffers are Generalists here – and that means we see the bigger picture than people more specialised or highly focused in larger markets. Mitch encouraged the audience to exercise their “self-authorship muscles”. Read more in Mitch’s blog.
Ex-Oracle MD Peter Idoine provided his take on the software/technology industry, how small Kiwi companies can engage with multi-nationals, and some entertaining war stories of what not to do.
“Angel at My Table” was our theme and it was one of the most popular NZSA events of the year. Our early stage startups delivered impressive pitches to our audience, vying for our investment votes. Watch out for more great stuff to come from the participants in the months ahead: Leaderkit, HerePin, Number8Games, Sportfunder.com, Pozly, Collective Consciousness, Recrukit
Jane Hill of CropLogic, winner of the ANZ IBM SmartCamp event, shared the company’s journey around VC funding and driving business in the US market.
Mega CEO Vikram Kumar talked about the business and technical challenges faced by Mega; how they were overcome; and lessons learnt.
Our May event featured Mark Thomas, President and co-founder of Right Hemisphere, (now part of SAP) plus a guest appearance from the NZ Winners of the Microsoft Imagine Cup.