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’.
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.
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’.