Brands to watch | New Zealand Companies in Australia | Questionable marketing | Trans Tasman

Facing off Australian business sharks


First published in New Zealand Herald 12 May 2015

There’s a show on television in Australia right now called Shark Tank. If you’ve seen Dragon’s Den in the UK, you’ll know the formula.

An entrepreneur seeks funding to take a business idea to the next level and presents to a panel of judges hoping one, or all, will front the cash without completely taking over the business. The judges too are business owners; hoping to find the next big thing, share their knowledge or maybe just get their own faces on the telly.

Last week a rather hapless gent presented a rather badly thought out mobile app called Mobilyser. As he pitched his idea to the sharks, and to us viewers, my overwhelming reaction was is that it?

Firstly, the founder developed an app that separates personal from business phone calls and allocates them for tax purposes. Is this an issue for businesses? Because I can’t say that separating my calls has ever been a concern.

It begs the question, has this guy done any market research on whether the app has an audience? Does anyone actually need it and are they prepared to pay and invest time into using it?

Secondly, the app has already cost $450,000 to develop. Say what? Without a single customer or dollar generated to date, half a million has already been burned. That’s extraordinary and I keep coming back to the same point, that some people don’t know when to kill a bad idea and start over.

Not all technology ideas are winners and not all apps are going to make the founder millions. A dog is a dog is a dog.

Thirdly (and this one’s kind of a kicker), the Mobilyser app only works on Android. Now I’m not a techy, but even I know if your app doesn’t work on an iPhone it’s kind of irrelevant.

I bring up the Shark Tank example this week for several reasons. The main one being that a lot of New Zealand technology companies use New Zealand as a springboard to Australia. Australians enjoy meeting Kiwi techs and they recognise that New Zealand has a talent for developing good ideas.

Especially when the companies have a clear point of difference, an impressive team and some happy customers to use as case studies.

For example, a few months ago I had a call from the owner of an Australian social media agency. Earlier that day he’d met with Shuttlerock, an aggregator of social media content with headquarters in Rangiora. I’d met with Shuttlerock VP of Global Partnerships, Jonny Mole, several times in Australia and could see the business offered some really cool functionality that brands and their agencies would love.

The Australian agency was in awe. The owner told me this platform was everything he’d been looking for – the icing on the cake to his own business. It didn’t surprise me that a tech company from Rangiora could strike a chord in Australia. It’s what New Zealand does best: prove time and again that size and geographic location are no barriers to great ideas.

Later this month, New Zealand Trade & Enterprise will bring a group of young technology companies to Melbourne as part of a Path to Market program. There’s certainly support here in Australia for Kiwi companies, with advice aplenty on how to keep the Aussie sharks at bay.

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