Accenture Interactive acquires Kiwi-founded firm

First published in New Zealand Herald 3 February 2015

About one month ago an update by a colleague, Tim O’Neill, came through my LinkedIn feed announcing that the digital agency he co-founded had just been bought by Accenture.

What made this announcement even more impressive is that Reactive not only survived the overhyped dotcom 90s era, but went on to become one of Australia’s best independent digital firms.

And even more impressive is that the founders are two young Kiwis.

Fresh off the boat to Melbourne and just nine short months into their stint at Sausage Software, the graduates of Whanganui Design School – the two Tims (O’Neill and Fouhy) – quietly built up a who’s who of Australian blue chip clients and won a swag of awards.

The Tims and I arrived in Australia around the same time and saw a lot of Australian digital companies come and go.

Most of them founded or headed up by bolshie young guys with grand ideas that came to nothing. It certainly says a lot about Reactive’s capabilities and leadership that their business grew and caught Accenture’s eye.

“We started talking to Accenture five months ago when we worked on shared clients,” says O’Neill. “They saw that our work was complimentary to theirs and it didn’t take long for us to see the fit too. The back office support of Accenture and their global brand can help us turn Reactive into more of a consulting technology business.”

Michael Buckley, Managing Director of Accenture Interactive Australia and New Zealand, is equally enthusiastic about the role Reactive will play in Accenture’s ever-expanding digital portfolio.

Buckley has recently witnessed a major change in client strategies, with all Accenture clients demanding better user experiences. He’s leading Accenture Interactive’s acquisitions, on the trail for the best digital agencies in both Australia and New Zealand. Reactive ticked all boxes, including the ability to scale and a reputation for producing high quality work.

“All industries are getting disruptive,” says Buckley. “Look at companies like Uber, which is valued at $40 billion and shaking up the transport industry. We asked ourselves, what does Accenture’s vision look like in digital? Do we want to join or compete? Every client we have is asking this question of their own business. Entrepreneurs are asking this question. I truly see this year as brands saying ‘lets throw all the balls in the air and see where they land.'”

I asked O’Neill whether the New Zealand angle has ever been part of the Reactive story.

“We never thought about the New Zealand angle,” says O’Neill. “In fact, it might be stretching it a bit to call us a Kiwi battler. I think it’s more that the people who leave New Zealand for Australia are pretty motivated. We graduated and one week later we moved to Melbourne. It’s interesting that we’ve come full circle and are now working with Wellington again.”

O’Neill does think that New Zealand is ahead of the technology scene and that Australia could do with greater support for the tech industry. He also thinks Wellington is experiencing a brain drain with many technology businesses that do well on a global scale, relocating.

Right now, Reactive employs 134 staff across 5 offices including Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland, London and New York. The Reactive name will remain in Australia and New Zealand and both O’Neill and Fouhy will continue in their leadership.

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