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KIWI STORY: Mixing technology and marketing to taste success

Sathya Mithra Ashok | April 24, 2014
You would have had a hard time missing VMob in the news over the last few weeks.

"We have a dual model. We have a direct sales approach. We have a direct relationship with the likes of McDonalds and various other clients around the world. But we do work with channel partners. We provide our platform as a white label option to partners like the Omnicom group — the biggest advertising group in the world, and they rebrand the platform for the various agencies. DDB Tribal is one of them and they rebrand our platform Tribal Target and they use it for their clients.

"So we have a very scalable business model because we provide our platform as a white label platform through those channel partners, to enable them to deploy globally and that allows us an efficient distribution channel for our technology on a global basis," says Bradley.

The development of the platform remains in the firm's home ground of New Zealand, while mobile apps for the different clients are developed by local partners, who understand the nuances of each of the markets that VMob addresses.

"We have been pragmatic about IP protection. When you go to emerging markets, IP protection is a real concern for businesses like ours. As soon as you release the code base to a foreign market, we increase the risk for a loss of some of that IP.

My preference would be to continue to have a single development team with a single code base at a single location, because you can manage the IP protection far more carefully than otherwise. I would like to have hubs of commercial and tech support in markets but the core development to remain in NZ as far as possible," says Bradley.

The struggle that was

Besides its New Zealand base, the firm currently has offices in Sydney, Singapore and the UK, with plans to open more offices in the US and South America. However, things weren't always rosy for VMob.

"The biggest challenge for us was to develop the platform itself to start with. Delivering mobile vouchers to NZers is very different to delivering location based offers to a 100 million people in Asia or Europe. Just working with Microsoft engineers to get the Microsoft Azure platform working in the way that we wanted it to work took a huge amount of effort and frustration.

"Then attracting developers that understood Microsoft's Azure cloud environment — you know - finding those very talented people in NZ is a challenge and creating the right culture and environment for those developers was and still is a key focus for our business," says Bradley.

All of this required capital, and lots of it.

"One of the challenges for us in the early stages of the business was being a private company. It is very easy to raise a small amount of money — $50,000 or $100,000 of seed capital for investment. But NZ has got a very small base for raising a lot of capital — we don't have a lot of venture capitalists, we don't have a lot of those $2 million to $5 million range capital base in NZ for businesses, especially those going offshore.


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