NZ-made biological software takes off

By Helen Twose

Candace Toner says Biomatters' new product is lifting revenue, but needs a different sales process. Photo / Supplied
Candace Toner says Biomatters' new product is lifting revenue, but needs a different sales process. Photo / Supplied

Auckland software company Biomatters has signed up its first two overseas customers within days of the launch of its latest product.

Chief executive Candace Toner said the company had upwards of $200,000 of interest in its Geneious Server software, with a "big fat pipeline of interest".

Two US biomedical research organisations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Maryland, have confirmed orders for the software.

The enterprise software solution Geneious Server builds on the company's successful desktop software application Geneious Pro.

Both are aimed at assisting scientists and students with biological research.

Toner said that with more than 15,000 paying users in 2000 institutions in 67 countries, Geneious Pro was the worldwide market leader in biological software.

The company stopped counting downloads of its introductory, free version after it hit 150,000.

Toner said Geneious Server, which significantly boosts the computing power available to scientists from the original Pro software, was blazing new territory and the response had been phenomenal.

Twelve institutions have been beta testing the new software.

For the eight-year-old Biomatters, the enterprise-wide software solution means a significant boost in the company's revenue.

Geneious Pro sold for between US$250 ($314) for a student licence to $4000 for a concurrent corporate licence.

The server software begins at $25,000 and goes up to $500,000 a year.

"It's really lifting our game as a company as well as our revenue streams," said Toner.

The more advanced product also marks a change in the sales process.

The sales cycle for Geneious Pro worked on an automatic download and payment system.

Geneious Server requires a more hands-on approach to sales and service, so Toner, a Texan who calls New Zealand home, is returning to live in the United States for two years.

"It goes from a very quick sales cycle for the Geneious Pro through to a couple of months for the Geneious Server platform," she said.

"However in that respect there is a huge order of magnitude of revenue."

Toner will oversee the opening of two American offices and another in Central Europe within the next 18 months.

About half the company's revenue comes from the US and 35 per cent from Europe.

Less than 5 per cent of the company's business is in its home market of Australasia.

Biomatters is one of 10 finalists in the University of Auckland Business School's Entrepreneurs' Challenge, which aims to give growing companies a leg-up with up to $1 million in funding and support.

It is the second time the company has featured in the finalists list, and Toner said that if successful, Biomatters would put the money into overseas expansion.

While the sales focus may be overseas, she said the company was determined to maintain its headquarters and research and development base locally.

"It's really important to me to be true to our roots for as long as we can and still deliver value to our shareholders," she said.

Toner said Biomatters sold itself as a New Zealand software company in its marketing and drew on the country's "rock star" status in the world of science and innovation.

She said the company's highly educated "geek" user base included many Lord of the Rings fans, and the helpdesk often received travel advice queries from Geneious customers.

Winners of the Entrepreneurs' Challenge will be announced on November 18.

- NZ Herald

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