Your Business: Mobile space filled with meeting of the minds

By Gill South

MediaBank directors, from left, Brenden Rolston, Nick Niblett, Ross Blakely and Steve Simpson. Photo / Richard Robinson
MediaBank directors, from left, Brenden Rolston, Nick Niblett, Ross Blakely and Steve Simpson. Photo / Richard Robinson

The success and survival of a business with a good idea is based on the strong, on-going relationships of the main partners.

Albany business consultancy MediaBank and its subsidiary, digital design company The App Agency, have been a meeting of the minds for a group of entrepreneurs including veteran creative director, Ross Blakely, database marketing and globalisation specialist Brenden Rolston and research expert and strategist Nick Niblett.

They are supported by Sam McEwan, the technical guru of the team. McEwan is creator of the popular free compatibility app, Love-O-Matic, targeted at 11- to 14-year-old girls. The mobile app has had one million hits worldwide to date.

The men's common interest was the mobile market and the possibilities it held.

"We were all positive about the mobile space, around mobile new technology," says Rolston.

The group set up their two businesses in quick succession. MediaBank, the parent company came first, launched in December 2010, then The App Agency, in May last year.

The App Agency was formed to take on a different approach to iOS app design and development. The team describes it as a "collaboration of fired up technical, design, marketing strategy and research, and investment specialists".

"The App Agency is the engine room, and MediaBank is supporting the brands with business planning, marketing and venture capital solutions," says Rolston, who heads MediaBank. People come to the group with ideas for an app and the team work out whether they are viable.

MediaBank is working on the launch of a new menu application with One Tree Grill restaurant in Epsom.

When people are seated at the restaurant they will be able to order direct from an iPad which is brought to the table. The app will give diners advice on what wines will match the meal and show them pictures of the food.

"If anything, it will build a better relationship with customers, making sure that the patron is getting the best experience," says Rolston.

Another project the team is working on is an education application for children with speaking disorders, autism and Down Syndrome. It has been written and designed by a specialist speech therapist.

A recent launch from The App Agency has been the TaxTracker app, an income tax budgeting tool that incorporates terminal and provisional tax payments.

Stephen Simpson, now MediaBank's financial director, commissioned The App Agency to develop the tool, which has been well received.

"NZ is very much a great test market, we get it ready here for the larger global market," says Niblett.

"For the menu app, our forecast target is to have secured 3.5 per cent of the US, UK and Australian market after five years, which would likely produce annual revenues in excess of $20 million," says Niblett.

With international expansion likely in the future, MediaBank is looking for external funding from venture capital players.

"We can provide a good return on investment. We are finding a lot of interest at the moment," says Rolston.

Ownership of MediaBank and The App Agency is currently split 20 per cent each between Blakely, Niblett and Rolston.

A further 15 per cent each is owned by Stephen Simpson and another senior staff member. Rolston says the rest is ringfenced for any potential new partners who bring something to the table.

- NZ Herald

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