Hamish Fletcher

Hamish Fletcher is a business reporter for the NZ Herald

NZ startups can thrive, says Ransom

Wildfire founder says entrepreneurs can make it here if we create the right culture

Victoria Ransom will continue to develop Wildfire from Google's Silicon Valley headquarters. Photo / Supplied
Victoria Ransom will continue to develop Wildfire from Google's Silicon Valley headquarters. Photo / Supplied

In the cut-throat world of Silicon Valley, Victoria Ransom says it's a blessing she came out on top.

"There's a lot of great success stories that come out of tech startups and those success stories tend to get a lot of publicity but the norm is that businesses don't succeed," she told the Business Herald.

"The majority of companies either don't succeed at all or have reasonably modest outcomes."

Six weeks after Google gobbled up her company Wildfire for hundreds of millions of dollars, the 36-year-old said the buzz of the sale hasn't worn off.

"We always had a big vision for Wildfire," said Ransom, who was born and raised in the central North Island.

"We can have an even bigger one now and the challenge and excitement is figuring out how to do that."

Despite being busier "than she even imagined" after moving to Google's head office in the heart of Silicon Valley, she does have a holiday on the horizon and will be returning home - to Scotts Ferry, near Bulls - for Christmas. The Herald understands she will also be back for her wedding in March.

Ransom couldn't reveal what Google paid for Wildfire but at the time of the sale in August, the Wall St Journal reported the deal could have been worth US$250 million ($304 million).

And although she's "well off", Ransom has no plans to leave Wildfire and try something new.

"I'll continue to be involved for several more years and who knows it may turn into a long, long career with Google."

Ransom founded Wildfire in 2008 with her partner and former professional snowboarder, Alain Chuard.

The pair worked as investment bankers in New York, but after ditching the finance sector to start an adventure tourism company, they stumbled across the idea for Wildfire almost by accident - or as Ransom calls it "an unexpected opportunity".

"I've definitely been a risk taker and haven't tried to plan my career at all," she said.

"When you try to plan too much you miss out on unexpected opportunities."

Despite technology being a male-dominated industry, Ransom didn't feel she needed to break into a "kind of old-boys club". "If anything the fact I was a woman helped me because it was any interesting story in the media and there were other women who were really keen help."

Wildfire is not a pure New Zealand success story, the company having being formed and grown in the US, but Ransom believed it was perfectly possible for this country to build and keep technology startups here.

For that to happen she said New Zealand needs to encourage young people into the tech sector and create a culture where people are driven to start businesses.

"In Silicon Valley there is just kind of this mindset that this is what you do, you start companies," she said.

Victoria Ransom
* Age: 36
* Sold a social media marketing company, Wildfire, to Google for hundreds of millions of dollars.
* Born and raised in Scotts Ferry (population 64) near Bulls.

What Wildfire does:

Wildfire builds online tools to help companies with their marketing over social networks such as Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

For example, if an online clothing retailer was setting up their Facebook page and wants to present picture galleries of their products to customers, Wildfire gives them templates to enter and update these effectively.

Wildfire can also run an organisation's advertising campaign over social networks to direct traffic, for instance, towards their Facebook page.

Within this it has tools to allow a business to target different demographics and to test different combinations of pictures and words in ads to see which are the most effective.

When customers engage with a business on social networks, Wildfire has tools to track what people are saying about them online and manage how the company responds. It also has products to analyse which brand pages are performing the best over which social networks.

- NZ Herald

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