Hamish Fletcher

Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Google gobbles up Kiwi's firm for $307m

Kiwi Victoria Ransom (left) and Alain Chuard founded Wildfire, which has been sold to Google for a reported US$250 million ($307 million). Photo / Google
Kiwi Victoria Ransom (left) and Alain Chuard founded Wildfire, which has been sold to Google for a reported US$250 million ($307 million). Photo / Google

From humble beginnings on a farm in Manawatu, Kiwi expat Victoria Ransom co-founded a technology company which Google has now purchased for a reported US$250 million ($307 million).

Ransom's company Wildfire - a Silicon Valley-based startup that helps companies promote themselves on social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter - announced on its blog yesterday it had been scooped up by Google.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed but the Wall Street Journal said the purchase price was US$250 million.

Wildfire's services can help clients boost interest on Facebook and other social sites, including Twitter and Google+.

"Wildfire will operate as usual," the company said on its website yesterday.

Ransom started Wildfire with former professional snowboarder Alain Chuard in 2008.

The pair both worked as investment bankers in New York before quitting their jobs in 2001 to start an adventure travel company.

After making software that would allow the company to give away trips on Facebook, Ransom and Chuard soon discovered this service was a viable venture in itself, eventually launching it as the first Wildfire product. They went on to develop a company with nearly 400 employees and 16,000 clients, including 30 of the top 50 global brands.

Ransom - now in her mid-30s - grew up in the small rural settlement of Scotts Ferry near Bulls. She told US website mixergy.com that entrepreneurship was not a career option she had first considered.

"Where I grew up in New Zealand, it was not a career choice you talked about. But as it turns out, my father is a farmer, that's an entrepreneurial career," she said.

After graduating with a degree in psychology in 1999, Ransom went to work in the media group at investment bank Morgan Stanley.

"I saw a lot of entrepreneurs coming in and pitching to Morgan Stanley. That was eye-opening for me," she said in another online interview.

Ransom later went to study at Harvard Business School before starting Wildfire.

- Additional reporting agencies

Kiwi expats in Silicon Valley

While Kiwi entrepreneurs may once have been few and far between in Silicon Valley, there is now a growing network of New Zealand expats working in the San Francisco Bay Area.

John Holt, a director at the Kiwi Landing Pad in California, said there was now a strong community of New Zealanders in the technology scene in San Francisco.

Kiwi Landing Pad is an organisation helping New Zealand tech companies establish and grow their business in the US. Holt said getting traction overseas was essential for internet start-ups.

"For anything, particularly around the internet, you need scale, and you run out of that pretty quickly with four million people [in New Zealand], so you've got to go regardless."

Over the past 18 months, Holt said, a number of Kiwi companies had been bought by US firms, including his own firm Sonar6, acquired in April this year.

Another company, Litmos, was sold for a multimillion-dollar sum to Silicon Valley's Callidus Software in 2011.

These sales had flow-on effects for the New Zealand economy, Holt said.

"Sonar6 still has 30 people earning salaries and pretty much all of its shareholders having return from that sale [are] in New Zealand."

- NZ Herald

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