Owen Hembry

Business news editor of the New Zealand Herald

Kiwi IT man sells up dream property to help rebuild Japan

Terrie Lloyd, owner and founder of Tokyo-based LINC Media with his children Monica, Sophie and Eva (left to right) in front of the Meiji Shinto shrine in Tokyo. SUPPLIED
Terrie Lloyd, owner and founder of Tokyo-based LINC Media with his children Monica, Sophie and Eva (left to right) in front of the Meiji Shinto shrine in Tokyo. SUPPLIED

Kiwi entrepreneur Terrie Lloyd was standing on a railway platform in Tokyo when in March the devastating earthquake struck Japan.

"The buildings were rolling, the road was shaking, windows were flexing in and out," Lloyd said.

Lloyd, 53, has lived in Tokyo for 28 years and it was the biggest earthquake he had experienced.

The earthquake and devastating tsunami that followed left an estimated more than 24,000 people dead or missing and has been estimated to have caused damage equivalent to 3 to 5 per cent of gross domestic product.

As the commercial community picks itself up Lloyd has identified opportunities for business.

Lloyd had founded probably more than 20 companies in Japan and was currently involved with a group of seven firms, including the fields of information technology, software, recruiting, publishing and an original incubator company called LINC Media, of which he is chief executive.

"Our biggest and fastest growing business and in fact one of the reasons why I want to be liquid again is data centres," he said.

Lloyd, who has also invested in start-up companies in New Zealand, has put a 19 hectare waterfront estate near Mangonui on the market, with the land in five titles and a combined capital valuation of $3.4 million.

Some of the proceeds from the property sale will be used to help fund business opportunities the Japan.

"As you can imagine with the post earthquake the banks aren't lending a lot of money so whereas a year or so ago I could have just gone out and just simply raised the money locally I'm finding now that liquidity is much tighter."

It was not vulture capital, he said.

"We're talking about actually providing solutions to companies that otherwise actually might wind up going under," he said.

"My personal mission is to help change Japan and make it more internationalised and certainly this is going to be part of that."

After the earthquake many companies were suddenly faced with the prospect of staff fleeing Tokyo because of fears of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

"So we got a rash of orders from customers wanting remote computing capability and of course that all runs through cloud based computing services so therefore data centre business has taken off in a big way here," he said.

An amateur physicist in Lloyd's office took daily radiation readings and posted them on YouTube.

"We never saw any major increase in radiation certainly nothing that would be considered dangerous," he said.

Although the earthquake had no major negative effect on Tokyo Japanese consumers started practicing self restraint out of respect to those that had died.

A software company Lloyd was involved with replicated the functionality of famous web engines so companies could run their own social network sites for small markets, attracting traffic and advertising revenue.

"This has created an opportunity for us to go and say, 'Well look we're offering this software at no cost up front, it's all revenue share and we can provide you with something where people who are staying at home and not going out they can still get involved'."

Some companies had been slowly running out of steam during recent years but did not have the expertise to export.

"Precipitated by the earthquake suddenly they've started realising we need to be going abroad ... so there's been a big increase in enquiries for websites, marketing collateral and in some cases just straight out business planning," he said.

About 400,000 people had been displaced and faced living in temporary accommodation for the next few years.

"There's still a big need for help and I'm actually involved in several [non profit organisations] which are helping to feed homeless people and basically help clean damaged neighborhoods," Lloyd said.

"I don't think people should be giving up on Japan," he said. "One message I'd like to send is it's quite safe here."

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