Software developer Webscope is the mastermind behind KiwiSaver-like initiative My Bitcoin Saver. Co-founder Sam Blackmore talks development and the firm's unique work-flow processes.

A brief description of the business

Webscope develops customer software and specialises in software solutions. We focus on building digital tools that help businesses run more efficiently and enable them to innovate, and build software applications. It was founded by Tim Clark, Katie Graham and Sam Blackmore.

How long have you been operating and where from?

Advertisement

We've been in business almost six years and operate from both Auckland and Queenstown. We expanded into Queenstown in November last year to focus on building business down there. We have nine staff members in Auckland and one in Queenstown.

What inspired you to start this kind of business?

After arriving back from Britain and contracting with a number of different agencies throughout Auckland, I experienced projects that were badly run, over time and budget and didn't result in adding value to the businesses who paid for them.

Webscope was a reaction to this. Our mission is to help business become more efficient through software.

You've developed My Bitcoin Saver, can you tell me about that?
My Bitcoin Saver is a platform that allows anyone in New Zealand to easily save Bitcoin without going through the complicated process of buying it through a Bitcoin exchange. We're the only dedicated Bitcoin Savings platform in the world.

Webscope co-founder Sam Blackmore.
Webscope co-founder Sam Blackmore.

Once signed up, all users needs to do is to set up a recurring automatic bank payment and provide their Bitcoin wallet address. Once we receive the payment we buy Bitcoin on their behalf and send it to their online Bitcoin wallet. The idea is for it to be a set-and-forget process, just like KiwiSaver.

How is your business different now compared to when it started?

In a single word "experience" - it has allowed us to create ambitious digital strategy visions for clients. We're able to draw on insights gained from the projects that we've delivered, developing strong digital strategy which aligns with the goals of the businesses that we collaborate with.

Why does Webscope have a two-day work-from-home policy?

I believe one of the biggest things that has enabled our success is our company culture. We set it really early that employees work from home two days a week - Wednesday, Thursday - the whole company does.

We're in the office Monday, Tuesday and Friday, and people love working with us because we trust our employees to work from home, and it's a better work rhythm. Generally, I think people don't want to be in the office five days a week, they need the space of their own home to get things done.

Be very good at what you do. There's no point starting something that you can't competently do better than anybody else.

SHARE THIS QUOTE:

We've found people get more work done from home - it's a culture which our developers really love. Development is quite an introverted process; you need to get into your own head space to really get into the problems you're solving, and frankly the best place to do that is by yourself in a room with no one else around.

On Tuesdays we do planning and team work and on Wednesdays and Thursday our developers really bury into being productive because they're at home.

What made you want to follow an office-home workflow?

It's just efficiency. We're completely obsessed with efficiency - from solutions to clients - and it's just not efficient to commute into the office and waste employee time when we've got all the modern tools that are available to us.

We use Google Hangouts, Slack, Trello, and it means it's very easy for us to work with overseas companies such as our current ones in Australia, Switzerland and the US. Also, it's the kind of flexibility that millennials are really comfortable with.

Everybody talks about remote working, but very few companies are doing it.

Bitcoin currency. Photo / 123RF
Bitcoin currency. Photo / 123RF

What are your long-term plans for Webscope?

There's two sides to Webscope - there's the software side of things where we design and build applications, and there's the consultancy work we do through NZTE, NZ Export and EMA. We provide workshops to enable companies to look at ways they can digitally innovate to get ahead of competitors or make their businesses stronger.

We see the digital innovation consultancy side of our business growing this year and next. The road map for this year is to create more tools to help people reach their savings goals more quickly and open our service in the UK and Europe.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced?

I think taking a collaborative approach. Our clients don't subscribe to us for a digital rebuild; it's a collaborative journey.

We help clients understand what we're doing and work with them to deliver projects with them. Then there's all the normal things I could say like cashflow, and employees, but generally they aren't big challenges for us.

What advice do you give others thinking of starting their own business?

Be very good at what you do. There's no point starting something that you can't competently do better than anybody else.

Don't stop, keep going. Things generally go well in year one and year two, but in year three you start to hit some rough patches - those are the times where you need to be committed and keep going.