Small Business: Young entrepreneurs - Reuben Cairns-Morrison

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Gene Hogan (left) and  Reuben Cairns-Morrison.
Gene Hogan (left) and Reuben Cairns-Morrison.

Reuben Cairns-Morrison, co-founder, of the surf app, Sherpa Surfguide.

What is your business? And who is involved?

My business partner Gene Hogan and I have created an iPhone application that tells users where the best surf is anywhere in New Zealand. The app is basically a digital surf guide plus a surf forecasting service which are two services that have yet to be combined. This is a huge advantage to surfers who are on the road, as they can get information update hourly about the conditions and the surf breaks on their phones.

Gene is a graphic designer so he looks after that, and we take care of everything else together. Brendan at Naked Apps wrote the code for us.

What had you been doing before this?

I'm just finishing up my honours year at the University of Auckland studying Geography, majoring in Geographic Information Science (GIS).

Where did you get your idea from?

When you're on a surf trip in unfamiliar areas, you're always trying to compile all the information you can find about the optimum conditions for each spot and match that up with what the weather is doing on that day. There are a few books and websites that surfers generally use, but it can be quite hard to remember everything when you're on the road and away from your computer. I've been thinking about the concept for a few years, but in the form of a website. When mobile applications became popular, I realised the idea was much better suited to the mobile format, so in January when Gene and I were on a surf trip we started building on the initial concept.

What is your best case scenario with the app?

We see the app as being the one-stop surf app, with accurate forecasting and live weather information for local surfers, and detailed information about each spot for travelling surfers. If it goes well here, we will take the app offshore.

What is the plan for the next couple of years?

This summer we will be working on improving the content of the app by travelling the country and taking detailed notes and photos, as well as promoting the app in surf stores. When we are totally happy with the New Zealand version, we will take the idea elsewhere.

Have you had any family or business mentors so far helping you make decisions?

Both of my parents run businesses so there is no shortage of advice there, and I've taken advantage of that. We also have a few younger friends with businesses who have been a huge help.

Do you think this will be the first of a few businesses?

We are always thinking about other apps that need to be developed now that we have gone through that process, and I'm sure we will find something sooner or later!

What would you do if you were doing a "real job" in light of your qualifications?

I was actually quite excited about getting a job at the council or similar after I graduated, but I imagine it wouldn't be as exciting as what I'm doing with the app, so I'll put that on the backburner for now.

What do you think your youth has done for you, in starting this business?

I think young people have a sort of understanding about this kind of technology that allows them to see opportunities where others can't, since a lot of us are constantly using our phone, browsing the internet and so on. That understanding of the format we are working with has been a huge advantage, and we have saved a lot of time and money as a result of this. We are constantly thinking of ways that we can implement existing ideas in a modern way that is specifically designed for modern formats such as the mobile phone.


Next week: I think it's time to hear about small businesses creating products for the greater good who happen to be making a profit from it but the world would be a lesser place without them. Tell me your stories and be honest.

- NZ Herald

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