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Australia's big dry has proved to be a rainmaker for a New Zealand firm making water management technology.

The majority of sales for Auckland firm Outpost Central's smart water meter technology now comes from our nearest neighbour - something the duo behind the company want to grow into a $100 million business.

Outpost Central is hoping to benefit from a cash injection from the University of Auckland Business School's Entrepreneurs' Challenge to get closer to that goal.

The Entrepreneurs' Challenge is making up to $1 million worth of funding available to companies wanting to accelerate their growth.

Outpost Central's cornerstone product is a device which attaches to water meters, sending real-time information over the mobile phone network to a dedicated website.

It's the web-based reporting, which allows customers to log in to check water usage or leaks anywhere there is internet access that gives the product the edge, said company co-founder James Riddell.

Outpost Central then charges customers a website subscription for analysis of the data.

Those customers include water utilities and large users of water, including 1000 Australian schools who have their students monitoring water usage over the internet.

Australia now accounts for about 75 per cent of the company's revenue.

In a country where water is becoming a scarce resource, one Australian water utility saved the equivalent of 1300 households worth of water usage by connecting its biggest water users to the Outpost Central technology.

While it may seem counter-intuitive for a water utility to encourage its major users to turn off the taps, the rising cost of supplying water in drought-ravaged Australia far outweighs the benefits of having users waste the precious resource.

Another of the company's strengths is the 10-year battery life of its transmitters, said Riddell. Unlike the widely used electricity meters, water metering systems are often in sites without an electricity supply relying instead on batteries for power.

The company has been developing its water management products since business partners and university mates Riddell and Jedd Forbes threw in their day jobs to start the business six years ago.

At the time Forbes was living overseas. He said the call from Riddell pitching his business idea came as life in London was beginning to pall.

"We were quite young at that stage," said Forbes. "We probably spent the next couple of years doing development and feeling our way into how to run a business."

After several years of not being paid a salary and bleeding their bank accounts dry, the company has some momentum with a few big utility customers.

Technologists at heart - Riddell has an IT background and Forbes is an engineer - the initial interest was in developing the product but the self-confessed "greenies" could see the emerging market for water conservation technology.

The two are coy about giving away any numbers but say they had gone beyond the $1 million turnover threshold expected of the Entrepreneurs' Challenge entrants.

"We want to grow it to be $100 million revenue and we're going to keep it growing as quickly as possible to get there," said Riddell.

If they are successful in gaining some funding through the challenge they will add to their workforce of nine staff, including a chief operating officer.

With Forbes and Riddell spending more time out of the country marketing the technology they are looking to employ someone who can manage the day-to-day operation of the company.


* Run for the first time this year.
* Offers one or more companies a share of $1 million in funding.
* Money to be paid back in three years, creating an evergreen fund.
* Established with $3 million donation from businessman Charles Bidwill.
* The winner will be announced next month.