This week we celebrate those who are leading the way through the tough times as we count down to naming the New Zealand Herald Business Leader of the Year. The winner will appear in the Weekend Herald on Saturday.

Signing up to blast into space caps off a stellar year for Derek Handley.

In July, Handley sold Hyperfactory, the company he founded with brother Geoffrey, to US media giant Meredith Corporation for a rumoured US$20 million.

A few monthts later he handed over a US$200,000 ($267,000) deposit on tickets for Sir Richard Branson's first Virgin Galactic space flights.

The Handley brothers' stake in Hyperfactory was estimated to be a similar size to the 18 per cent held by Geoff Ross' investment firm the Business Bakery.


Founded 10 years ago when the Handleys were in their early 20s, Hyperfactory designs and hosts internet-based advertising and branding campaigns for companies with a focus on delivering ads to mobile phones.

The idea for the business came to Handley while he was standing on the balcony of his Auckland apartment, but it took several years before it took off.

Within five years Hyperfactory was on the overseas expansion path resulting in two offices opening in the States as well as branches in Shanghai, Hong Kong and India.

Speaking to the Herald in July, Handley said the deal showed New Zealand entrepreneurs could succeed in going global despite being so far away from major world markets.

"It proves young people can do this. That you can build a global business with entrepreneurs from Auckland - I think that is the thing I'm most proud of - it's not about the money," he said.

Meredith originally took a 20 per cent stake in Hyperfactory in mid-2009 with an option to buy out the remaining 80 per cent within two years, which it opted to do in July this year.

Handley intends to stay on with Meredith to push plans to triple the size of the business over the next three years.