There are a lot of opportunities nowadays for Kiwi entrepreneurs to make their mark on the international stage. The business I founded, technology news website ReadWriteWeb, has a largely US audience and is staffed mostly by Americans, yet I run it from my home office in Lower Hutt.
Going global is something I encourage start-ups to consider from Day one, so in this series I will be speaking with other Kiwis running global start-ups, or international companies with strong ties to New Zealand.
OleOle fits into the latter category. It is a start-up founded by an American with a CTO who is a NZ resident and much of OleOle's technology development is done in its New Zealand office.
The product is a social media platform for football (also known as soccer in the US and NZ), with 10 language versions. It began development in 2006, opened as a public beta in 2007 and officially launched in April this year.
I spoke with Doug Knittle, OleOle's American founder and CEO, about the company's New Zealand ties and its experiences operating on a global scale. Prior to OleOle, Knittle was Founder and CEO of RazorGator, a successful online event ticket company.
David Mok, OleOle's CEO is the primary Kiwi connection. He left RazorGator and relocated from the US to New Zealand to "get away from the chaos in LA and take advantage of the great schools, weather and Kiwi lifestyle," although he's currently residing in Canada.
OleOle's entire development department is in New Zealand, including the engineering, quality assurance and design teams. "We've found the skill and experience levels in New Zealand rivals that of any other location," said Knittle, "as a bonus the operational costs are lower than virtually all other English-speaking nations." Given the website's content, the Kiwi love of sport also was a factor.
Knittle explained that the challenges OleOle has faced creating a global company out of New Zealand have been minimal. In addition to offices in New Zealand, the company has offices across Europe and South America. According to Knittle "all of our structures are built to manage multi-national challenges... being global is just part of our DNA."
Has the multi-national aspect caused any communication issues? "Not so far," said Knittle. "Our offices in California have at least a five-hour overlap during business hours, so communication with the NZ team hasn't been a problem - although the guys in Europe sometimes have to wait until the next day for answers."
Knittle admitted that having multiple offices has created "additional overhead and sometimes slows things down," but he sees this as a small price to pay for being global.
OleOle is getting a lot of benefit out of having a base in New Zealand. I asked Knittle if they saw this country as a long-term component of their company? He said: "we expect to always have an office in New Zealand, especially since our core technologies are built and maintained here exclusively." That's a ringing endorsement for our IT industry.
Richard MacManus is Founder/Editor of ReadWriteWeb, one of the world's top 10 blogs
- START-UP TV