​Kiwi tech firm recruits LA students to fast-track US expansion plans

“Any company that is trying to do any type of strategic move into a new market must complete quantitative and qualitative research."

Stellar Library, a cloud-based document management system for iPads, has partnered with five MBA students from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Anderson School of Management to fast track its international expansion into the U.S market.

Stellar Library’s General Manager of Acquisitions Dave Andrew says the company has “ambitious plans” to increase the system’s users by more than 400 percent within the next 12 to 18 months.

Andrew says the Global Access Program (GAP), offered by the UCLA Anderson School of Management, provides the ideal platform to research, develop and implement a strategic international growth plan and U.S. market entry strategy.

“Any company that is trying to do any type of strategic move into a new market must complete quantitative and qualitative research,” he says.

“Quantitative research focuses on gathering numerical data and generalising it across groups of people, but I am more interested in qualitative research which looks at how Americans behave toward our product.

“One of the biggest mistakes businesses make in developing a cross-cultural business strategy is assuming that new customers will behave the same way as current customers.”

Andrew says gathering research and real-time data to understand who their market is, and how they behave as consumers, is key to determining the viability of promoting Stellar Library to a particular market segment.

Stellar Library was established in 2014 and now has close to 2,000 users in Australia and New Zealand with Andrew aiming to increasing this to 10,000 users within Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. by 2017.

GAP

More than 100 New Zealand technology companies have participated in GAP since 2002 - this year Stellar Library is one of eight technology companies participating in the programme nationally.

To register for GAP, applicants must meet strict selection criteria, such as companies must be a technology-based product or service, the product must be fully launched and generating sales, maintaining a positive cash flow or fully funded with 10 or more employees and have plans to sell internationally.

After an interview and screening process, each approved company is assigned five MBA students who will invest more than 2000 hours over six months to perform primary market research worldwide, and develop an investment quality strategic business plan as part of their MBA degree thesis.

Participating companies must average two hours of executive time with students per week and host two MBA students for a 2-3 day visit to the company’s headquarters.

UCLA Anderson School of Management MBA students Josh Kahn and Stuart Moncada recently completed a week-long induction at Stellar Library’s Tauranga office after bidding to work with the software company in June.

Kahn has extensive experience in media, business strategy and financial planning, having worked for television network giant HBO since 2009. He was keen to work with Stellar Library after identifying a number of unique growth opportunities available to the start-up technology business.

“Our ultimate goal is to not only develop a strategic growth plan for Stellar Library but to examine a U.S. market entry strategy,” Kahn.

“This means we will need to complete plenty of primary and secondary research to determine the best market sector to target with the Stellar Library platform.

“The nature of Stellar Library’s key features means the platform should find fertile ground as a sales apparatus in the U.S.

“We think this represents a very strong opportunity, and this will be a big focus of our research.”

Kahn says a major benefit to working with American university students who are completing an MBA thesis on U.S. market entry is that “we are an active part of the industry we are examining locally.”

Moncada brings a new range of professional skills and expertise to the group, having worked in software development, engineering and business management for major corporations including Hewlett-Packard, PwC, Motorola and Safran – a leading supplier of systems and equipment for aerospace, defence and security.

A primary focus of Moncada’s MBA thesis is entrepreneurship, so working with a company that was in the early phases of its development was a real drawcard of Stella Library.

“My history has involved working with big companies and corporations but I’m inspired by the idea of entrepreneurship and wanted to gain experience growing a business from the ground up,” he adds.

This was the first time Kahn and Moncada had travelled to New Zealand, which they both admitted had a positive impact on their decision to work with Stellar Library.

Growth

Stellar Library has grown steadily over the past few years due to word-of mouth marketing, but Andrew says the success of GAP will be measured on the development and implementation of a clear and focused strategy.

“We will know by returns in sales that we have made a wise investment,” he says.

“The Global Access Program has given us the opportunity to work with some very intelligent and motivated, young men and professors.

“If it wasn’t UCLA, we would still be engaging with a research company in the States.”

Andrew says representatives from Stellar Library’s senior management team will travel to UCLA Anderson School of Management in December to review the group’s findings and recommendations.

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