NZ Fauna app fills 'crazy' lack of animal info

Ryan Ghisi was surprised there was not already an iPad application about the country's unique wildlife. So he set out to develop one

Exploring information about New Zealand fauna with his two-year-old son, Ryan Ghisi was surprised there was not already an iPad application about the country's unique wildlife "I thought it was crazy that no-one had done anything like that," he says. So he set out to develop one.

"Initially I wondered whether I could make a business out of it," says Ghisi, whose career is in business analysis and project management and originally software development. Difficulty in getting enough start-up capital disillusioned him about the earning potential of an app. "But the idea kept buzzing in the back of my mind.

"I though funding would be easier if I did it as a not-for-profit venture and offering it as a free app would maximise response," he says.

Ghisi was invited to the Community Economic Development Conference in April 2011 as a finalist in the Hothouse Sowing the Seeds competition.

He had submitted his idea for the NZ Fauna mobile application and had the opportunity to present and discuss the idea to a Dragon's Den-style panel of judges and about 100 of the conference attendees. The feedback received was extremely positive, he says, and he was awarded third place and $500 towards the project by Tariana Turia, then minister for the community and voluntary sector.

This allowed for some initial mockups to be created, bringing the idea to life and providing some material for funding applications.

A complex exercise of drawing in funders from all over New Zealand followed. After five months of applications, he secured development costs from three sources -- the Air New Zealand Environment Trust, the ASB Community Trust and the Ministry of Culture and Heritage.

"I established partnerships with DOC, Forest and Bird and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and secured access to their text and media libraries. I was also extremely lucky to enlist the voice talents of environmental heavyweights Ruud Kleinpaste and Nicola Vallance," Ghisi says.

The idea of covering both fauna and flora was trimmed down and the current application covers NZ fauna only; but through his company, Kiwipedia, he is now developing the flora application.

"Also, we've been working on a Bird Identification app for Forest and Bird. I have lots of other ideas in the pipeline, but funding is always an issue."

Ghisi enlisted Wellington-based Touchtech to develop the NZ Fauna app for Kiwipedia and Auckland-based Designahead to provide some design flair. "From the first moment I spoke to Touchtech, I got a real sense that they understood my concept and really cared about the project," he says. "They worked closely with me all the way through, coming up with some great ideas I hadn't even though of. The cornerstone of a good app is good design, and I knew I needed some expertise in this area."

With no budget remaining, Designahead offered its services pro bono, Ghisi says. "They took the idea from a functional prototype and transformed it into the beautiful, polished product we have now."

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