Trade Me founder Sam Morgan's buyout of data visualisation software developer iVistra has saved the troubled company, after promised French investment failed to materialise.
The company, renamed Vis Fleet, has changed its global sales strategy, got costs under control and is close to breaking even, Morgan says.
Vis Fleet focuses on visualisation software for the transport and logistics industries and counts Australasian logistics company Toll among its customers. IVistra was founded by serial entrepreneur Craig Meek, who held a majority shareholding. Its focus was supplying software programmes that sit on top of GPS tracking systems in each vehicle in a fleet. The captured data is then stored in a secure datacentre and can be accessed remotely by customers, allowing them to keep track of their vehicles and gather information to streamline their operations. The company had international expansion plans, and last May, French security visualisation company IDentifie promised significant investment and to push iVistra's products into Europe. IDentifie founder Patrice Fauvet took a seat on the board. He had known Meek for some time, first meeting him when Meek and another high-profile iVistra shareholder, Lindsay Fergusson, were involved in developing Virtual Spectator for the America's Cup. Computerworld quoted Fauvet in May last year as saying iVistra and IDentifie were planning to develop new products in the security area, with one opportunity being in the visualisation of crime. But the promised investment failed to appear and by July 2008, Fauvet, Meek and Fergusson had resigned from the board. The sole remaining director is former television presenter David Beatson. Morgan, who was then a minority shareholder and also a director, says it became apparent that the company had a looming cash crisis. ''We went to all the shareholders and said, 'Do you want to save this or not, and if you do, are you willing to put your hand in your pocket, because it is burning money?''' The easiest course was to put the company into receivership in September, and Morgan and Toll New Zealand general manager Greg Miller bought it off the receivers after an independent valuation. The 20 or so staff continue to be employed by Vis Fleet. Morgan says that for the time being, the company will stick to its core business.