1000Minds software helps business to prioritise

The company is patenting its software in the US, Canada and Australia

1000Minds, developer of decision-support software, is a two-man band with its eyes firmly set on overseas markets.

The company — run by Paul Hansen, a lecturer in economics at the University of Otago and Franz Ombler, a Wellington-based developer — recently sold licences to a large US company, Hansen says. Meanwhile, the pair are patenting their software in the US, Canada and Australia.

The C# software, formerly known as Point Wizard, uses a combination of selected criteria and answers to specific questions to help users make decisions, and does so in a transparent way, says Hansen.

“It opens up processes to stakeholders so they can see what is going on, and have greater confidence in their decisions,” he says.

A health economist by training, Hansen got the idea for the software out of his research, which started in the area of decision-making, especially applied to ranking patients for hospital operations, he says.

“The software grew out of that [research],” he says. “My business partner, Franz Ombler, and I then realised that the software could be applied to pretty much any situation involving ranking alternatives.”

The software won the 2007 Australia-New Zealand Consensus Awards for the software, as one of two Kiwi winners. The other was Palmerston North-based Unlimited Realities.

Customers to date include the Ministry of Health, which uses the software for prioritising patients for surgery; the University of Otago, which uses it for ranking students for scholarships; Auckland City Council and the Wellington Regional Council. The system could also be used for human resource management, police and emergency services and in sectors such as finance, utilities and the military, says Hansen.

Hansen originally worked out the ideas for the software on the back of an envelope, he says with a laugh. After some further development, Ombler did the programming.

Hansen is no “techie”, but that has proved to work out quite well, he says.

“It turned out to be a great testing environment,” he says. “Franz would create something and I would test it. If it survived me, it was pretty robust,” he says.

The 1000Minds software is very generic, which is both its strength and weakness, says Hansen.

“We are increasingly trying to partner with people to customise the software and create new applications,” he says.

For example, the company is currently working with The Street, a website company, and University of Otago, creating a 3D, interactive gaming-based interface to help students choose their courses. The product will be launched soon, he says.

There is also a software developer kit available so that developers can use the engine but put their own front-end on it, he adds.

“We are still at a fairly early stage of commercial success, to be honest. Neither of us has given up our day-jobs yet,” Hansen says.

The University of Otago is encouraging its staff to “connect with the outside world” with their research, and it has become increasingly supportive of Hansen’s venture, he says.

The company is part of the Upstart business incubator in Dunedin, which has also been a great support, Hansen says.

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