Straker pins hopes on BBC breakthrough

Grant Straker hopes pending deals in the UK will be a pointed response to Industry New Zealand's refusal to give his Auckland software company a development grant.

Grant Straker hopes pending deals in the UK will be a pointed response to Industry New Zealand’s refusal to give his Auckland software company a development grant.

The funding body was giving conflicting explanations last week for rejecting a grant application by three-year-old Straker Interactive. The company, meanwhile, says it is close is to sewing up a deal with the BBC for at least one — and possibly 30 — Shado content management system licences at £20,000 a piece.

Shado is based on ColdFusion MX, a Java-based version of the Macromedia web application development tool. Shado’s ColdFusion heritage was listed in an email from an Industry New Zealand adviser as one of four points explaining the grant’s refusal.

But Straker says ColdFusion is the very reason the BBC and numerous other UK organisations are interested in Shado.

“No other ColdFusion-based system has been ported to MX,” Straker says. “We took ours to bits and re-engineered it to take advantage of MX’s web services, ColdFusion components and Java stuff.”

Straker says the BBC is considering Shado for the creation of an HR portal. He doesn’t expect a decision from the worldwide broadcaster for as long as a month, because of the northern hemisphere holiday season.

“We’re at the stage of having done an initial presentation that they liked.”

Industry New Zealand northern region general manager Lance Wickman denies platform choice came into the grant decision.

“The choice of platform had nothing to do with the application being turned down,” Wickman says. Grant applications are judged on issues like how a company is run and target market.

Wickman was to meet Straker on Friday, with a recently appointed Industry New Zealand adviser with ColdFusion experience, to consider means other than cash to help Straker. They might include assistance with establishing distribution channels, developing a sales strategy, market development and quality assurance.

But Straker has already done much of that work. He says the company has spent about $250,000 establishing itself in the UK, doing its first deal with training company Highlander and linking up with distributor Unipalm. Unipalm is an important Macromedia partner.

“To achieve this we have taken all the risk, done all the work and basically had no support from the government.”

Wickman says Straker’s failure to get a grant doesn’t mean the company is going down the wrong technology path. “It has some really good customers and has done some good work.”

Since Straker launched the company with $5000, development work has been funded through cashflow.

Milly’s Kitchen, an Auckland kitchenware retailer, was an early Shado user, for web and mail-order sales.

Straker says Shado is in contention for several other UK projects, one of which is believed to be with BP, although he would not confirm that.

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