Cluster helps Canterbury cream IT

Canterbury firms say their region's year-old software cluster is helping them win business.

Canterbury firms say their region's year-old software cluster is helping them win business.

Hairy Lemon Web Solutions co-owner Graham Dockrill says thanks to the cluster, a group of 70 registered IT firms and around 120 others formed a year ago with the aim of boosting software business in the region and the country, his firm is working with other Christchurch firms to nail down major deals producing web-training CDs for a London bank and Japanese firms.

It has also led to website work for the Canterbury regional council and more local companies sharing and passing on work.

Dockrill praises seminars given at the related Canterbury Incubator on legal matters, setting budgets and cashflow analysis, in addition to the networking opportunities the cluster brings. "We can't blow that trumpet hard enough."

Nigel Presland of software and web development company South Pacific Information Services says with big companies like Jade and Alchemy involved, the cluster is "very, very good" for finding advice needed to succeed. "It helps us get there [in achieving orders]," he says.

Presland highlights an online forum where firms with a business problem can give out details and other cluster members will reply with advice. "If we have a problem, we can rely on people from the cluster," he says.

The cluster has linked with similar software associations in Wellington and the national New Zealand Software Association. Further support has come from Trade New Zealand, the Canterbury Development Corporation and Industry New Zealand.

Auckland-based NZSA president Rollo Gillespie says the cluster is going well and doing many good things. “They are setting a good example for the rest of the country."

A cluster co-founder, Jade software business manager Keith Cowan, says the mentoring, networking and other activities involving the cluster has helped some Christchurch firms achieve "six-figure deals".

“Some of the assistance they are getting is helping them be more successful. It gives firms more confidence and they are going out more prepared and able to do things,” he says.

In its first year, the cluster has launched a website, which now features job boards for employers and job-seekers, has staged regular workshops and become famous for its Friday BBQs. Members of the cluster have also attended trade shows in San Francisco and Australia.

“We did not expect we would get all 200 software companies in Christchurch involved,” says Cowan, who is also an NZSA committee member.

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