Kiwi turns down $40m for software

New Zealand software designer Jason Kerr claims he turned down a $US18 million ($40 million) bid for his e-recruitment product, so confident is he of its success.

New Zealand software designer Jason Kerr claims he turned down a $US18 million ($40 million) bid for his e-recruitment product, so confident is he of its success.

Kerr, 33, head of Christchurch-based StaffCV, launched the product in the US four months ago and is looking for resellers to serve New Zealand and Australia. To cope with the company’s growth, StaffCV is considering a move to Auckland to help it find 10 more Visual Basic developers.

The software, also called StaffCV, was designed in late 2000 and built in Christchurch by Ceritas Digital after 18 months’ development, costing $US2.5 million. It was developed to help the airline market process staff applications, with funding Kerr obtained from private US investors.

Kerr, whose background is in the airline industry, claims sales to 92 US hospitals, 20 US airlines and 18 other US businesses, from his company’s Chicago office, which employs seven staff in addition to the 30 StaffCV employ in Christchurch.

“We are now almost cashflow-positive out of one market. We have been offered $US18 million for it [StaffCV] but we did not think that was enough and it was in stocks, with almost no cash. We have only been selling it openly for four months,” he says.

The offer came from a San Diego-based recruitment software company whom Kerr says he cannot identify.

Ceritas Digital head Peter Green confirms the software, which his firm was commissioned to write, is based on Kerr’s specifications and ideas, has been “well received and taken off”. The target market had been the US, specifically airlines, but following the collapse of the airline industry the focus has shifted towards e-recruitment for hospitals and schools, Green says.

The software has no New Zealand customers, but Kerr claims Virgin Blue in Australia is using it to save $700,000 a year by filtering CVs itself rather than outsourcing the work.

Brisbane-based Virgin Blue recruitment coordinator Lee Richardson says she used to deal with 180 hard copy resumes a day, necessitating much time on the phone attempting to contact job seekers. StaffCV was proving “very effective” for recruiting, though online CVs do not have the detail that hard copy CVs have.

“It has certainly saved us a lot of time and eased administration duties and avoided hassles. We can email 1000 people in 10 minutes. It’s fantastic in that regard,” she says.

Todd Chapman, business and systems manager at Qantas-owned Eastern Australia Airlines, estimates StaffCV has cut his firm’s recruitment costs by around 30%. A paper-based recruitment system was difficult and unwieldy for the firm and, in the absence of an HR department, it implemented StaffCV.

Chapman was “happy for sure” with the software, saying its only limitation was its standard form which gives job applicants less opportunity to express their individuality.

StaffCV is owned by Christchurch-based Forte Solutions, which provides airline management software to Australasian airlines. The company is 90% Kiwi-owned, by Kerr and business partner Mark McCaughan, CEO of Forte Solutions.

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