IT firms resident at an Auckland business "accelerator" say its range of support is helping them prosper.
Dubbed the Icehouse, the International Centre for Entrepreneurship opened in Parnell last August. Six months later it houses nine companies, almost all involved in IT. The centre has room for 15 firms and 45 staff and offers them a “complete business infrastructure” including furniture, conference facilities and high-speed internet for the two years they are allowed to operate there.
The Icehouse is a partnership between Bank of New Zealand, Carter Holt Harvey, law firm Chapman Tripp, Compaq, Deloitte, Microsoft, Telecom, The Boston Consulting Group and The University of Auckland Business School. Its partners offer cash and services in kind, providing the centre with a budget of $2.5 million over three years.
Centre manager Paul Adams says Icehouse offers three main areas of aid: “acceleration” helps start-up firms grow, education involves teaching owner managers about “angel” investment and other business topics, while a research programme looks at issues for start-ups.
Adams and centre chief executive Andrew Hamilton, a government advisor skilled in commercialising innovation, give support through weekly and monthly meetings with firms. They gain company board positions with observer status.
Chapman Tripp offers legal advice at discounted rates and companies such as Microsoft and Compaq can advise on software or hardware issues. These networks extend globally, so when one resident was looking at entering Texas, Compaq was able to help with office space there. Networks also extend to third parties, says Adams. When one resident was building up clients in forestry, the Icehouse put it in touch with Fletcher Challenge.
Adams sees the location of the government’s $100 million Venture Investment Fund in the centre as another drawcard.
Security software company Ripple Effects moved into Icehouse in early December. Chief executive Dave Waterson says the advice and support from Icehouse has been “enormous — affecting every part of our business”.
“We get access to venture capital funding. We gain networks and help. The really key things that a start-up company can need.”
Waterson notes that because the building is open plan the firms can talk to each other easily and ideas are shared at monthly meetings between residents. Non-disclosure agreements help protect ideas.
Chris Bulman of project control software developer iTools says the accelerator programme and partnerships have certainly pushed his firm forward, while Bert Haggren, developer for utility management software company Jimmi, likes the interaction with other firms and the facilities.
Farming software firm Rocket Software development executive Richard Horton likes the opportunities to meet with like-minded people. “It has allowed us to get out and talk to people who are doing different things. On a business side, it has also allowed us to network with people we need to talk to, such as Fencepost, who are upstairs,” he says.
Vacancies remain for around six other firms, but The Icehouse wants firms producing something with a high growth and international potential.