John Hayson, who headed Conduit, the e-commerce hosting service majority-owned by IT products distributor Renaissance, says he’s ready to do something different.
“I have no idea what I’m going to do next,” says Hayson, who left Conduit at the end of last week.
Conduit, unlike many e-commerce ventures, is in good heart, Hayson says, so he feels now’s the right time to exit.
“The company is in as good a shape as it’s ever been.”
Last year it made a profit of $1 million for Renaissance, which owns 83% of it. The rest is owned by Singapore development bank SBS, which paid $6.6 for its stake. The first half of this year wasn’t so rosy, Hayson says, with costs outstripping revenue. But he says in the two months since, “we’re matching outgoings and incomings”.
Hayson knows last year’s profit figure because it was broken out of Renaissance’s consolidated result as the company prepared a prospectus for a float on the Singapore share market. But between completing the prospectus on January 4 this year and dealing with final procedural details, the market “died”, says Hayson.
“It was not a great time to be floating and I think it will be 18 months to two years before you see a market that would support a float like that again.”
Hayson moved to Singapore with his family in the build-up to the aborted float, but has been spending much of the past few months in Australia, where Conduit also does business. Having returned to New Zealand, he has changed his view of this country’s progress in adopting e-business.
“Throughout much of the past year I’ve been scathing of New Zealand’s uptake of e-commerce but after being in Asia and Australia I’ve realised we’re not doing badly.”
Conduit can claim to be supporting a good proportion of that e-commerce using the platform it began developing about four-and-a-half years ago to turn around Renaissance’s then struggling distribution business. The system was initially picked up by other IT businesses, but a breakthrough came when Sheppard Industries, maker of Avanti bicycles, implemented it.
Hayson says Sheppard Industries started using the system about a year ago, and is in the process of moving to a new phase of implementation. “It takes about a year for companies to cement this as a way of doing business.”
Consumer electronics distributor Monaco has also implemented it, and an Australian foodstuff distributor, Bidvest, has also just gone live with Conduit.
Early on, Hayson says, it wasn’t easy for prospective customers to understand what Conduit could do for them. “Even people in the distribution business struggled to see what it was all about.”
With half-a-dozen live users, and “outsourcing supply chain management the buzzword from the US on down”, it’s no longer such a hard concept to sell.
Conduit’s online selling application is built on Microsoft SQL Server and hosted in Auckland on Hewlett-Packard hardware.
Following Hayson’s departure, Joanne Hodgson is acting head of Conduit.
“It’s been an interesting road,” Hayson says.