Former Intel New Zealand managing director Scott Gilmour isn’t sure exactly how to describe his new job. As a sole operator, he has no company name or even job title, but thinks "venture manager" comes nearest.
He is part of a growing band of consultant/advisers that includes former InfoLink chairman John O’Hara, Gary Reynolds (ex-Compuspec) and Ray Duncan (ex-Xerox). They offer advice on management and strategy to start-up companies, and often take equity in ventures rather than cash.
Gilmour set up Intel’s New Zealand subsidiary in 1995, returning to New Zealand after 15 years in the US. He left the Oregon-headquartered company in April to go it alone when Intel announced a worldwide reduction of 5000 jobs.
Since then, he has been helping small Kiwi IT start-ups bring their products to market. “I have seen a lot of neat technologies, neat products, great products and people. What they have lacked is the ability to commercialise their products into the US market. They sell locally, then they get brave and sell to Australia and then they get really brave and sell to the UK. But half the world’s IT market is in the US and that’s where the money is made,” he says.
It was in Oregon in the late-80s where Gilmour helped start up activity-based costing software company ABC (www.abctech.com), which now has a $US30 million turnover. “Because of my experience there [with the US and start-ups], I’m familiar with it. I’m not afraid of it,” he says.
Gilmour has helped Auckland graphics company Right Hemisphere through its growing pains. He became a director a few years ago, helping raise more than $1 million of investment capital. Right Hemisphere has since grown from five to 30 staff, earning millions of dollars exporting. “We have only just begun," he says.
Gilmour’s second client is Lakewatch in Auckland, a father-and-son team of limnologists (people who study lakes) called Noel and Charlie Burns. They have produced software that analyses water quality and have customers including environment Bay of Plenty and three US organisations.
“It was an exciting product but they did not know where to go,” says Gilmour. “This company is going to [succeed]. Water quality is a global issue. It’s a worldwide market. We have fantastic science embodied in the application. I’m going to help develop the company, raise the capital, find the staff, develop their marketing plan and then put in a proper corporate governance structures,” he says.
He is also advising Grasshopper, a Hamilton producer of picture-focusing software.
Gilmour believes in offering stock options to employees, as it gives staff the same interests as the company owners in terms of budgeting, planning and financial discipline. Similarly, he usually works for an equity share, which also aligns his interests with the company founder/entrepreneur.
Gilmour insists the businesses have done the hard work so far and all he is doing is bringing along the commercial application. Since leaving Intel he has met 30 Kiwi companies, but is concentrating full-time on the three mentioned.
He says people have many good ideas but key is deciding on the target market and deciding how to get the product to market.