Americans pick Kiwi brains

Picking the brains of an expert is the promise of Auckland start-up, SurfBrains.com.

Picking the brains of an expert is the promise of Auckland start-up SurfBrains.com.

The 20-month-old business, made up of 14 part-time specialists, is attempting to take advantage of our time zone and weak dollar to answer queries for students and businesses in the US.

Chief executive Simon Angelo started the business as an expansion to a training company he ran and technology expo he staged in 1988.

The University of Auckland Commerce graduate claims to have Kiwi experts from a range of fields including computing, web development, business consulting, accounting, legal and taxation, marketing and advertising and a range of academic subjects.

“We help students in Canada and the US and in the large markets around the world," Angelo says. The company also produces press releases, website design and the like through part-time contractors, he says. Business people also use the website, he says, with 80% of trade from the US.

Angelo charges $US20 ($50) for a basic question that can be answered in a day, to $US600 to $US700 for larger projects that can take a fortnight. But the firm has done larger projects, such as a stockbroking website. Its main competitor is the US-based E-lance.com, a huge freelance marketplace. Angelo admits his business is tiny by comparison, receiving about seven to 14 jobs a week.

Last year, the firm was offered $250,000 by a New Zealand investor who was to get funding from the US. But Angelo says that fell through because of the Nasdaq collapse. He is now working through another similar deal with an angel investor.

Angelo says he would use the money to build-up the company’s brand and presence on web search engines and better technology development. The firm received $2150 from the government’s Enterprise Award Scheme in June for a similar task.

"If we don’t get [further] investment, we will chug along slowly,” Angelo says. "Many dot-coms aren’t making money; we are."

SurfBrains.com uses a US-based server, three Pentium PCs and software it developed itself to provide its advice.

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