Steve Shephard is determined the 21st century won’t bypass Northland like state highway 1 bypasses Hikurangi, the home of Datapulse.
Shephard says he recently met 200 potential Australian investors trying to drum up interest in the region, but it is “early days” in its campaign.
While the far north concentrates on attracting call centres, he says that leaves Whangarei to specialise in software development.
And he hopes the growing success of his firm becoming a “medium-sized” business with annual seven-figure sales revenue, should add to the city’s credibility.
Datapulse employs seven in Hikurangi, and contractors throughout New Zealand. Formed in 1997, it makes niche software, mostly in the care industries.
“We pick a niche and get that software produced and paid for by the company that wants it produced. We also research potential markets for a package and if we find potential, we produce it ourselves,” says Shephard.
The main products include WeCare, HomeCare and Golden Years, software that manages the finances, rostering and administration of nursing homes, retirement homes, counselling and other services in the health sector. AutoLink, developed with Tauranga-based Panztel, is a streamlined interactive voice response service used for monitoring and managing remote workforces, such as cleaners.
Datapulse claims about 100 customers, including New Zealand’s Presbyterian Support Services with its ReHab software.
It is also negotiating with a major New Zealand homecare provider which, says Shephard, should double its market share. New products are also in development in association with NorthPower.
Shephard says Whangarei’s proximity to Auckland helps Datapulse find staff, but since the business services the entire country, there is little advantage being based there. Customers also don’t know Datapulse is based in Hikurangi as it has an Auckland postal address and shares the same 09 telephone area code.
The Northlander says living costs are cheap, particularly in Hikurangi, where land prices are a quarter of those of Whangarei, which in turn are a fraction of those in Auckland. Yet Hikurangi can offer 2Mbit/s of tele-communications bandwith and the Whangarei IT infrastructure is also “not too bad”, while Northland Polytechnic is a source of IT graduates.
Shephard observes Indian software companies doing well in getting work from US companies. New Zealand, being closer to the US, speaking the same language and with effective marketing, should be able to succeed at the same game, he says.