Ericsson's Wellington alliance starts slowly

The prospect of Ericsson-Synergy, the new mobile internet joint venture between Ericsson and Wellington software house Synergy, hiring its promised 150 skilled staff seems far off.

Ericsson-Synergy, the mobile internet joint venture between telecommunications company Ericsson and Wellington software house Synergy, has begun work on its first contracts.

But staff numbers are fewer than 30 people and the prospect of the promised 150 skilled staff to help Wellington play its part in the knowledge economy seem far off. Senior executives don’t seem to be able to agree how far.

“We’re going along quite well, and running pretty close to our budget,” says Synergy chairman Chris Comber, “but priorities have shifted a bit.” The company has been devoting time to setting up an infrastructure of hosts and gateways which are necessary to any development in the area.

Nevertheless, there are about six contracts already in place, says Ericsson-Synergy chief executive Stephen Crombie.

These include “contracts from New Zealand and Australia for consulting services and software design in the mobile internet area,” as well as “a major consulting assignment with an Asian network operator.” Some of the Australian and New Zealand contracts are also with network companies, he says, but he declines to name any of the clients.

Comber says the promise of 150 skilled employees will be fulfilled early next year, but he predicts that probably quite a few of them will not be New Zealanders. “We’re finding it difficult to locate the top-level people that we need, with more senior skill – the development architects and development managers – and we’re having to advertise overseas.” Skills “for the boiler-room” are not hard to find locally, he says.

Crombie is more optimistic. “So far, we’ve filled all our positions with New Zealand-based applicants, but there may be some [at a senior level] that we have to go overseas for.” He says, however, that the “overwhelming majority” of the eventual staff will be New Zealand residents or returning New Zealanders.

He puts the growth to 150 a bit further out. “It depends on how the business progresses,” he says, “but it is likely to reach that size within two or three years.”

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