PC direct duo take e-commerce plunge

Having co-founded computer assembler PC Direct at the best possible time, Maurice Bryham made his money and exited just as the local hardware industry started to melt down. Now he has joined forces with Mark Loveys, the developer of PC Direct's in-house accounting and e-commerce system, to sell software based around that system.

No one would argue that Maurice Bryham doesn’t know a good opportunity when he sees one. Having co-founded computer assembler PC Direct at the best possible time, he made his money and exited just as the local hardware industry started to melt down. Now he has joined forces with Mark Loveys, the developer of PC Direct’s in-house accounting and e-commerce system, to sell software based around that system.

Since launching at the end of last year, exo-net has around 20 local sites including ImagePac (which does Kodak development for all pharmacies in New Zealand), the resort hotel Hotel Du Vin, as well as PC Direct itself.

PC Direct is exo-net’s biggest and most advanced site, making wide use of exo-net’s e-commerce fucntionality including the capability to do online auctions.

Bryham believes he is on to a good thing for a number of reasons, including the fact that exo-net’s products are based on an SQL back end — either Microsoft SQL Server or Inprise InterBase SQL.

“The most powerful concept here is that you have an SQL database and everything talks to it. The biggest killer with the Internet is content and keeping it up to date. Here you only have to keep one thing up to date. When you change a price in your accounting software it changes the price on your site. The same with inventory, etc. You can show how many items of a product are in stock.

“Everyone wants to move to e-commerce but you need the proper platform and most e-commerce solutions are standalone, entirely separated from the accounting system. All the businesses we’re selling to are planning on e-commerce but at the same time have problems with data corruption and their networks having enough bandwidth. Putting in SQL solves that because it doesn’t have data corrupts but they [also] know that it’s the platform for moving forward into e-commerce.”

The system was also developed to run over a WAN and PC Direct now runs its accounting system across various branches in Auckland and Wellington.

“Without the use of SQL there would be too much data going across the lines to make this possible.”

Bryham says he and Loveys saw a gap in the market between local accounting packages which were often DOS-based and standalone and the large ERP and e-commerce solutions from the likes of SAP or IBM where “medium-sized” business means 250 users.

Development at PC Direct began eight years ago.

“At PC Direct we were in a unique position in that we could do a lot of development but we didn’t have to support multiple customers. It was originally a multi-user DOS system but we quickly moved to an SQL back end, which was very expensive and required powerful servers at a time when RAM was expensive. Because we were in the business of making PCs we were in the unique position of being able to do that.

“Since then the pricing for SQL and hardware servers have come right down and now small and medium businesses can afford them.”

Loveys, who was previously contracted by PC Direct, has since done a total rewrite of the software, which he claims puts it a generation ahead of the PC Direct system. The system is also fully customisable.

Exo-net is sold through resellers and dealers, with dealers being able to write add-ons. The best known is local accounting development company Cashlink, which has an OEM deal combining Cashlink 5.0 and exo-net. Dealers also have support agreements with clients, says Bryham.

Exo-net e-commerce pack V2 $2995 ex GST (unlimited users, can be run with or without exo-net 2000 accounting system)

Exo-net 2000 V3 accounting system — five-user starter pack $5995, additional five users $2995, single-user system $1995.

An example of the e-commerce software in action can be found at http://www.easyshop.co.nz which is a demo-site run by exo-net.

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