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How Kiwi tech got the drop on Apple

How Kiwi tech got the drop on Apple

By Andy Kenworthy

It takes lightning reflexes to beat Apple to the punch in the tech business, but Guy Horrocks has managed it.

Born and bred in Christchurch and still in his late 20s, Horrocks has the claim to fame of co-founding Polar Bear Farm, the world's first iPhone development company, well before the App Store and all that goes with it. And after getting the head start, he has maintained the momentum.

He says: “It made a huge difference being first to market. It allowed us to go pitch to big US brands as a credible and innovative company, regardless of being a small NZ start-up. Some advertising agencies and technology companies spend years trying to open the doors at large brands that we already have, so we’ve been very fortunate. However, you still have to deliver a world class service or product to get anywhere long-term.”

Horrocks and lead engineer, Cody Bunea, left the Farm in late 2008 and set up Carnival Labs to originally target casual gaming, entertainment and advertising apps. According to Horrocks, at that stage there was plenty of work going round for those with the right blend of technology and creativity.

“We were so busy, it really was hard to go too wrong,” he explains. “You could almost pick any area of the market and build a very successful company.”

But the team were all too aware that first movers are not the only movers for long in a sector like this one. They soon had to work hard to rise above the noise of the increasing competition and make sure they didn’t try to bite off more than they could chew. They have proved they can do so with more than 100 apps out there, including high profile work for global brands like Nestle, Pepsi, Dreamworks, Kraft Foods and Taco Bell. Meanwhile, the Carnival now comprises 10 full-time staff in New Zealand, plus about four part-timers making things happen while Horrocks clocks up the airmiles as roving ambassador.

You might have thought having the company’s office destroyed in the Christchurch earthquake, and then one of its key clients selling up and shifting the work offshore, might have put Horrocks off his game. But instead he has responded by expanding into the US, and picking up so much US work that he is now preparing to make New York his permanent home. The bulk of the work will still be done in the company’s new headquarters in Wellington, but Horrocks can now do the face time for clients when it counts.

“Before, you met a potential client and you had a great meeting. Then you went back to New Zealand and someone else was meeting that same client,” he explains. “Our clients tend to be large brands and advertising agencies. So most of the action is in New York, with Los Angeles probably being the second largest focus. However, if you're building a technology company and trying to raise investment and attract good staff, Silicon Valley is still probably the place to be. New York does seem to be gaining some ground with companies like Foursquare, Gilt, BirchBox and even Group Commerce started by New Zealander Jonty Kelt based in the Big Apple.”

Link to Full Story At NZTE

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