MEA Mobile wants to spread success of photo print app to Australia
By Fiona Rotherham
Jan. 8 (BusinessDesk) - MEA Mobile expects to sell its photo-printing app in Australia this year after following up a successful launch in the US and Germany with a deal in its home market of New Zealand, offering the service through Warehouse Stationery.
The Hamilton-based app developer and creative agency took the unusual step in 2012 of launching its home-grown app, Printacular, directly into the US rather than first selling it in New Zealand.
Since then the app, which allows people to print high quality photos from their mobiles and pick up the prints from specified retailers, has become its biggest revenue earner. It is available for photo-printing at more than 9,000 Walgreens stores in the US and 1,600 dm-drogerie pharmacies, Germany’s largest retailer.
In November, MEA partnered with Warehouse Stationery to launch the app throughout New Zealand and hopes to do a similar deal with an Australian retailer in coming months as a way to further expand into that market.
Chairman Colin Groves said MEA was one of the few to overcome a reluctance by Stephen Tindall to have companies his K1W1 investment vehicle puts money into enter deals with the listed retailer he founded, Warehouse Group.
MEA co-founder and chief executive Rod McFarlane said Printacular’s target market was mums wanting to print photos of their kids and hang them on their fridges. He said in the run-up to Christmas, the app achieved its biggest printing day to date. MEA gets a cut of a retailer’s revenue from printed photos.
Founders McFarlane and Gabriel Engel set up MEA as a consulting and IP commercialisation firm in 2007 and spun out MEA Mobile in 2010. There wasn’t even an app store when they started and they’ve since created more than 300 apps and websites, including 11 that have reached number one rankings in different app stores. Its iSupr8 app, which gives a vintage feel to video footage, is one of the top 10 in the world for video-making.
Clients have included internationally renowned brands such as Levi’s, Samsung, ESPN, and RipCurl and more than half of MEA’s $5 million or so annual revenue comes from outside New Zealand.
The company went well down the track toward a public listing on the NZX in late 2014 following a wave of tech company IPOs but Groves, a former director of mergers and acquisitions for the Tetra Laval Group, persuaded the founders to shelve the idea when he came on board in November 2014.
“They weren’t ready for it. It was a mixture of needing more maturity and not having everything in place, “ Groves said. “One or two people in Auckland had painted a very rosy picture to these two guys of listing.”
It instead raised just over $1 million in a week last year from existing and new shareholders, including K1W1 and Enterprise Angels, in a private placement that should fund the business for the next financial year at least. The company, which has more than 50 staff and offices in Hamilton, Auckland, Wellington, and New Haven, Connecticut, became profitable in recent months.
MEA ranked 15th on the Deloitte Fast 50 in 2014 with a 390 percent growth rate, and McFarlane said the strategy was to keep doing what they were doing, because it was working.
It has a conditional deal on its fourth acquisition – a software developer - but McFarlane says he won't provide details until it goes unconditional. The company has already purchased creative agency Verdict Communications, design agency Vertigo, and early iPhone developer SoftwareX.
Director and investor Ben Kepes said innovation is key to MEA’s success and he views it as an ideas lab which could potentially spin off its most successful apps.
“I see US-based app companies knocking it out of the park on a weekly basis," he said. "I jumped at the chance to become involved with a company doing likewise from here in New Zealand.”