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Why Kiwi Software Business Joyous Is Banking On Auckland

The team from local software company Joyous have their eyes set on rapid expansion in the lucrative North American market following some early wins in the region. However, even once international restrictions around COVID-19 are lifted, they see their headquarters and a majority of their staff being based in Auckland.

The company has recently taken over a full floor of Auckland’s historic Dilworth Building, which will allow Joyous to double its engineering team over the next 6 months.

In good company

Joyous helps large employers deliver on the promise of being agile by ensuring that leaders have regular open conversations with their people. By stimulating conversations on specific topics between people leaders and their team members, Joyous creates a weekly opportunity for each and every employee to have their voice heard.

The company’s mission statement is “To help everyone feel comfortable giving and receiving feedback that sparks action”.

Part of what has helped the company progress so quickly is a close relationship with agile local customers such as Spark, Kiwibank, Douglas Pharmaceuticals and Genesis Energy.

Head of Product Ruby Kolesky says being able to work so closely with local customers has been hugely valuable, and something they may not have been able to do so easily elsewhere.

“We’ve been so lucky to be able to collaborate so closely with some of our key customers, and that they’ve been so eager to embrace open feedback. It’s really unusual to have such a close relationship with your customers in a software business like ours, particularly when you’re dealing with large enterprises.”

World-class talent at home

One of the biggest draw cards for building a business in Auckland, explains Co-Founder Michael Carden, is the ever growing pool of local talent. Continued investment in the space has ensured a lot of software talent stays in New Zealand.

“There was a time when the Auckland tech community was a few handful of key players, and that was really it. But now I couldn’t even begin to list all the businesses that are actively contributing to the community”

“As a community, we’re really starting to see that critical mass where great things are happening on a regular basis. It’s a really positive cycle. Building successful businesses here attracts new businesses, which means more successful businesses, and so on… And it just means that everyone is constantly upping their game.”

Co-Founder Philip Carden adds that it’s not just the business side of the Auckland tech community that has been constantly pushing ahead in recent years.

“We’re seeing a really positive flow-on effect in the local tertiary sector. Everyone’s upping their game, from the big players like Auckland University and AUT to the smaller progressive providers like Enspiral Dev Academy, where a few of our team have trained.”

A truly global city

For Michael and Philip, the choice to build a business in New Zealand, after both having worked abroad at various stages in their careers, wasn’t just about finding the best talent. They also saw it as an opportunity to contribute to the growing global economy in Auckland.

Michael says he sees a lot of the development and growth happening at the moment in the Auckland city center as not only being great for the city and its residents, but also for the wider New Zealand economy.

“I think a strong economy in New Zealand depends a large amount on the city center in Auckland, and that’s why we are particularly committed to a center city office space. By building a diverse economy in the city centre of Auckland, it supports a lot of the aspects of metropolitan life that make large international centers great places to live. Things like great public transport, vibrant inner city public spaces, high street retail, all depend on center city businesses.”

“It really is a case of build it, and they will come. If we continue to invest in the city center, it will attract more international visitors. And yes, that helps attract new talent, but it also makes the city a more enjoyable place for our existing people to work, and makes it easier for businesses to retain staff”

And then there was COVID-19

Like many businesses, Joyous really didn’t know what to expect when New Zealand went into level 4 lock-down. The move derailed their initial plans to move office, but by enlarge they were able to continue business as usual with everyone working from home.

Joyous saw an increase in demand for their software with businesses looking for new ways to ensure leaders stayed connected with their staff during lockdown. They also see significant upside going forward because of the way New Zealand has handled the pandemic.

People are becoming more comfortable with having implementation and support done remotely via video conferencing, which alleviates a lot of the common concerns international customers may have with a New Zealand based provider. Add to that, New Zealand is now perceived to have a relatively stable work environment, which makes us a safer choice when other countries are still facing ongoing disruptions.

Why the office is still important in a flexible workplace

The Joyous team found both positives and negatives in working at home during Covid-19. The company encourages flexible working and is now experimenting with a split-time approach.

Head of Product Ruby Kolesky says two days working from home, three days in the office is the ideal mix for Joyous’ staff.

“We found that our people want to work remotely some of the time, but really value being together as well. At one point we considered a smaller office or remote office, but splitting the week means we can all be together at the same time. It's the best of both worlds, and we are prepared to invest in whatever that looks like. Culture shouldn't be a cost savings exercise.”

Head of Engineering Lisa Cunningham added that the office environment really helps with collaboration.

“As an engineering team we've learnt a lot about collaborating remotely during the Covid-19 lockdown. Working remotely has been great for individual productivity on specific tasks, but where it lacked was in enabling collaboration.”

“As soon as we got back into the office, we immediately saw a resurgence in conversations. People were able to jump in with information or feedback on conversations that they heard in passing, or happening a few desks over. ”

What’s next for Joyous

Joyous is a staunchly product-led business, meaning a lot of their recent 4.5M funding round will be going into continued development of the software.

Philip says they see having a quality product as their best form of sales and marketing. “If we continue to add value for our customers, and give them a product that their staff find easy and rewarding to use, that’s when they tell other people about Joyous”

The company is currently recruiting for a number of roles in their product and engineering teams, and have a steady hiring plan for the rest of the year.

“I can’t wait to see where we’re at in four years time – Joyous has maybe a few hundred staff working in the city center, the City Rail Link is complete, The Waterfront and Queen St have been remodelled and there are who knows how many international technology businesses and other companies around us”

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