Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Post No 657

I have a problem.

No time.

I am therefore having to temporarily retire The Blog until after Vegas. There is so much I want to say, but JML say no. So no it is....................

(Big Hint: If you want updates on Pingar, then check out the link. And if you want to understand why JML are saying 'no', bookmark the link).

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Another 3 have gone......

I am now saying to everyone: 'It's next month'.

It is. It really is!

Monday, 31 August 2009

Countdown - 49 Days 2go

I've just lost 13 days!

Whilst the blog has been quiet for the past two weeks, its author has not. I'm still working through those lists - and each day new items are added.

What is really awe-inspiring right now though is to see the different teams working as one as we close in on 'The Strip'. That's the teams in NZ, the UK, HK and Bangalore. And our first outpost in the US of A.

The past two weeks has seen the recruitment of a non-Executive Chairman for Pingar LP and a massive increase in marketing effort for Vegas. And so to the new Chairman first.

I was delighted last Monday to announce the appointment of Chris de Boer as non-Executive Chairman.

Chris has extensive experience in investment banking, regulation, private equity, venture capital and consulting in London, Hong Kong and Australasia. He was an adviser to the Cable and Wireless Group in Asia/Pacific between 1987 and 2001, director of Optus Communications, Chairman of the Hong Kong Takeovers Panel and an Investment Committee Member of GEMS Oriental & General Fund.

Chris was Chairman of the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund and Chairman of Phitek Systems. He is currently a director of Macquarie Media Group, a director of Mobilis Limited, Chairman of Sonar6 and Chairman of AngelLink.

I look forward to working closely with Chris in the weeks and months ahead.

On matters marketing, a whole series of initiatives have been planned for the October launch. It has been great working with the team at JML Communications. They have it nailed.

Last Thursday, I was invited to attend the MacDiarmid Young Scientists of the Year Awards dinner at Sky City in Auckland. It was an uplifting event at which many of New Zealand's future scientists excelled in a series of excellent presentations. The value of greater funding for research in our Universities cannot be underestimated. Thursday night proved that.

This week has got off to an odd start. I have no engagements in Auckland in the week ahead. That means I can focus on all things Tauranga. And that date in Vegas in 48 days time.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Countdown - 62 Days 2Go

I am looking at a very long list. I have inherited this disease from Jacqui.

It is called 'Lists are Very Important' and my list has both a significant number of headings and a frightening number of sub-headings. Plus dates. 62 days is not long enough! But like Napoleon who could offer his generals more troops, more cavalry and more guns, the one thing he could not offer them was more time. So like Napoleon, we will be ready on the day.

This morning's main focus has been, 'The Stand'. I had it all mapped out until an email arrived from the Expo organisers. Branding issues, restrictions and State of Nevada regulations have meant a total rethink. Fortunately, John at the excellent Textiles Alive has come to the rescue. New plans are being drawn up as I type.

And so to the marketing of 'The Stand'. Julien at JML Communications has taken this baby on board. We are meeting in Auckland to work out the logistics. And hopefully start the process of knocking off some of those threatening sub-headings.

Tomorrow, the focus is product. A meeting at WaikatoLink followed by a meeting with FRST to discuss their new Postgraduate Internship Program.

The list goes on.........

Monday, 17 August 2009

THAT Deal - A Perspective

Since my return to NZ, I have been asked by several people to comment on the Microsoft / Yahoo deal that was signed off whilst I was away.

I have checked back on this blog and the last post which signalled the deal was posted five days before it actually happened. The only surprise is that it took so long to close.

The deal itself is an interesting one since it does not involve an actual M & A. It is built instead on a commercial deal that enables Yahoo to continue to develop its online real estate whilst providing Bing (sorry, Microsoft) with access to Yahoo's advertising sales teams.

It gives the 'Search' capacity of Microsoft a more significant market share. Google is still out there, but the gap has closed and the market is now ready for real innovation to be able to differentiate between the two.

The Search battle ground therefore is now nicely set. And the timing is sweet.

Pingar's time has come. And all will be revealed on 19th October.

On the 'Strip'.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

The Blog is Back

Having spent the past 12 days making the most of the sun, sand and sea of Phuket, 'The Blog' has returned to NZ, tanned and re-energised.

The next few weeks and months will be the most momentous in the short three years that 'The Blog' has been posting messages to this address. Starting Monday, 'The Blog' will begin the countdown to October 19th.

Set your watches. On Monday, it all starts again.

Monday, 27 July 2009

This blog takes a vacation

It's been at least three years since I took a 'proper' holiday.

Tomorrow, that all changes. The blog and I are off for 12 days R & R.

Twelve days to relax and reflect on the weeks and months ahead.

Twelve days to restore body and mind to full health.

So it's adios from him and goodnight from me.

Friday, 24 July 2009

It's Yahoo time

It's been a long time coming but I expect an announcement sometime soon of an advertising deal between Microsoft and Yahoo.

Microsoft's shares fell 8% overnight after a pretty poor set of quarterly sales figures. Yahoo's sales figures announced earlier this week also failed to impress. Meanwhile, Google marches on.

So I expect some sort of deal to come out soon. It is clearly in both Microsoft's and Yahoo's best interests. They can then focus on a single key competitor.

That battle though has only just begun.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Next Stop - Swansea

When we established a presence at the Technium in Swansea back in February, there was some concern raised about the City's distance from London. The UK Government clearly listened.

On today's BBC Website, come details of a £1bn plan to electrify the main rail route between London and Swansea, to be announced by the UK government.

They say the electrification will lead to cost savings in the running of trains - and the £1bn Great Western investment, funded through Network Rail borrowing, will be repaid over 40 years.


Mainland Recession

I have just returned from two days in Christchurch. It was only my second visit to South Island's biggest city since my arrival here six years ago.

Christchurch itself is a lovely City, but for the first time in a long time, I became aware of 'recession' in NZ. And the sources were impeccable. The 'economists' were the taxi driver, the bar owner and the fact that 40 staff had just been laid off by a local supermarket. (I thought they were supposed to be doing well in this climate).

Christchurch's CBD at lunchtime was quiet. A number of eating places were either empty, closed or in receivership. Not that the last bit is very public. They still trade but Saturday is the only big night in town. The bar manager had time to talk though. Jacqui and I were the only people there. And he shouted lunch!

The taxi driver also had time to talk. There aren't as many fares right now. People are using buses instead.

I'm not sure however if it is a Christchurch-thing. Maybe I need to pay more attention in Tauranga. I guess you just get set in your ways and miss the things that visitors see. To me, there are green shoots sprouting all over the Bay. Tomorrow, I will remove my glasses and start taking a closer look.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

NZ Postgrad Internship Initiative

I received an email yesterday from Shane at The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FRST). FRST is piloting a postgraduate internships initiative programme to support 150 science, technology and engineering postgraduates. They will provide a significant contribution to the postgraduate’s starting salary, for a maximum period of six months.

FRST aims to take postgraduates from the top 20 per cent of postgraduate courses and place them with some of New Zealand’s best and brightest research and innovation companies. That's the nuts of the email.

A few weeks ago, I spoke at a Technology NZ event here in Tauranga. I commented on the 'missing access links' between the University sector and private industry. This then is exactly the sort of initiative that I applaud.

Back in March 2003, I gave evidence to the House of Lords Science & Technology Select Committee on 'Science & The RDAs'. I spoke then of the lack of access points for UK SME's to the University sector. Six years on and the problem still exists.

In NZ, FRST has launched an initiative that will help bridge that gap. Hat doffed accordingly.

UK VC Funding

One blog I have permanently bookmarked is TechCrunch. It's my 2009 version of 'First Tuesday'. With a touch of The Valley.

Hands up those of you who remember 'First Tuesday' then. It is an iconic reminder of all that was exciting about the Dot Com era. Entrepreneurs, VC's and wet behind the ears investment bankers turned entrepreneurs met to plan the 'next big thing'. Well according to TechCruch today, things are not quite as rosy in post credit crunch UK.

I have lifted these three following paragraphs from TechCrunch. All rights recognised etc. etc.

'You think you have it bad, Mr.-Silicon-Valley-entrepreneur-trolling-Sand-Hilll-Road-for-cash? Try life on the other side of the pond. Out of 39 firms that were active investors in British start-ups over the last five years, only thirteen venture firms have £5 million or more left in their coffers to invest, according to NESTA, the UK agency that advocates for start-ups and also sponsored the recent Traveling Geeks blogger tour.

That’s right: All but thirteen firms in the United Kingdom are either completely tapped out or have committed the rest of their funds for follow-on investments in existing portfolio companies. In total, NESTA estimates there’s about £400 million left that’s uncommitted among the thirteen, with only half of that available for brand-new series A deals. To put that into perspective, there’s roughly the same amount of money in the fund Marc Andreessen just closed than there is for new companies in the entire United Kingdom right now.

This is coinciding with a precipitous drop in UK firms closing on new funds thanks to the global credit crunch. In 2008, only seven firms closed new funds, and NESTA expects fundraising to be even weaker in 2009'.

In March last year, I was invited to attend the 2008 UK Technology, Growth & Innovation Forum in London. This was an annual meeting of entrepreneurs and VC / Angel funds. The prognosis then was not great. It has clearly become a lot worse. GBP 200 million for UK start-ups is abysmal. And according to NESTA, it might deteriorate even further.

This news contrasts with what I view as being 'green shots' in the New Zealand VC sector. (Calling it anything more than a sector amounts to exaggeration. There are so few active funds at present). The view on the street however is that three or four funds here might announce quite significant new funds through 2009.

For now though, I am digesting the news from the UK.


Living in Winterland

I've been living in New Zealand for six years now, but July still does not feel right.

This morning on Sky, I have been watching both the Ashes Test from Lords and the Open Championship from Turnbury. That's July in England. The probability of rain in London threatens England's excellent opening three days. And goose bumps are the order of the day on the Scottish coast.

Right now of course, it is mid-winter here in NZ. The daily temperature hovers around 14c and the wind blows off the Pacific.

On reflection then, July here is not that different to July back home. (Except for the Pacific). UK airports are now packed with people escaping the English 'summer' for warmer climes. Rock on Spain, Greece and Turkey. And here in one week's time, we are planning our own 'mid-winter' escape. The ability to redeem our Krisflyer air points points, makes Thailand an obvious destination.

For anyone who reads this blog fairly regularly, you might be aware of some of the opportunities that lie ahead. The problem is, this body needs to get some rest in the only window I can see between now and the end of 2009.

Jacqui has spelt out the rules. Internet access limited to 30 minutes a day. In 30c + sun, I will try and comply.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Azure Launch Announced

I have blogged a number of times before about Azure, Microsoft's 'Cloud' platform.

It is extremely significant for Pingar. We are basing our global server architecture around the Azure platform so it is good that Microsoft have fronted up with some significant 'launch' news.

November 2009 appears to be kick-off date. I am working my way right now through some of the plans, but this is going to require direct engagement with the Azure Services team. 1 million servers might sound a lot. That number will have to be ramped up significantly.

It is only Day 2 of the Microsoft WorldWide Partner's Conference in New Orleans and already some key milestones have been set. For Pingar, those milestones appear to dovetail nicely into our own launch road map.

Good work, Steve and Ray.........

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Office 2010

I guess my blog is bugged.

Shortly after submitting my last post about Office Lite, I get an email from Microsoft Connect inviting me to join the Office 2010 Technical Review Program. I have accepted.

It also reminds me that I have not yet posted about our latest Microsoft engagement. Pingar has been invited to join the Microsoft Wave 14 - Partner Engagement Program. I understand we one of 400 - 500 worldwide partners to be asked.

I did blog about Wave 14 a few weeks back. It is the acronym to describe Microsoft's 14 key product launches in 2010. Office 2010 is one. SharePoint 2010 is another. Pingar will be engaged with both.

So for now, it is time to go through the Connect pages. And time to start downloading part of the inevitable future.

Office Lite

Microsoft is hosting its Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans, this week. I was very tempted, but events in NZ just did not allow enough time.

I had expected a number of 'announcements'. So on Day 1, we get quite a significant one. Microsoft are launching a free 'Lite' version of Microsoft Office online in 2010. I guess this is all part of the Software AND a service mantra that Steve Ballmer has been promoting for some time now. It certainly increases focus on the Cloud and suggests that the gloves might be coming off in the battle with Google. Certainly, a 'lite' version of Office poses a significant challenge to Google Apps.

It's all warming up quite nicely. I am expecting more 'announcements' over the next three days as Microsoft position themselves for the slug fest ahead.

Interesting days indeed.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Welcome Ping & Rafal

Ping and Rafal join us today from The University of Swansea. They have been recruited under the IT Wales scheme. Hat doffed accordingly.

This is a busy week UK-wise.

Tomorrow, I am welcoming Auckland-based UK Trade & Investment to Tauranga. More about that later, but it is good to engage from the other side of the world. With the other side of the world.

How long that engagement will continue however is a moot point. I have already begun to get the dreaded European summer auto-responder replies.

'Sorry, I will be away for the next three weeks. I will handle your enquiry on my return'.

C'est la vie. Until September.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Investor Relations

On Wednesday night, we hosted our half yearly Investor Presentation here at The Smart Business Centre.

Having caught 'man-flu' last weekend, it was a challenge both for me and our investors. I stuck to the water whilst they stuck into the goodies. I know which I would have preferred.

Investor presentations are a great way to take stock of where you are and where you are going. I was able to update the team on where I had been and what the road map for the next few months looked like. I think it is fair to say that they were supportive of the plans. Not for nothing, they call themselves 'Good Bastards'. I will leave it to Nick and Toby to explain that one!

As we move forward, communication with the investment team is going to become ever more important. We are trying to apply the same core principals that are required for publicly quoted companies.

Julien Leys from JML Communications spoke to the meeting and outlined our longer term Investor Communication strategy. For a relatively small start-up company, our approach might appear to be a highly structured. Long term however, it puts a process in place that will require little amendment. Transparency and openness now will pay dividends in the long term.

As will the goodies!

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Focus on Search

Google's announcement overnight that it intends to take on Microsoft in the OS market, comes as no real surprise. It was interesting to note that Microsoft's share price stood steady.

One might expect Steve Ballmer to become defensive and invest more heavily in Windows 7.0 development. That would be a mistake. Bing is already beginning to make an impression on Google's search numbers in the States. And with FAST Search being integrated into SharePoint and no doubt further Microsoft apps in the future, this is where I believe the battle lines are really drawn.

My own take is that Microsoft has finally begun to work to a search roadmap that will lead to positive results. Acquiring search market share back from Google is now therefore back in Microsoft's own hands. Deploying significant resource in Google's own backyard might just be the strategy to offset last night's news from Mountain View.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Global Expert

Global Expert is an excellent service offered by The Foundation for Research, Science & Technology.

The Global Expert program uses a knowledge network of more than 20,000 pre-screened and qualified experts from leading universities, research institutions and corporations around the world to help NZ companies identify skill sets difficult to locate in NZ.

Such a requirement for Pingar became apparent during the two-day SharePoint Conference in Wellington, last week. I have started the engagement with Global Expert today.

As to the two days last week, I have not yet had the opportunity to post on them. Except to say that I will return next year. Almost 250 people attended the Conference. It attracted a very impressive selection of international speakers. With the upcoming launch of SharePoint 2010, next year's event can only be so much bigger.

Congratulations to the organisers of this inaugural event. All were volunteers from the NZ SharePoint Users Community. I hope that next year, Pingar might be able to make a more visible and viable contribution.