August 17, 2018

Life After Spark

Putti Apps is going strong. In fact, stronger than ever!

There is a good reason for making this clarification, as it is well known how small this New Zealand market is and how quickly things change. For this reason, our story needs to be told…

It is the dream of any start-up or small business to get interested and investment from one of the big boys! Isn’t that why we are in the game? We have an idea, we build a business, we work our bum’s off with a hope that someone is paying attention and then we take on investment, give up some equity, become part of something big and become wildly famous and rich!Well, there are trade off’s when this path is presented and the journey is a long and windy road! We at Putti Apps speak from experience.

Putti Apps ended a 4-year joint venture partnership with Spark NZ at the end of 2017. Going back a bit further, we were one of the first mobile app development companies in New Zealand. We started around the iPhone launch and the 4 founders bet it all on mobile apps and did the obvious for the time… hired a garage and set up a dev shop.

We had some early success with delivering real-time reporting for 3News. Our first paid apps were for Cemix and Lotto NZ. Then we went on and built our first iPad app for Sky City. The quality of work was up there and we were able to build a partnership with a global consultancy that meant we were developing for some of the biggest brands out there. We built Marks and Spencer’s first online shopping app and also the first 3 versions for ASOS as they went mobile. We delivered mobile builds for the largest hotel chains in the world including The Ritz Carlton, Hyatt and Best Western Hotels.

It makes sense why we registered on Spark’s radar as their joint venture program was heating up at the time. Some very talented kiwi businesses leading in their fields of expertise were being recruited and it was all very exciting! We were in with a grin and signed on!

Our value proposition at Spark was driven by an insight that Kiwi businesses were slow to adopt websites and mobile apps. The number of businesses in scope was many due to the nature of the commercial landscape in New Zealand. We were put on the hunt for scale and decided to go down the path of a low cost/low effort templated solution where we offered a Do It Yourself (DIY) solution for websites and mobile apps. The base offering was free and as the customer required additional customization or customer support, we scaled up the monthly fee.

The model failed!

It failed for many reasons but broadly, we got caught out by the fact that kiwi businesses do not do digital DIY! The barriers to acceptance were digital intimidation and uncertainty of a return of investment for time committed. For those customers brave enough to cross the digital divide, a lot of unforeseen hand holding was required and we did not have the resource to deliver this support and resulting customer confidence dipped.

So, after 4 years of trying our hardest, we faced up to the fact that our value inside Spark was not a story of growth. We were also not doing the type of work that we enjoyed and we were unsure of our identity. Much to the credit of Spark management, this was recognised and we were offered a second chance to make it on our own. Our joint venture exit was a very smooth one and we remain a preferred supplier for Spark.

Since the beginning of 2018, we have been back out of our own. It has been a liberating time for the Putti team as we again take on a start-up mentality but with elements of the business that are established and experienced from the journey, we have been on. We know we have some real strengths. Technically, an incredibly strong team that has been building world-class solutions for 8 years and we are a team that felt the sense of ownership and accountability to be successful on our own merits again.We keep our core customer portfolio from the joint venture and we are focused to continue providing value to those customers and as they explore further their digital journey. We have also been finding new channels to sell. Our portfolio of work has greatly assisted in these discussions and we find ourselves involved in some remarkable digital transformations. We have built Android and iOS applications for Wendy’s Hamburgers that will be going live soon! We are deeply involved with Hirepool NZ as they build a new customer experience that will take them into the future. We are building an internal selling tool as proof of concept for Microsoft NZ. We have also been able to provide a platform solution called Appranet, to local businesses looking to solve specific workflow process or internal communication issues with a focus on affordability. These companies include Christchurch Casino, PanPac, HRV and GIB.

We have also been selected by NZTE as an F700 focus company for our potential to export. This is an exciting opportunity for us at Putti as we develop an offer that leverages our experience, our 100% kiwi based development team and our ability to build world-class digital solutions!

There is more to come for Putti!