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PaperKite punching above its weight

It's been quite a ride for PaperKite, the Wellington company behind two of the more high-profile apps recently launched – one for the MetService, and the Budget 2012 app.

Budget 2012 APPAccording to creative director Nic Gibbens, they had a month to turn around iPad, iPhone, Android phone and tablet versions for Budget 2012, all with dummy data in anticipation of downloading the real figures on May 24.

But of all things, they weren't expecting people to try hacking into it.

Gibbens says a few enterprising types reverse-engineered the app and tried to get hold of Budget information before the big day to post online. What they got, though, were test documents from last year.

It was a "real eye opener" in working in the political sphere, he says.

"We thought we were building an app for the government and people wouldn't pay that much notice."

The app was in fact downloaded more than 8,600 times and was New Zealand’s most popular free download app on Budget day, according to the government.

The app allowed users to read the Budget speech and key Budget documents, watch video coverage and read ministers’ public statements.

"Treasury thinks a lot of people were accessing information they otherwise wouldn't have, in a format they could easily digest on the bus or whatever," he says.

The $59,000 cost of developing the app was funded through savings in printing costs, which finance minister Bill English expected to be at least $100,000.

Gibbens says if PaperKite gets a shot at building a Budget 2013 app he'd like to create something that allows users to interact with the raw data, with software that would interpret the data on the fly.

PaperKite also worked with MetService to build its new iPhone app (the Android version was done inhouse, and both were designed by long-term MetService partner Shift).

"MetService were very keen to upskill their guys so they decided to build the Android version," he says.

That resulted in an "interesting melting pot" of three companies with different skillsets working to produce a "world class" mobile product.

The app features MetService’s latest Towns & Cities forecasts, from hourly through to 10 days out, along with real-time rain radar, three-day rain forecasts, video from MetService TV, and local traffic cameras. Even the image backgrounds change according to the forecast for the current location.

PaperKite got its start back in 2010. Gibbens, who came to New Zealand after five years at News International in London, landed a role at ANZ as manager of web strategy.

Then he got an iPhone and realised the "enormous potential" contained within the device.

"It wasn't long after that the App Store came into being. I started thinking quite heavily about the implications of that."

He concluded he should be building apps himself, and went out and registered the company. 

"As soon as I started PaperKite, I realised in this brand new market... we've got to go out and make a splash," he says.

So Gibbens went straight for the All Blacks and approached the Rugby Union.

"It was amazing timing. It turned out two other companeis were pitching at the same time to build them an app. I was just really lucky – if I'd left it another week I would've missed my window."

PaperKite landed the job and ended up building the official All Black app. And Gibbens says it's posed to keep growing – he hopes to have 12 staff in a year's time.

While PaperKite is a solely mobile outfit, it will partner with other companies to collaborate, such as on the MetService contract.

"Our whole thing is around helping companies to create a roadmap that wil help them get the best return on their investment," he says.

"We try to make sure our point of difference is being subject matter experts, giving people the tools and the advice and developmental skills they need to create a product that isn't just going to sink into one of the app stores and not be seen again."