It was a dream prize for any tech startup, but ultimately there could only be one winner of BoosterSeat2011 – and that's IntuitionHQ, soon to be taking a free trip to San Francisco thanks to a group of Kiwi entrepreneurs paying it forward on the back of their own Silicon Valley success story.
BoosterSeat2011 was a competition launched by Rich Chetwynd and Nicole Fougere in the wake of the acquisition of their own web business Litmos to US-based public company Callidus Software in June.
The aim was to find an NZ-based entrepreneur or startup who would benefit specifically from the US-focused prize: two return flights to San Francisco, accommodation for 30 days, and up to two desks at the new Kiwi-run office space The Landing Pad to work from during their stay.
Jacob Creech, head of UX and marketing at IntuitionHQ, says: “San Francisco is the mecca for all things web, and being there is an absolutely fantastic opportunity for us. Kudos to Rich and Nicole for giving back to the community in such a fantastic way.”
Winning the competition was the "kick in the pants" the company needed to redouble its efforts to expand into the US.
He says the trip will help it compete with its biggest competitors on a more level footing, increase their attractiveness to US-based companies, and "be in a place that lives and breathes technology".
Publicly launched in August 2009, IntuitionHQ is the brainchild of Wellington-based web development and design company, Boost New Media. It's a web-based SaaS product enabling website designers to test websites for usability after Boost noticed a distinct lack of good usability testing tools online that met their time and budget requirements.
Creech says the tool was originally used for internal purposes until positive feedback from others led them to "whip it into shape and put it on the internet".
IntuitionHQ has a number of big clients, including universities and governments, but the usability space is getting more crowded. He says its main competitor, based in the Netherlands, just secured US$1 million in funding and is setting up a presence in America.
Creech and IntuitionHQ founder Nathan Donaldson hope to raise their profile while in San Francisco, meeting with potential clients as well as various contacts made through Twitter and blogging. And they'll be picking the brains of the Kiwis already working from the Landing Pad about their experiences entering the US market.
Creech says if their visit is fruitful, setting up a US base would be "pretty hard to resist".
Chetwynd and Fougere said they were impressed by the clarity of Creech's entry and "infected by his enthusiasm to make IntuitionHQ go large in the US".
“We had over 50 entries and the standard was really high. I was stoked by the effort that went in to some of the applications and really wish we could give everyone a prize," Chetwynd said.
Icehouse chief executive Andy Hamilton lent his hand as a judge, and Fougere says the plan is to assist the top 10 finalists as well by connecting them to like minds and mentors within their industries.