Through a discreet door on Customs Street, and up four flights of steps that no sane tech journalist should ever have to climb, is the Auckland office of NV Interactive. "Office" is probably the aspirational term for the shared space which the company moved into a little over a week ago. NV's two-strong Auckland team occupies the large open loft, while rows wood crate desks sit empty waiting to be used - but not for much longer.
NV is a dev shop working with Microsoft products: Windows 8 and .NET programming for the most part. The 15-year old Christchurch-based company's work for clients like ESPN, New Zealand Cricket, and Chelsea Sugar, earned it a Microsoft Gold Partner Award for Web Development last July.
Over the next year NV is hiring 15 new developers, designers, and sales staff to batten down the Auckland studio, and not satisfied with stopping just there, has plans to set up shop in London in early 2014.
This week I talk to Will Morris, head of NV's Auckland studio and a digital strategist at the company for two years, about building a team in Auckland, growing the company overseas, and the risks of working on development projects.
Why is NV setting up a team in Auckland and London?
"Up until now we haven't had a studio or footprint in Auckland, which is strange if you think about it. Auckland is about 40 percent of our business.
"Overseas is about 20 percent, and most of that is from London. The kind of work we've done with Chelsea and ESPN and New Zealand Cricket has brought in referrals from UK companies.
"London is almost exactly on the opposite side of the world, their day is our night, so the studio there will need a completely different resource pool from our Wellington and Christchurch studios."
NV has had 15 years in New Zealand to develop a culture for the company. How do you pick that up and take that to London? Do you want to take it to London?
"The culture of the business has remained very consistent over the last 15 years. The work is very different, the technology is very different, but we know we are a business based around people's talents.
"Taking that to London won't be as difficult as it seems. It's likely one of the senior team will go. I'm originally from London, so it might be me... We'll be focused on getting that Kiwi can-do attitude established there."
What will be the challenge in building the team here and in the UK?
"Development is very black and white. You have a technical proficiency or you learn it. Design is different. Design is very emotive, and it upsets a lot more people when you get it wrong. On the flipside, when you get it right clients love you.
"The talent and people involved are also very emotive, and finding that kind of person can be difficult. But we've found getting the right person on board is critical."
What's the biggest risk for a digital project?
"Assumptions. Almost always, 90 percent of things that can go wrong in a digital project is based on wrong assumptions. We can make an assumption about what the client wants, and the client can make assumptions about when it'll be finished or how much it might cost... This inevitably leads to relationships being destroyed."
Do you have examples of situations or clients where this has happened to you?
Yeah, definitely but I'm not going into naming names though...We now have a very low failure rate."
Did the improved failure rate come from that one off failure?
"No, it's come from 15 years of it.
"It's more like 12 years of delivering websites that are virtually perfect, but one in every twenty has a little niggle the client isn't happy with. You learn from that."
Windows 8 is struggling to find traction (granted it's early days and showing signs of overtaking at least the latest version of Mac OS X). Will NV continue to develop for the platform or spend its energies elsewhere?
"It's just one of the products that we develop on, we're in no way betting the whole farm on it... It is a real competitor though, not necessarily on the mobile market, but definitely the tablet and desktop environments.
"We're confident about Windows 8 in the future, it has the potential of 1.2 billion Windows users. The chances of an abject failure is very low. The support that Microsoft is providing us, and other businesses is tremendous."
What advice do you have for small dev companies looking for success?
"Always do great work for the client, concentrate on that and not on growing too quickly for what you can handle."
Photography by Sim Ahmed.
Disclosure: NV Interactive is an Idealog Tech supporter, although this didn't come into consideration for the article. This is the first in a series looking inside different New Zealand tech companies.
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