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NZ tech company headed to Silicon Valley

Litmos' American-centric business strategy has paid off, from setting up a Californian phone number to making its products look and feel as Americanised as possible. This month the The Devonport-based e-learning company was acquired by a large US software firm and will be moving to Silicon Valley—just “as soon as the visas come through”.
The Litmos team

The Litmos team: Nicole Fougere, Rich Chetwynd and Daniel Allen

Keeping an eye firmly on the end goal has paid off for Kiwi software-as-a-service firm Litmos, which was this month acquired by Callidus Software Inc in the US.

The Devonport-based e-learning company will be moving over to Callidus’ San Francisco office in a matter of weeks—“as soon as the visas come through”, says Litmos founder Rich Chetwynd.

He says Litmos was 100 percent focused on an international strategy from the start, setting up a Californian phone number to list on their website and using American spelling.

“We made our products look and feel as American as possible,” he says. “We never focused on getting New Zealand customers. We always focused on the US in everything that we’ve done. It’s the biggest market for e-learning and about 60 percent of our customer base is in the US.”

Chetwynd founded Litmos early in 2007 with the aim of creating a learning management system (LMS) that was quick to set up, easy to manage and fun to use.

The deal signals the first foray into the growing mobile learning market (worth almost $1 billion in 2010 in the US alone) for Callidus, which provides sales performance management software.

He says Litmos is a “natural fit” with Callidus’ existing offerings. “It presents a really good cross selling opportunity.”

Callidus chief executive and president Leslie Stretch says it will now be able to embed interactive learning in its core applications.

“Mobile professionals consume training the same way they access music, video, and print—anywhere, anytime, and on any device.

“Litmos has quickly gained recognition as the easiest rapid learning management system on the web.”

Chetwynd and the rest of the Litmos team, consisting of senior development manager Daniel Allen and marketing manager Nicole Fougere, will continue their roles in the company.

The core team will also be increasing, he says. Having more people on the ground in places like the UK will enable them to provide better customer service.

“The 12 to 13-hour time difference is really hard to support.”

The acquisition gives them access to a large sales force and IT team, among other things. While Litmos has never spent any money on marketing or advertising, it has a portfolio of 150 clients and attracts more each month. Chetwynd credits this to clever use of social media, particularly blogging and Twitter.

“Now we’ve started to do a bit of paid advertising and leads are starting to go through the roof.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing this go from 150,000 end users to, say, a million.”

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