The year was 1997. IT and electrical savant John Hansen and family were celebrating his daughter’s graduation at a fancy Auckland restaurant—and the service was rubbish. Chaotic and slow, the wait staff and kitchen were disorganised and exasperated. While waiting, the family joined forces to redesign the ordering system on a napkin.
Most people would stop right there, but the Hansens didn’t. The concept was built around an integrated point-of-sale system, encompassing wireless handheld technology. The only hiccup was that wireless technology hadn’t been invented for portable devices. Hansen went on to design and hand-engineer each system individually.
“In the early days, the hospitality market was not being well served in terms of innovation or problem solving. We worked with early adopters to further perfect the system. We also engaged with AUT Hospitality to ensure that data modelling and design would work in the real world of cafe or restaurant life.”
Hansen’s new company, WizBang, took off like a sonic boom—that is, until eight years later when it hit a classic threshhold: too much demand, too few resources. The irony was the company didn’t have its own cost management and control systems to keep an eye on fiscal health.
Then the recession arrived.
“We were determined to battle on but more and more hospitality providers were either going under or not committing to new capital.”
They temporarily lost the fight and had to liquidate the New Zealand distribution operation. But with new structures and investment in place, and the IP still in hand, WizBang has risen from the frying pan. Systems are being installed into many top-line establishments in New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, Australia, Ireland, Brazil, Canada and the US with multinationals and independent operators.
For Hansen it feels like he has gone full circle—from innovation, through rapid growth, hard lessons, resilience, regrouping, resurrection and re-enthusiasm to innovate once again. The focus is equally spread between R&D and technology delivery.
“Sigmund Freud summed up perfectly how I feel about the ride: One day, in retrospect, years of struggle will strike you as most beautiful.”
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