Christchurch digital agency defies odds with expansion

Christchurch digital agency defies odds with expansion
Times are tough for Christchurch businesses. But digital agency Vizualise is pushing through, opening a second office in Melbourne this month and forecasting export revenue to double on the back of lucrative international custom, including A-list types looking to cash in on celebrity.
Vizualise NZ general manager Carl Pavletich (L) and director Rupert Deans

Vizualise NZ general manager Carl Pavletich (L) and director Rupert Deans

Even an earthquake striking in the middle of a massive international project didn’t slow down Christchurch-based digital agency Vizualise for long.

Director Rupert Deans can’t disclose too much about it, other than to say it’s a “major project for a US-based charity” yet to launch, but says the company kept operating throughout.

“They didn’t see any downtime. It’s amazing to think that it worked out fine.”

If it weren’t for cloud computing, he says, that would never have been possible.

"Our entire business is operated online and in the clouds. We have developers in all the major cities in New Zealand, Melbourne, Dublin, Bali, LA, and Buenos Aries; as long as they have internet access they can work remotely from anywhere in the world," says Deans.

“We could have been operating the day after [the quake] if we wanted to … If anything I feel it is a slightly positive thing because it made us aware of how important virtualisation is as a business model these days. Businesses need to be able to change quickly and adapt to market change.”

A report released this week showed nearly two-thirds of businesses nationwide had been affected to some degree by the Christchurch earthquakes.

For Vizualise, that translated to business slowing down, though Deans says it’s starting to trickle back in.

“That’s one reason we’ve been pushed to focus more on our international clients as well in Canterbury.”

That led to the opening of the agency’s second office, in Melbourne, and Deans expects export revenue to double to $1 million on the back of high-value custom from Australia and the US. 

Since its beginnings in 2006 the company has delivered IT and marketing solutions for brands including Canon, Monier, Kitchen Studios, PGG Wrightson, Yike Bike and more.

But inquiries from Hollywood A-listers are the next big thing for Vizualise, according to Deans. While celebrities’ clout was once measured by how much they could command per project, today it’s about personal branding and loyalty-building. (Just ask Lady Gaga.)

“Now with social media, it’s about the presence you have around your fan base and your personality. That’s becoming the new scorecard for celebrities,” he says.

“We’re looking at their customer fan bases and how we can move those online and monetise them."

However, Deans says the company isn’t leaving New Zealand behind. Far from it.

“That’s where we started and we’ve got a real loyalty to Christchurch and Canterbury customers. We really want to help them get back up and running and leveraging their brands online.”

That includes preaching the virtualisation gospel; Deans says that’s vital to help them continue operating effectively, from communications to accessing important data, despite the ongoing shakes.

“If you’re a major company there’s going to be a lot of infrastructure change needed. The business strategy needs to change, the organisational culture needs to change as well. But with most SMEs, there are a lot of small things they can do quite quickly. Using Google Apps—that’s what we use a lot of for project management as well as emails and day-to-day communications. Skype. File sharing and file sending. There’s a whole toolkit of different things you can use to get virtualised.”

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).