The ikeGPS has the world at its feet – so much so that it's going to have to decide which of many markets it should attack first.
The hand-held device integrates hardware and software and enables anyone from a utility to a mining company to measure and model anything.
By taking a photo combined with laser measurement, and knowing exactly where the device is located through GPS (global positioning system), all parts of the picture can be captured as data. Any part of the picture can be measured accurately, and that information added to the data stream.
What it means in practice is a tool and package that reduces costs by up to two-thirds for utilities that have assets, such as poles for power and broadband distribution, that need verification of location and use, according to ikeGPS chief executive Glenn Milnes.
“Compared to such companies using a measuring stick, we can improve employee productivity by 70 percent,” he says.
The pole utility measuring and modelling market in the US alone is estimated to be worth US$5-6 billion alone. But also consider industry segments such as energy and mining with external assets that they want and need to know where they’re located, how big they are and what condition they’re in. You’re talking massive market potential.
It's also a slight conundrum for Wellington-based ikeGPS.
“The biggest mistake a business can make is try to cover the whole market,” says Milnes, who has a background in the European telecoms market, and in the Wellington venture capital industry before moving to the CEO role 18 months ago.
So a strategic decision has been made to pursue the utility, defence and intelligence markets in the US, and a sales and marketing office is being ramped up in Colorado, with the back-end technical R&D and manufacture to remain in Wellington.
The 25-person team will look to add another 15 staff, mostly in New Zealand, and mostly in the software interface area.
This also indicates a change in the company’s approach, founded in 2005 by current CTO Leon Toorenburg.
“Even two years ago we were all about the hardware,” says Milnes.
“Today, in terms of our engineering resources 70 percent of what we do is software driven.”
Though ikeGPS has patents and trade secrets around the hardware, its increased software focus is to “provide an end-to-end industry solution,” Milnes says.
Thus, ikeGPS makes its back-end software, proliferated on a customer’s IT platform, easy to use and install.
To take advantage of the massive interpretation and measurement ability of this system though – well, the customer needs the hardware. And obviously, while there’s competition, ikeGPS sees itself being a few steps ahead at the moment.
“There’s a few layers to our competitive advantage,” Milnes says. “With the software and algorithms needing to network together, and the calibration required, it’s really not that straightforward. It really isn’t just about the hardware.”
The elegance, security and ease of use of the end-to-end solution provided by ikeGPS is also one of the reasons the company has been able to sign a recent development contract with In-Q-Tel, a US company that carries out a lot of strategic development for American intelligence agencies.
ikeGPS is the first Australasian company to be accredited by In-Q-Tel, and will bring remote measurement for asset security assessments.
“They have the capacity to bring a lot of really big customers to us,” he says.
Which again brings the company back to the 'dilemma’ of what markets to attack first.
Milnes is confident the private and venture capital backed company can scale up sales and distribution (and New Zealand manufacture of the hardware).
A decision will probably be required in the next few years around further partnering with others.
“At the end of the day, we’re a platform,” says Milnes. “Do we let others build on it is a strategic question, along with how we’d manage that?”
In the meantime, ikeGPS soon shifts its sales and marketing focus to the US, and will concentrate on the niche vertical market of companies who have poles (and lots of stuff hanging off them).
“We’re looking to become dominant, experts in that, at the moment,” he says.
The company has been doubling in growth every year, and Milnes envisages that will continue – at the very least.
The company’s keen to raise its profile and continue to attract clever engineering minds as it continues to develop its products and solutions.
Managing such growth will be a challenge – the past 12 months has seen a lot of change, and preparing for the next phase is equally so.
But, as challenges go, managing growth isn’t a bad quandary to have!
And in case you’re wondering what ikeGPS stands for, it’s ‘I know everything’.
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, an Idealog t-shirt and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).