Orbica is a Christchurch business with a global vision for its business intelligence and geospatial technology platform. Catherine Beard reports on why they’ve been so successful offshore.
Christchurch-based location data business Orbica uses satellites to locate and record what lies beneath the earth’s surface.
The company is gearing up for a SaaS product launch in the US after adding new staff to its New Zealand and Berlin offices this year.
Its OrbViz product combines business intelligence and geospatial technology to tell the story of data in a visually and interactively way.
The company was founded three years ago, when Kurt Janssen (pictured) eyed a lack of an offering in the market.
“It was all focused on the technology,” he recalls. “We’ve flipped that on its head from a technology-first approach to a data-first approach.
“We’ve put an inspiring company strategy in place, and we’ll be working hard to make a positive impact for people and the planet.”
That strategy includes a truly global vision. About 80 percent of its clients are in New Zealand, 20 percent are in Europe (by revenue). In Germany, Orbica works with three of the top-10 by revenue companies.
Janssen says the business has now moved from the start-up to “stay-up” phase.
“We’re bootstrapped and have operated on revenue from day one, and we’re putting in the hard yards right now to craft the value proposition around scaling, to move to the next stage.”
Janssen says Orbica has become an expert at achieving something much bigger than its resources would seem to allow. “I think that’s because we have a vision that’s bigger than ourselves,” he says.
This year Janssen, who is CEO, has stepped away from the operational day-to-day operations and brought on a general manager so that he can focus on strategy and growth.
“The business has matured in terms of its processes and operations. Being around now for three years, customers see that we are here to stay and are looking at longer-term relationships.”
An informal mentor network has helped to steer major changes. The business has also had support from Callaghan Innovation and NZTE.
Janssen says none of Orbica’s growth could have been achieved without the ‘Orbicans’ – the team. He says they are the aspect of the business he’s most proud of.
“The team is what makes things happen. They’re highly motivated, living the vision, making it happen, and doing the hard yards so that we can scale overseas.”
Advice on going global
Janssen’s advice for entrepreneurs with a global outlook is to spend time on the ground in the market they want to reach.
“You get such a different appreciation for what it’s really like on the ground.”
Trips to Berlin equip him with new thoughts and insights into what big organisations and potential customers think of Orbica’s offerings, he says.
“It’s a change in thinking. New Zealand is small in terms of population – some of these companies in Germany or the US, their revenue represents a third or more of New Zealand’s GDP.
“It gives you some perspective. You’ve got to spend time overseas, even if it’s tough to balance with home operations and family.”
He says while New Zealand is well-known overseas for its primary industries, it isn’t as well-known for its tech offering.
Despite that, tech firms can leverage the general trust in ‘brand New Zealand’ by crafting a story around their honest character.
“If we can show return on investment and a clear value proposition, we’re on the same playing field. But New Zealand can be crafted as an emotional element of the story and the brand.”
Catherine Beard is executive director of ExportNZ. Email [email protected] This article was first published in the May 2020 edition of NZBusiness.