FROM SOCK MON­KEYS TO GLOBAL APP

TECH EX­PORTER MIL­LIE JOCELYN TELLS ALL

Exporter - - FRONT PAGE - By Glenn Baker. Glenn Baker is ed­i­tor of Ex­porter.

We catch up at a busy North Shore café. Mil­lie Jocelyn’s about to pro­mote her mo­bile con­tent man­age­ment sys­tem to a large cor­po­rate based close by. New Zealand clients al­ready in­clude the likes of Spark, The Ware­house, Mit­subishi, Sky City and Z En­ergy – who use her Showcase app for sales pre­sen­ta­tion man­age­ment, store op­er­a­tions info and train­ing on tablets and mo­bile de­vices.

In her early 30s, Mil­lie is bright, bub­bly, and has big am­bi­tions. She’s also com­fort­able about mak­ing sales calls for Showcase, which she says comes from her first business ven­ture “build­ing a sock mon­key em­pire”.

“While sell­ing sock mon­keys didn’t re­ally teach me much about real business, it gave me a good start in sales,” she says. “There is noth­ing harder than stand­ing there sell­ing some­thing you ac­tu­ally made your­self. Peo­ple can be quite bru­tal in a mar­ket or craft fair en­vi­ron­ment, when they don’t re­alise you made the prod­uct!”

Mil­lie grew up on an apri­cot or­chard in pre-pinot noir Cen­tral Otago. Fol­low­ing her dou­ble de­gree in his­tory and art the­ory from Can­ter­bury Univer­sity, Mil­lie’s pro­fes­sional back­ground cov­ered ad­ver­tis­ing, project man­age­ment and event or­gan­i­sa­tion. It all helped set her up for Showcase. But per­haps the

great­est fac­tor for suc­cess has been her vi­sion.

“In 2010 when the first iPad was re­leased, I was at an ad agency work­ing on a project for one of our ma­jor Olympic spon­sors. We pro­duced a small promo app about the spon­sor­ship to in­form the client’s com­mer­cial sales staff. My boss [Adam Black­well], the two de­vel­op­ers we worked with, and my­self, could see iPads and tablets be­com­ing popular business tools. There would be a chal­lenge for busi­nesses to get in­for­ma­tion out to sales teams’ de­vices with­out them hav­ing to phys­i­cally come back to the of­fice – as well as keep that in­for­ma­tion up to date, look­ing pro­fes­sional, and a step up from Pow­erpoint pre­sen­ta­tions.”

It’s that cy­cle of them first hear­ing about the propo­si­tion, un­der­stand­ing it, and then pay­ing money for it. Ev­ery time that

thrilling.” hap­pens, it’s truly

The Showcase app would solve all that – pro­vide con­sis­tency on dis­trib­uted con­tent and brand­ing for sales teams across most in­dus­tries. As it turned out, the soft­ware would also be utilised for in­ter­nal pre­sen­ta­tions and com­mu­ni­ca­tion. The Ware­house, for ex­am­ple, uses it to keep mer­chan­dis­ing staff up to speed on con­tent. It can also be used for train­ing videos.

“Our cus­tomers dis­cov­ered this new [broader] use for Showcase, out­side of sales teams.”

Users also have the op­tion of au­thor­ing their own cus­tomised con­tent util­is­ing the tem­plates pro­vided or us­ing Showcase’s own cre­ative ser­vices.

The ma­jor sell­ing point of Showcase, Mil­lie ex­plains, is that it’s a sim­ple con­cept, and cus­tomers find the tool sim­ple to use. For sales and mar­ket­ing man­agers it’s a ma­jor sav­ing on bud­gets, time and en­ergy com­pared to pro­duc­ing tra­di­tional printed and Pow­erpoint ma­te­rial. “You’re al­ways in con­trol of what your team is pre­sent­ing; you can see what they’re shar­ing,” she says, adding that there’s ad­vanced re­port­ing and an­a­lyt­ics built into Showcase, and up­dat­ing the pro­gram re­quires zero tech­ni­cal skill.

Quick suc­cess

Showcase was nine months in a Wellington business in­cu­ba­tor. “The three boys and I each put in a lit­tle money and a lot of sweat,” says Mil­lie. “We got a rough skele­ton of a sys­tem built and started search­ing for cus­tomers. Lucky for us, Hyundai and Z En­ergy signed up in the first year.” Mil­lie re­mem­bers clear­ing her email mes­sages in a ho­tel room while on a short hol­i­day in Paris and get­ting the thumbs up from Hyundai. Such piv­otal mo­ments in the growth of the company while Mil­lie hap­pened to be over­seas would be re­peated – re­spond­ing to an email from Voda­fone while in the US led to a re­seller ar­range­ment with Voda­fone in Europe.

Sur­pris­ingly in­ter­est from Voda­fone New Zealand was orig­i­nally sparked by an ad­vert for Showcase in Air New Zealand’s in-flight mag­a­zine. “Some­one in the Voda­fone team, I don’t know who that was to this day, sent that ad to some­one at Voda­fone’s In­no­va­tion pro­gramme in London, and that’s how it all got rolling.

“Most of our bud­get was rid­ing on those ads. We had our fin­gers crossed and it paid off!”

While growth fund­ing and brand aware­ness have never been a prob­lem for Showcase (the lat­ter largely due to the ex­pe­ri­ence of Black­well), Mil­lie says the big chal­lenge lies in off­shore ex­pan­sion. “More specif­i­cally, how do we re­build our sales process so that it’s re­peat­able in­ter­na­tion­ally.”

She ad­mits mar­ket pen­e­tra­tion is still tiny and Showcase’s growth is tied in with tablet us­age. “Our prod­uct costs just $20 per month per user, so to grow we have to chase the big deals.” And while New Zealand is a great mar­ket in which to test a prod­uct – the most po­ten­tial for growth lies over­seas, she adds.

Help­ing man­age the company’s growth is an ad­vi­sory board, which has only been go­ing a few months, and in­cludes three “pres­ti­gious” names. Mil­lie finds the monthly meet­ings in­spi­ra­tional, and ad­mires how the ad­vi­sors, with their broad over­view abil­ity, can spot things she has missed. “I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate their business acu­men and wish we’d es­tab­lished the board sooner. Their ad­vice is so worth­while; so much eas­ier than the haze of ad­vice you get when first start­ing out.”

Global am­bi­tions

The Voda­fone sale will pro­vide the path­way to the UK and Europe, Mil­lie be­lieves.

The North Amer­i­can mar­ket is cur­rently de­pen­dent on talks with a chan­nel part­ner. An en­tity based in the US is vi­tal for suc­cess, she says. “Not be­ing a US company is def­i­nitely a bar­rier to do­ing business there.”

As for trav­el­ling to the US to de­velop the mar­ket, Mil­lie doesn’t be­lieve she’s the per­son for the job. “Most Amer­i­can men find it hard to un­der­stand me be­cause I talk too fast,” she says. “I had to have some vo­cal coach­ing when I was liv­ing up there to make my­self bet­ter un­der­stood!

“I don’t have the right level of ag­gres­sion ei­ther, but we think we’ve found a lo­cal per­son up there who will be ideal.”

The next goal for the lo­cal Showcase team is to cap­ture the Aus­tralian mar­ket and ser­vice it from here. “We do have com­pe­ti­tion over there,” says Mil­lie, “but we’ll crush them,” she adds, with a laugh.

So what’s it like to watch your business slowly gain trac­tion? Mil­lie tells me she gets a thrill each time she re­ceives au­to­matic no­ti­fi­ca­tion about a new user sign­ing up – it’s just as ex­cit­ing as sign­ing the big brands, she says.

“It’s that cy­cle of them first hear­ing about the propo­si­tion, un­der­stand­ing it, and then pay­ing money for it. Ev­ery time that hap­pens, it’s truly thrilling.”

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