The legend is true, well most of it. So how did a relatively normal, bass-playing father of three, living in Taupo, end up being co-founder, CTO and lead software developer for a couple of leading cloud-based companies? Well, read on – this is my bio and the background to how Kloud was established. (Revised edition, much more interesting this time).
In Havelock North, in 1981 I got my hands on a ZX81 computer. Life would never be the same (especially after I learned to sellotape the 16k RAM back onto the back of it to stop it locking up when you so much as breathed on it). I was hooked on programming – as there wasn’t much else you could do with this little black wedge than learn to code.
After developing subversive software on BBC microcomputers during my High School years, I attended Waikato University where I completed a Masters Degree in the diverse fields of Plant Physiology and Computer Science and ended up in research science at HortResearch in 1990. I got to play with some really cool tech and developed software for displaying plant canopies and modelling the distribution patterns of fruit quality in 3D (with active 3D glasses like you get at the movies today but in 1992).
The advent of the Internet and multimedia CD-ROMs (and a large amount of 20-something year-old hubris) lead me and a friend to start Stimulus NZ Ltd and we set up shop in Taupo. Why Taupo? Because we could. And his parents had a bach there. We decided that in the age of the internet (it was 1994 by now) we should be able to work from anywhere. In our more productive moments we produced some of NZ’s first commercial websites and some innovative CD-ROMs including The Interactive Guide to NZ Wines and Wineries. Although surviving for 3 years was something of an achievement, we managed to dig ourselves into “a bit of a financial hole” from which we needed to extricate our young selves… by sending me to contract in the UK.
I blagged my way into developing software for NEC Electronics in Milton Keynes who apparently wanted a Java developer. Just as well I’d heard of Java before, and I read the “Learn Java in 24 hours” on the plane. In reality they actually needed me to code in C and assembler for a little RTOS system running on their new digital TV set top box. Surprisingly enough, that was fine – I spent a lot of time doing similar development for the bio and material sciences departments at university.
A couple of contract renewals, and a lot of fine English ale later, I returned to settle in Wellington. I will skip over an ill-fated 3 month contract with a government department but I learned more of how not to develop software in that brief period before the whole project was forcibly shutdown than in all the rest of my career so far. I got rescued from that situation by the TAB (now NZ Racing Board) where I helped develop self-service kiosks expanding on technology we developed at Stimulus for tourism information kiosks back in 1995. Some are still in use today. I wonder if you can still add money to them over a telnet connection…
Lord of the Rings fever had taken over New Zealand in general, and Wellington specifically. I set my sights on Weta Digital. After blagging my way through another interview (“motion capture pipeline developer” – at least I knew what “developer” meant…) and worked there from 2002 (The Two Towers) til 2012 (The Hobbit).
I worked in the motion capture department (you know – black suit with dots on it, Andy Serkis, Gollum etc) developing the database and software to manage artist workflow through the huge amount of data we collected. I had the privilege working on a large number of films at Weta including the latter two Lord of the Rings movies, King Kong, Avatar, Tintin and the first Hobbit movie. Quite surreal to look back on it now, but I got the opportunity of watching some of the world’s greatest movie directors at work, including Peter Jackson, James Cameron and Steven Spielberg. See? It says so in my IMDB profile.
While I was at Weta I was also involved with a number of small business ventures and could see that small businesses needed an IT expert on hand at all times. The technology for in-house servers which were in vogue at the time was difficult to use, insecure and flakey. It was OK for me, but anybody else needed to pay IT firms a lot of money. There must be a better way, and then along came Google and the introduction of Google Apps. Suddenly it was much easier, cheaper and more reliable to use someone else’s IT infrastructure to run your business. This was a winner – how could I spread the word?
My family moved back to Taupo, and 18 months of commuting back and forth to Wellington wasn’t really working for me, so I took my goal of helping SMBs, combined it with my experience in software development and cloud services and established Kloud in October 2011.
Kloud helped businesses adopt cloud services to enhance efficiency, agility and save money. Kloud is now an authorised reseller for a number of great cloud services including Google Apps, Vend and WorkflowMax and provides migration services from legacy systems.
Along the way I developed specialised software to extend existing cloud services and build modern hardware solutions (fast, small, power-efficient computers) to replace the crusty old PCs from last century found lurking under desks all over Taupo.
After a trip to Austin Texas in March 2015 to attend the South By Southwest conference I returned invigorated and inspired. I was clear the next step of my Kloud journey was to establish a co-working space in Taupo. It’s the natural extension of the cloud revolution: we’ve unlocked the ability to work from anywhere at any time, but we need a workplace to match, and one that provides good company and a great working environment. In July 2015 I opened the Kloud Collective co-working space to fulfill this. I now work surrounded by a range of fellow entrepreneurs in all sorts of fields from accounting to event management to photography and couldn’t be happier with the result.
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