Kiwi project software heads for Silicon Valley

A New Zealander whose rapidly growing online business includes NASA and Volvo as clients is about to open offices in the US...

 

Jason Westland’s project management software is a typically little-known Kiwi success story which is achieving great things without the need for venture capital or angel funding.

Next year, Westland, whose site is ProjectManager.com, will be setting up an office in Silicon Valley to strike partnerships with enterprise level players.

With the company’s funding entirely managed from cash flow, Westland says, “We have very few support, training or administration staff. More than 80 per cent of our expenditure goes on software development, which allows us to keep ahead of the rest.”

That keeping ahead involved smart research into what sort of online project management software was desired. In late 2008, the company asked 30,000 project managers what their ideal project management software would be.

“The result was overwhelming. Everyone wanted a simple online project management tool that had similar features to Microsoft Project, as well as a graphical dashboard and intuitive reporting. So that’s exactly what we built.

The point of difference was to “provide all of the most commonly used features that Microsoft Project has to offer, and to make them available online at ProjectManager.com.

No one else on the market has been able to achieve this to date. In addition to being able to import and immediately share your Microsoft Project plans online, you can immediately see the status of the project on a graphical dashboard, at the click of a button.”

“Putting together project management tools sounds easy, until you start trying to use them for actual projects. There's a good reason why so many project management offices – PMOs – fail. It's due, at least in part, to the fact that those PMOs often fail to put together solid processes for their project managers to follow. When that happens, executive management doesn't see the performance they should out of the PMO and so they don't back it. Without executive backing, the PMO is often destined to fail along with its projects."

Westland’s online tools also include MPMM.com which is a project management methodology offering information, processes, and templates on project management.

Conquering the USA
New Zealander entrepreneurs have a knack of not being intimidated by the size of the US market and the fact this country is a small dot down the bottom of the world. So what was Westland’s secret to breaking into the US market and how did he initiate approaches to people like Nasa?
 
“You have to start a business with the US as your initial target market, as opposed to focusing purely on New Zealand and then expansion. In the US, buying patterns are different, customers have different requirements and company culture is substantially different to New Zealand. If you tackle the US from the start, then it is much easier to break into the market than attempting it down the track.”
 
So what's special about Kiwis that they manage to break through and get noticed?
“Kiwis have a can-do attitude and a ‘shoot for the moon’ mentality. We punch above our weight consistently because we set such high targets and work so hard to achieve them.

We are never fully satisfied until we have conquered the world (e.g. Sir Edmund Hillary). We are never put off by competition and we have an innovation flair which helps us to stand out. Interestingly, Kiwis are well respected by Americans and this helps a lot when breaking into the US market.”

Scoring goals quickly
It’s been a great year or so for Westland, who has had his own on-the-job experience with project management. For 15 years, he managed large projects in New Zealand and overseas and managed Designer Technology which spawned another Kiwi success story, Mail Marshal (acquired by NetIQ).

Thanks to his smarts, including a deep knowledge of search engine optimisation, which has helped score high Google rankings, ProjectManager.com is growing rapidly.

In the last 12 months it has grown to 4,000 signed-up companies in 150 countries around the world. Its high growth rate is seeing a doubling of revenue and customer base each eight weeks, which Westland estimates is probably the best in the market. “Our marketing strategy is simple. “Rank highly in Google and deliver an application that people talk about.”

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10/12/3_ex_h

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