The reported acquisition of Wellington based Bookhabit by Los Gatos company Smashwords is an encouraging development. It demonstrates that we can incubate attractive, high value web-based ventures and get noticed globally.
About 18 months ago I was involved in some consulting at Bookhabit, working on building their user community. It was a great experience and a good lead in to my next project, which was of course, starting up ideegeo and then launching our domain registrar software platform iWantMyName. Perhaps the most useful lesson from that experience was observing just how much hard work is needed to to gain traction with a start-up business.
On that basis I’m tremendously pleased for Clare Tanner and her partners at Webfund, who I know put in a lot of hours to build their business. I’m also pleased to hear from Webfund that the company remains strongly committed to supporting the Wellington technology scene and that they are keen to work with Clare and others on future projects as they look to reinvest.
But, last week I was reading the painful story of a New Zealand biotech start-up that flushed tens of millions of dollars down the drain through mismanagement and bad luck. Why aren’t we playing to our strengths? The set-up cost for a web technology venture is a fraction of that for biotech and the innovation wavelength on the Web is a lot shorter. We can spread the risk by funding 50 Bookhabits for every single biotech punt. That is why ICT specifically needs to be back on the national economic development agenda.