In episode 1 of the “Insights as a Service” podcast, we cover key industry news, do a deep dive on the Australian Government backed purchase of Digicel Pacific by Telstra, and sit down with Mike Jenkins (CEO & founder of The Instillery) to learn about how he grew a 2 person start up to 200 in 8 years.
- 0:00 Welcome to Insights as a Service
- 0:58 NZ Fibre companies increasing speed
- 2:58 NBN pre-installed Enterprise Ethernet
- 4:20 Zscaler selects Orca as AU/NZ distributor
- 4:58 Kordia ditching AU business unit
- 5:42 Vocus NZ got DDoS’d
- 6:34 Telstra releases T25 plan
- 8:07 AWS setting up NZ datacentre
- 10:00 Australia thwarting Chinese Telco influence
- 19:36 Interview with Mike Jenkins (Part 1)
Table of contents
Local Fibre Companies in NZ Increasing speeds
Let’s kick off with the news that course and the local fibre companies in New Zealand are increasing UFB speeds. Maybe I’m just not a smart man, or maybe these changes are confusing as hell. I need a chart to be able to make the various speed changes to make sense, but the outcome is that speeds are being increased across the board. And it’s not just Chorus, it’s also Enable down in Christchurch and Ultrafast Fibre, which is now called Tautahi First Fibre, which I think translates into first first fibre, which is kind of like saying ATM machine.
But anyway, I could be wrong, and I digress. All of these companies have or soon will have moved their entry level 100 Mbps Symmetrical plans to between 300 – 500 Mbps symmetrical plans at the same price point.
This move is in response to pressure from 5G speeds, which Spark and Vodafone prefer to sell due to their greater return on offer. Ultimately, the faster fibre speeds will help telcos deliver greater value for customers, and it evens the playing field for telcos that don’t have access to 5G networks and don’t get me started on the state of MVNO agreements.
My issue with what’s happening with the fibre speeds is that course is increasing the speeds, but leaving the product names the same meaning billing, ordering and portal integration gets much, much messier.
Free installs for NBN Enterprise Ethernet
NBN Co has ramped up its focus on enterprise ethernet. Forty four new fibre zones have been created to drive uptake, meaning that around 60,000 businesses now get free install for NBN Enterprise Ethernet or NBN, albeit that that free offer is on a three year term.
So, I’ve seen this in my day job where fairly remote locations are now getting the green light for free installs, which is definitely good news for all involved. Other measures in this NBN push include simplified zoning models and reduced installed timelines.
I saw that Aussie Broadband are reporting that it took them nearly two years to get 500 NBN services connected, but then sold another 1000 in the next eight months. So, it would seem that the demand for the service is definitely picking up.
For those not familiar with NBN Enterprise Ethernet, it provides symmetrical access up to one gig, can be purchased with varying degrees of committed bandwidth, and given it represents a great way for NBN Co to accelerate its return on investment.
The focus on the service does seem to make sense. I just wish more customers saw value in it. It would make life a lot easier if we didn’t have to work with flaky TC4 for services. But the issue really is just the recurring price. It’s often a tough pill for customers to swallow.
Zscaler selects Orca as AU & NZ distributor
On to hosted security application news, Zscaler has selected Orca as its Australian and NZ distributor and Zscaler, full disclosure I actually work closely with them and my day job, they are a big US company and we’re looking for a way to better serve smaller.
And I say that in inverted commas because I’m pretty sure they see smaller as less than 5000 seats, which I think we all know is hardly small in the Australasian market. So long story short, I went with a company that looks to be batting way above its weight class, and in time I will have to go and learn more about them. But congratulations to them, wish them well with their push to drive Zscaler sales in the region.
Kordia sheds Australian business unit
Kordia, the NZ government owned telco, has now halved in size after ditching its Australian business unit. Basically, it was no longer their core business. That side of the Tasman was involved more on the carrier level work, engineering, design, that sort of thing and was not profitable enough to justify the focus it required. The NZ unit with revenue around 120 million.
They’ll continue to focus on cyber security growth and the same enterprise and wholesale markets they’ve been operating in for ever. On a side note, I think Kordia would have to have one of the best staff retention rates anywhere, there seems to be a lot of lifers there.
Vocus focus of DDoS attacks
The following news is about two months old, but I thought it was a pretty big deal when Vocus New Zealand got DDoS’d on the third of September, so it probably deserves a mention.
I should probably also be calling Vocus NZ Orcon NZ now, as I think they’ve had a name change in New Zealand, but old habits die hard. It seems as though the attack actually targeted an appliance aimed at protecting them from those exact attacks, so I’m not sure what happened exactly.
I’m nowhere near technical enough to cover off on that, but I’m sure that the vulnerability has now been solved or blocked or whatever the right terminology is. When it happened, it took down a number of retail brands that operate under the Vocus umbrella.
Perhaps as much as 13% of New Zealand’s broadband services could have been impacted based on market share. So that would have been a pretty grim day at the office for a number of network engineers. And I’ve been there, at least on the sidelines of those sort of situations, and can definitely empathise.
The Telstra T25 plan
Telstra, they have released their T25 plan, they’re calling it, and some key take outs that struck me that I thought I would share that they’re going to bring sales and supply chains for res and small business back to Australia by mid 2022.
They’re going to continue to pursue full ownership of Telstra branded licensee stores across Australia, which I’m sure is going to result in some small business owners hurting a bit. Although to be fair, I’m not exactly sure of how those buybacks take shape, ramping up focus on loyalty programmes with the focus on increasing share of wallet and stickiness of SMEs.
They’re going to, in the mobile space, aim for 100% of 4G coverage by 2024, while continuing to spend an absolute truckload on 5G with an expectation that 80% of traffic will be carried over 5G by 2025.
They are aiming to cut 500 million in costs, but from where is not immediately clear. So that will be interesting. There was an acknowledgement that the worst of the financial pain from the transition to NBN services is over, and which definitely would have hurt the balance sheet over the last few years.
And they want to become a place that people love to work, which you know, is like every other company out there at the moment. But ultimately, I think they need to get the fundamentals right. They in the third quarter of 2021, Telstra’s broadband internet was slower than that of Aussie broadband, Optus, TPG Telecom and subsidiary iiNet and Vodafone. So you don’t get your service right, it’s hard to do all those other things.
Amazon setting up shop in NZ
Amazon will set up a region in New Zealand looks to be three to four years away, but they do have big plans. Amazon’s cloud computing unit will launch data centres in New Zealand in 2024 and create around about 1000 jobs in the country over 15 years. Presumably, that means between 2024 and 2040. After releasing an economic impact study, Amazon Web Services said it plans to invest 7.5 billion NZ dollars in its new infrastructure hub.
Being called Asia-Pacific Auckland region the world will look very different in three years time with open borders. Fingers crossed, at least otherwise. I think those jobs, those 1000 new jobs, are going to be very hard to fill.
I don’t think you will find any part of our sector where at the moment it’s not very difficult to find people for skilled roles. But anyway, look, this announcement is alongside a previous, previous, previous similar release from Microsoft, which will see them also bring compute onshore from some point in 2022.
So I guess one thing that stands out to me with all of that is that it will be very interesting to see what impact all of this computing moving onshore has on trans-Tasman bandwidth demand, as many services are fed out of Sydney and in future will be brought onshore and served out of NZ.
Australia thwarts Chinese influence
Let’s talk about Telstra and the Australian government teaming up to purchase Digicel Pacific. This story got my attention because we have a telco that doesn’t operate in Australia being bought by Telstra with government money at a time when Telstra has been working very hard to streamline operations.
And all of that was done with the clear or well, at least the purchase has been constructed under the clear understanding that is being done in the national interest based on fears of Chinese Communist Party control of private enterprise and specifically one enterprise. Huawei.
The news broke on the 25th of October that Telstra, with the help of the Australian government, was set to buy Digicel Pacific. So to me, this was new information. But I actually found in researching this piece that reports have been around in various publications that this has been on the cards for at least a year. So being honest, I also know bugger all about Digicel Pacific. I get that it’s a mobile player and I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen it in games of rugby involving Fiji. It’s often in banners, in the background, but other than that, really knew nothing until a few days ago.
Now, however, I know that it actually has a remarkable shear across the Pacific. So PNG is by far Digicel Pacific’s biggest market, where it enjoys 91% market share, which is incredible. But the company also holds a dominant market share in Samoa.
With 71%, Vanuatu, 65%, Tonga 58% and Nauru 52%, it turns out it’s only in Fiji where it holds 32% that Digicel is the second ranked network with Vodafone Fiji being the dominant player there. Now, I’m not a counterintelligence expert, believe it or not.
I don’t even know if I’ve used that term correctly, but I have got out the red string, stuck some newspaper clippings to a corkboard and have got to work on trying to make some sense out of all of this.
And there are a number of questions and what-ifs to explore here, so let’s get stuck in. So how real is the threat? Well, the Australian government has been worried for some time about the risk presented by Huawei’s involvement in telecommunications infrastructure inside and in the vicinity of Australia.
And this concern has resulted in Huawei being banned from involvement in 5G builds. And also, there have been interjections and cable projects and now the funding of acquisitions. So given those actions, is it reasonable for us to assume that there is a credible threat to address?
In 2018, the Solomon Islands government was pressured into excluding Huawei from Project Honiara, which was a planned undersea cable, and that was after an MRU was signed by the Solomons government, in which Huawei would have been given the job of providing some key hardware elements.
So the Australian government at the time threatened to remove rights to land that cable in Sydney and the Solomon Islands government backed out of its plans with Huawei and Vocus, was ultimately awarded the contract, with the government paying the vast majority of the cost, which was somewhere around $200 million.
That same year, Huawei was banned from involvement in the NBN rollout and 5G builds a move that really pissed off China, led to a dozen or so countries following suit and drove divisions inside the federal government. Now, in terms of what was happening inside the government in that period, Scott Morrison had actually backed Peter Dutton on the hard line he took against Huawei 5G involvement and the pressure he placed on then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Prime ministers were coming and going at a rapid rate back then, but that was all done to ensure that the end result was a ban on Huawei.
And given that Scott Morrison now runs the show, the acquisition of Digicel Pacific really does look to be on trend. The concerns around Huawei are driven by the ability for the Chinese government to control the actions of its businesses and the critical part they play in.
5G will play a massive part in the delivery of critical infrastructure. So, my first reaction is generally to think that espionage and spying exists in films only. I’m just so far removed from that world that it seems hard to believe it’s even a thing.
But when looking at the detail, you can see how there is a cause for concern. These snippets that I’m about to read were reported in The Sydney Morning Herald in an article entitled “Huawei No Way Why Australia banned the world’s largest telecoms firm”, and it was written by a guy called Peter Hartcher.
He said the Chinese Communist Party enacted the National Intelligence Law of 2017. This law unequivocally requires that any organisation or citizen shall support, assist and cooperate with state intelligence work and aid the national intelligence agencies to quote carry out intelligence work at home and abroad.
By the end of 2018, more than 90% of private businesses in China had established internal Chinese Communist Party cells to guide and monitor them and enforce the party’s well, according to Beijing’s official tally. And in 2020, Xi Jinping announced a policy that obligated private businesses to work with the Parties United Front Work Department, which is an organisation responsible for mobilising Chinese populations abroad to serve Beijing’s interests.
Private companies are required to “unswervingly, listen to and follow the steps of the party”. Now, to be fair, I think the Australian government has introduced some pretty incredible laws relating to surveillance that I should probably cover off in some future post.
And if we read those in the same fashion, they would sound pretty damn ominous, too. But looking at why 5G is such a flashpoint, we need to really look at how it will form part of our national infrastructure going forward.
Telecommunications risks no longer relate to the interception of telephone calls. That’s really old school thinking. 5G is about machines talking to machines in real time because of the tiny latency or the massively reduced latency that is on offer through 5G.
If that process is interrupted by the actions of a foreign power, we could have chaos. Sewage pumps would stop working. Clean water wouldn’t come to traffic lights. Failed train stop electric cars is self-driving. Wouldn’t work. Imagine a company or foreign government having that sort of ace up their sleeve, right?
There are the risk factors, right? So, let’s check out the structure of the deal for Digicel Pacific that you know, the acquisition that those risk factors drove. As reported by the ABC, the $2.1 billion deal to acquire and run Digicel Pacific is being funded largely by the government, which will provide 1.9 billion towards the acquisition. Telstra said it would contribute 360 million and own 100% of the company’s ordinary equity. But to be clear, this isn’t a charitable donation by the government, they expect it to be repaid and hold subordinated equity in the interim, which basically.
Not that I’m an accountant, but I believe it means unsecured or less secured debt when the terms are obviously extremely favourable. Though almost as if the acquisition made so little sense in relation to Telstra’s strategic priorities that the government had no option but to make it too good to refuse.
The risk for the government is really just that the debt won’t be repaid due to poor performance by Digicel Pacific, which is running with earnings of 300 million, but really isn’t without its challenges. Digicel, according to the Financial Review’s piece from July this year, says Digicel relies on Huawei tech to run its network.
Telstra, however, uses Ericsson for its 5G rollout, and the Australian government has, of course, banned Huawei. So, what gives? If the aim of all of this was to remove Chinese influence in the Pacific, does the network not need to be overhauled in July?
An IT Wire Article stated “If the Australian government is expecting Telstra to not only buy these digital assets, but also replace the gear they use with either Ericsson rackets, which Telstra uses close brackets or not your equipment, then the cost would rise to multiples of the initial purchase figure of 2 billion”.
Adding that “as with all telecommunications gear, upgrading to 5G equipment would not be possible unless the 4G gear was first replaced.”. Now, I’m not anywhere near technical enough to fact check that but would love to hear from anyone that is, because I think it’s an important distinction.
Telstra has been working hard to simplify its business by clearly defining and splitting up business units, so I think this has been potentially done in the aim of setting them up to sell off infrastructure focussed units.
This whole Digicel vibe seems to go against the grain. From where I sit and just to put one more boot in, operating in countries where graft is rampant, and democracy often struggles just makes this all that much more difficult.
I get why this has been done. It’s not the first such move, but when it’s going to make things way more awkward between Australia and China, or certainly no smoother between Australia and China, it’s going to be really interesting to see what Telstra does from here in relation to network investment and, of course, the performance of Digicel Pacific.
We will keep an eye on it, and perhaps we’ll do another piece in a future episode.
Interview Mike Jenkins
What’s I think is less clear is where you came from before The Instillery came into view. For most people, the lessons you learnt along the way, what the catalysts were. You know, retrospectively, looking back, what you might do differently.
I think there’s a lot to unpack there that would be valuable for people to understand and perhaps learn from regardless of the industry there. And so maybe if we kick off the conversation as sort of trolling through your LinkedIn profile, as you do on a Monday afternoon and.
I realise you had a hell of a long time at two pretty big businesses right here at IBM for nine years, and you’re at Cisco for two and a half.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I think three or four accounting, but I’m not very good on the old LinkedIn update.
No, fair play. So, so just at a at a basic level. Give us a quick head’s up on on young Mike. What were your roles there?
Yeah. Well, I might even go back a little bit further, but I’ll be. I’ll be painless, I promise.
So, so I come up. My old man was an auditor and it was in multiple businesses, and we actually ended up working for Baycorp and got asked to come in and shut down this little business called Computerland, which actually ended up being part of the geni machine.
And he actually found a lot of tea and more. So, yeah, the amazing humans and take the big personalities and the people that just made it is the story we should take the focus we had metz-werke. That’s yeah, that’s fun.
And so, so much so love or affiliation for the sake that the sector digital and actually came from him. And he’s always been a big role model for me.
What year we are we talking here?
Well, I mean, we look like, he was in the eighties. 87, 88? So we we had moved all over the show. I’d been to at least six schools and six towns in eight years because we basically got put on a project every three or six months and so as a fams.
We just followed him around. So thats probably a large reason why I don’t get afraid walking into too many rooms these days and can strike up a convo with the cleaner or the CEO doesn’t. It doesn’t really matter.
I’ve sort of been drawn into a couple of gnarly situations, but yeah, so like I said, he was a role model for me, and that really was what set off my love for the sector. I mean, funnily enough, even though he was in it for such a long time with Computerland and the epic organisation that it was
with some amazing people, he actually gave me some advice, he said. Forget about this IT gambit, property or finance are the only two smart career options for you. Don’t do what I do, do what I say.
And so I landed back from the U.K. like most Kiwis post an OE, van trip around Europe, which absolutely loved and have fond memories of today. And I took up an apprenticeship, basically at Computerland, having graduated as part of a co-op training programme.
And again, I probably despite his advice, I did fall in love with the people, some amazing people and personalities, and I just love the problem-solving nature of the industry. And I think I realised then that that would actually underpin every single industry.
So if I wanted variation and a bit of spice of life digital, was it for me and I literally fell in love. So like you said, Brendan, I straight out of computer. There was a young man at the time, John Hannah.
He was the sales director for Computerland and he took up this huge role at IBM and he said to me, You should come. It’s amazing. Big Blue is the resurgence global super power and it was pretty compelling back then, as he is now.
So I interviewed for the role. Yeah, interviewed for the role, I had two choices. I was very fortunate to get. The role on $37,500 a year is a great one. Was working for IBM is CG, which is a server storage group, and the other one was working for this absolute mob of outfit, which was called logical, which was an IBM acquisition. And again, some big personalities, Dave Healed Vernan Kelleher. Lindsey Swart is still banging around today and the industry and again, I was fortunate enough to meet them and basically I just chose the humans that really resonated with these guys were the masses of network and security, like a Cisco partner in New Zealand.
And again, I just think I fell in love with the story and the humans. And once I got to meet the technical talent that said underneath and I blew, it blew me away. So I jumped at the opportunity to start with IBM analysts and had a really amazing career with him initially here in Seattle, and then again built the shoulder tip from my boss at the time, Mel McCay, who did the logical integration acquisition. They went back to Australia and he ran a big division there, and he shoulder tapped me to come and do that. And then I had several sales and management roles over in Australia with IBM for a long period of time, actually, before my wife got pregnant and we hit the eject button and came back home to be surrounded by the whanau, and we had no idea what we’re doing with baby number one, and we want to be back with the grandparents and cousins and again, you know, not a single moment that I regret the decision.
It’s amazing to be home.
Yeah, you need that support when you’ve got number one on the way. So hey, I guess the thing that stands out there to me is, you know, your journey has been based a lot around the people. Are you saying that finance and property people just aren’t as compelling?
Is that is that the key? The key message?
What I’m saying, what I’m saying Brendan is I think a lot of people turn down a lot of good advice and it’s OK. Yeah, you got it. You got to run your own race, forged your own path. And I think that it was everything happens for a reason.
And like I said, the decision to come back from the UK to land and land and I think any other decision. I mean, you never know you’re right, but it’s worked out OK, and I’m really happy that we were it.
Yeah, that’s that’s fine. You dug yourself out of that nicely. So with the Computerland and I know very little about Computerland, and can you just give me a quick head’s up on, you know, I guess when Ross got involved, your dad what sort of whether it’s turnover or staff numbers, whatever metric you want to use, whether that sort of got picked up at when it was in a bit of trouble and where to end up at prior to joining the or box stable?
Sure. Yeah. Yeah, so so again, and my knowledge is a bit dusty because, to be honest, I was pretty much 5 when it’s when this all thing goes off. But you, I used to like to ride my bike to Computerland every day after school and mix it up with the guys playing like three doing simulator training rooms and all that sort of stuff.
So yeah, again, so you have that, you have to be with me, but computerland and was essentially the very first challenger, right? Yeah. When, like Novel, CD-ROMs and floppy disks were flooding enterprises on Big Sun servers, these were the guys, the systems integrator that got called to do the big projects.
Whether it was like Downer, Gough Gough & Hammer, the real old school farmers. Kiwi brands. they were the fixers basically that you ask you to come and do it to buy stuff from them that set it up for you, that you trying to use it and in a way you go.
So they were in the hundreds of people up and down New Zealand, the regional New Zealand presence as well, which is something that I really took on and defined to what I wanted to do with the ancillary.
I get really close to our customers’ markets that have been really underserved for a long period of time. And these guys, we’re the true champions of tech in New Zealand for a long period of time, up until the acquisition by telecom at the time.
And they rebranded to Geni. And again, I don’t know much of the detail about it because the old man parachuted out just after that, he sold it. So but yeah, I mean, I look at the business that they are today up and down New Zealand.
And yeah, there’s some amazing people from that computerland era that are leading a number of the Kiwi tech organisations today.
And arguably by association, you’re one of them. So I guess you got back to NZ. TIG was launched in what, 2013?
2013, yeah, yeah, right.
So, the journey, I guess, from getting back to NZ to launch in that off, I guess I want to understand the triggers, like was it a personal trigger like a desire to kind of have some independence?
Or is it a professional trigger where you felt you genuinely understood that you could uniquely solve a problem that others just weren’t like, well, what was going to going in your head that made you feel that you had this?
Yeah. So, so so after the IBM journey and coming back to New Zealand, I was really fortunate enough to land back with IBM, my leadership supported me to come do that and do a transition back home.
And I was fortunate enough that another big mentor of mine, Geoff Laurie, saw the opportunity to grab me and ask me to come and look at the service provider for him. And this was on the wave of 4G pick, of course.
And anybody that knows anything about telco and mobile generates a shit load of data. And so, along with the data and telco requirements of networking and security, data storage is really critical. And so we had a number of New Zealand and actually Asia Pacific and the world’s largest telcos buying a lot of Cisco UCS servers and
data storage technologies that we were selling things like Flexport with netapp and VMware solutions and you name it, we were selling bundles of Cisco. And people stopped buying tin, and when you’re working for a company that manufactures a lot of it, that’s a really tough time to go through.
And so you know what, a really crazy concept I go to the Geoff and we start to see the numbers slide a little bit and we just started talking to these big businesses. And I wanted to understand what, what, what’s changed.
You know, they’ve been spending $10 million with us every year for a period of time. What what’s changed and the change that they all unanimously said was hired is this thing called public cloud. People like Verizon and Telstra are getting on board with it.
You need to take a hard look at it and look at how it can benefit your business and also. And so I was very fortunate at the time, Cisco, that she just completed the acquisition of Cisco Meraki, which is the very first and I still think the market leading cloud management, working technology, switching one heightened security and the supply side for the team, Cisco to show that.
I’m sure they appreciate that.
That. Yeah. But you know, what we saw with it was a massive change in thinking around the traditional network model. Yeah, you’ve got to send people to site, they’ve got to be a key. You got to set the whole thing up.
But yeah, 200 bucks an hour could take a couple of days. Couple of weeks it off. A big, big investment in Meraki essentially transformed the networking game buying, allowing you to send a device in a pizza box with an instruction on a 20 second clip on YouTube that the local receptionist or fishmonger or retailer could plug into their existing connexion. And away you go. The rest is remote. And so, so part of that, those two things Brendan, were the key triggers for me are saying, OK, Cisco Meraki can truly transform networking to cloud managed networking.
And if we’re seeing people stop buying tin and the prevalence, or what I sort of call this love tsunami of public cloud was coming down to Asia Pacific and bear in mind that we are laggards a little bit and that degree having no local DCs at the time I really am, I was inquisitive. I had a hypothesis that I thought if I could, if I could grab a couple of smart kids, people that I trust and some foundation customers and demonstrate that actually hyperscale cloud is relevant to Kiwi organisations, both private and public. Then we’re onto something. And if we can’t and I’ve got to go back and get a real job again. And so The Instillery was born. Real quick.
If you need a partner to build the connectivity foundation for your SD-WAN or to provide the SIP trunks for your Teams Calling with direct routeing deployments, check out LightwireBusiness.com and get in touch. So on that, like I mentioned, you said you had a hypothesis.
So I imagine, you know, it’s term we use a lot is bullets then cannon balls right go small then go big if it lands. How did you make sure that you were able to test your hypothesis in a lean way?
Like how did you kind of, you know, string it all together without basically putting it all on the line? Or did you put it all on the line to test this hypothesis?
Yeah, good questions and really a start off. I’m a big fan of data driven decision making, so first and foremost, I’m a little bit old school too, and teams also and teams that you got to be got feel sometimes and trust you got to believe in the process.
So firstly, I was really fortunate. And Angie, let me and I say, let me very loosely go on a three month trip to the US with my co-founder Andy Cronin. At the time, we started the business with the shout Andy and support.
So both our partners let us go and we went away for three months. We went West Coast, East Coast. We went to every single public cloud conference. You could cloud slam, cloud jam, cloud card, you name it.
We did it through those conferences. Your classic Kiwis are a little bit cheeky. We got to the places you probably wouldn’t ordinarily get into. We leveraged our own organisations to get higher up and meet with some of the big bosses of Amazon and Microsoft Azure, and even GCP and you know are really leading the charge on the public that arena. And so what we actually did was we leveraged a lot of pre existing data and insights from that. They had experience globally. And then what we did is we summarise that essentially in a business case paper and bought their back to New Zealand and sort of also circled it around with a couple of friendly, so friendly leaders. Friendly CEOs really see if those because what we learnt globally was actually this decision making process for cloud was no longer in the hands of IT. This was CEOs and CFOs understanding that the business case had changed and that the same way of doing it for 20 years was not going to.
I guess suffice for the growth and data of the explosion of data that they were planning on and the next 10. And so that’s what we did. We came back very fortunate. We saw that when our local SaaS companies, the likes of Xero and being that unleashed, who were all leaders in the public cloud space and New Zealand.
Mercury was an amazing client of the Instillery and still is very early on and Grant Baty now leads our consulting business here in New Zealand. And he was instrumental in that and literally physically moving them off on premise to public cloud.
And that really changed the game. You know those key foundation customers and referencibility and local market groundswell were really the catalysts for us to go, let’s go all in. And so that’s what I did Brendan, andy and I came together.
We sold my beach house. We sold some Shares and we literally went all of the ancillary. And to be honest, again, I wouldn’t have done anything differently.
Mm-Hmm. So I guess I’m always interested in like, is it like chicken and the egg? I guess. Did you hire? I don’t know how much hands on skill you and Andy had. Like, I imagine with you, not much did.
It was Andy. Very, very skilled and hands-on Andy.
And again, I can’t give the guy a big enough. Andy is one of the smartest people I know, but he’s also a bloody good human. His ability to learn. He was one of the first CCIE voice in New Zealand, the way between and his ability to learn and change and adapt, but communicate in a way that was non-threatening.
If you’re telling somebody the way they were doing something for 20 years, it can be quite a tough conversation. But again, he was. He sort of defused a lot of the situation by bringing intelligence to the fore and talking about real concepts and quite pragmatic again, the way that, to be honest, haven’t seen a whole lot of consultants do ever so.
So I felt that you know him leading the consulting conversation was really important. And you’re right. I was, absolutely rubbish, but was also on a fast learning curve myself. But again, in saying that, you know, some of the very early customers that was the four or five of us with a couple of really high powered engineers working with us, they actually move the aims and move storage. And the early days deploy cloud managed networking in the early days. And we’re doing changes at 11:00 over a pizza and a couple of bottled waters for some big customers with them in the room as well just to make sure where we were good to go.
And again, once we got that success and got that momentum and we started building our own patterns with repeatability through things like automation and DevOps, we really started to even believe that believe the hype ourselves because we saw it.
We could do it for ourselves. And that really fuelled the belief and not just us, but our customers. And again, probably back in 2013, it would have been a brave customer that say, I’ve gone all-in with the Instillery.
And it must be. Is it a local brewery? But what’s the go? But I’m just so proud and fortunate that there’s been so many business leaders over the years that were brave enough to choose something different, and it was really the whole mission.
What we’re trying to do, we wanted to set out to disrupt what we believe was becoming a lazy tech sector here in New Zealand, and people were just doing the same thing that always done and you bought from one of two people Datacom or someone Spark owned.
And we wanted to create a genuine, genuine Tier 1 choice. And I’m really proud to say that I think we have and we continue to operate and absolutely have.
So like, it sounds to me like, I guess the secret sauce was kind of two things, right? It was timing. I mean, it was insight understanding the market shift dynamics, international access and timing. And then second, the network has been able to get in places where perhaps others couldn’t.
Knowing the people they talk to to kind of validate some of your ideas. But. How did you identify your initial sales targets, like how did you choose? Like what was your go to market strategy? They one two guys an idea.
Huge investment. Shit this better work. How did you identify who you going to go talk to you first?
It was literally who has the most data storage. So again, we wanted to get one or two big customers in our first year. We got one, and we’re very fortunate in that they but they believed us and allowed us to partner up with them and for us, so having one customer for 15 – 16 months was not the plan that we set out to have. It was to get one and knock them over. This one was big enough that it was all consuming and we had all the opportunities to do other things, the referrals from these foundation customers.
But we just decided we wanted to go all-in and deliver that experience that we promised and deliver something special, special and unique, something that couldn’t be copied. And that means. The evolution of a concept that we called co-pilot watch was not necessarily doing it to a customer, whatever the technology was, but actually genuinely empowering, educating and enabling them to understand the benefit all the way through the business, not just at the pointy front in technical, right up to the CEO and understand the why.
Once we invested upfront and we enable that business to understand the benefit of doing what we’re doing, that, yeah, the digital transformation and we found that really smoothed the path for programme after programme, after programme. And we were always big, like I said at the beginning on data driven insights, you know, so we would always measure at the start, what was it like, what was the performance, what was the cost?
And we always measure at the end and we made sure those findings elevator right up to the very top of that organisation. So when the next business came around, the next business came out was a relatively smooth process. But like I said, it was really about the data driven effort and we just really wanted to lock in the very first foundation customers.
We’ll leave our conversation there for this week, but we’ll pick it up again in the next episode. If you’ve liked what we’ve thrown out in episode one, please just let us know either. Leave us a review if your podcast platform lets you do that or reach out either via LinkedIn and you can find me there or by email at Brendan at insights as a service Dot FM.
Thanks for joining us. Look forward to catching you next time.