NZ IT investment heating up, says investor

The New Zealand investment market in information and communication technology (ICT) is heating up, according to Howard & Co., a strategic investment and management company.

"There's plenty of money around but the investors are a lot more cautious than three or four years ago," says company founder and director Anthony Howard.

Howard is a former chief executive of Wang New Zealand. He set up Howard & Co. in 2001 to help bridge the gap between New Zealand IT companies wanting to grow and equity investors looking to minimize risk while maximizing returns on capital investments.

Currently, Howard & Co is working with seven IT companies.

Howard says companies need access to good go-to-market strategies, high-level skills, and to capital. "A lot don't have the experience, knowledge or networks. We work on both sides of the equation -- for the companies and for investors." Ideally, he says, the focus is to get the companies exporting.

"I set up Howard & Co because investors were asking me what I thought about this and that. Essentially, I wanted to help tech companies fulfill their potential. We tend to operate in the early stages of the market." He says the investors are typically interested in the particular markets in which the companies operate.

"As the corporates move offshore, it has become increasingly apparent that New Zealand is a small-to-medium enterprise market. Investors are trying to figure out who will do well in that market." Howard & Co doesn't position itself as a consultancy. Rather, it takes an equity position in the companies it helps.

Howard has been joined as a co-director by John Quirk, a former chief executive of Southmark Computers and, most recently, of IT Services company Mi Services. Quirk was earlier general manager of services for Wang, where he worked closely with Howard on a strategic plan which took Wang from a proprietary hardware company to a systems integration and services company.

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