Strain prevention software finds foreign niche

Christchurch, New Zealand developer Niche Software Ltd. is enjoying export success with three major sales of its repetitive strain prevention software in the Netherlands.

About 30,000 employees of the Dutch bank ABN Amro Bank NV will be using Niche's four-year-old product Workpace after a deal was signed in December, while Dutch electronics giant Philips Electronics NV recently bought the software. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in the Netherlands has also bought Workpace for use by 6,000 staff.

Computerworld understands the combined contracts are worth more than NZ$1.5 million (US$660,000).

Niche Software technical director Robert van Nobelen says the Netherlands strict policing of occupational overuse syndrome (OOS) regulations makes the country a ready market for its software. Under Dutch law companies which breach OOS regulations can be ordered to shut down. They are also required to have their ergonomic set-up assessed by an independent third party.

Niche, which does 90 percent of its sales overseas, is looking at expanding into the UK and Germany. It has sites in the US such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology and pharmaceutical manufacturer Eli Lilly but has found Europe an easier market to crack.

Van Nobelen says while it is tough for a small company from a small country to get into the US, European companies are more open to dealing with foreign businesses.

The company attends trade shows, does research on the Web and uses Trade NZ to find suitable distributors overseas.

While the company, which has eight staff, now concentrates almost solely on exports, it had a pivotal breakthrough two years ago through a sale to the Department of Social Welfare. The department now has 8,000 staff using Workpace.

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