Software developer finds grant a Breeze

Victorian developer Breeze Software has received a $670,000 research and development grant under the Federal Government START initiative to extend its retail software sales beyond Australian shores.

Breeze was established in 1980, developing point-of-sale management applications for blue-chip clients including Coles Myer and Woolworths, as well as retail petroleum outlets such as BP and Shell. The START funding was granted to Breeze Software in order for it to integrate Internet technologies into products and to enable the company to offer the software through an ASP-type arrangement.

Breeze's developers came up with a new thin-client strategy for the petroleum industry but, according to CEO Gary Landers, may not have been able to materialise the idea without additional funding.

"We have never really had any outside assistance before," he said. "We have funded our growth through internal cash flow and profits. We have a genuine limit as to how much money we can keep ploughing back into the business, and there were going to be some tough calls if we tried to fund this development ourselves. Now we can get to the market quicker and do research and development the right way."

The developers at Breeze will now concentrate on integrating Internet technologies into its products. In doing so, the focus of the company will shift from site-based retail applications to ASP applications. Landers is cautious, however, of laying claim to being an application service provider, as the strategy Breeze will be taking on is somewhat different than the strict definition of an ASP.

"Obviously by the nature of the ASP model, the information is held off-site," he said. "Oil companies are sensitive about their information and may not approve such a model. So what we are proposing is to develop a system whereby the head office can be its own corporate ASP."

Basically, this means that Breeze will be developing a thin-client retail management system that utilises Internet technologies such as browsers and virtual private networks. The developers are basing the solution on the Microsoft Biztalk platform, and are developing an interface to connect the customers' point-of-sale systems back into their ERP systems.

The scale of the investment is such that Landers wants to expand its sphere of influence into Southeast Asia, with an eye to eventually moving into markets across the globe. The majority of Breeze's competitors are US software vendors that have an international reach, but Landers expects the funding boost to help the company create a differentiated offering that will keep them ahead of the pack.

"In order to beat our American friends, we have to be innovative and quick to the market place. To do that is an expensive exercise," he said. We have to develop these ideas into real products, rather than the puff of wind that many software companies come up with. The cost of software development is getting so expensive; you can't justify spending this kind of money on a small market. You need to be geographically expansive."

"When you're a software company, you don't expect anything for nothing," Landers said. "We're grateful that the Government can step forward and mitigate part of that risk. We know the industry, have a solid development team, and have come up with an innovative way to attack this market and reduce the cost of ownership for these systems," he said.

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