News Article | December 5, 2016
Espoo, Finland - Spark, New Zealand's leading communications service provider, has deployed the country's first 200G per wavelength production fiber link using Nokia's PSS1830 Optical Transport Network (OTN). The Nokia optical solution effectively doubles capacity while reducing cost per bit on the Spark fiber network. As a result, Spark is able to deliver more value and a better experience to its enterprise, retail mobile and broadband customers without the need for major investment in fiber optic cables and other CAPEX/OPEX-related costs. The deployment of 200G per wavelength is a first for the New Zealand telecommunications industry, and was achieved with the Nokia 1830 Photonic Service Switch. The powerful yet flexible hardware and software allow customers to optimize their networks by balancing capacity and distance for individual wavelengths. Nokia's 200G channel can also co-exist with Spark's 10G and 100G channels, protecting the original network investment. Spark's new 200Gbps network link connects its core network with the global gateway, and enables the service provider stay ahead of the data demand curve for both residential and enterprise customers. It will help meet continuing strong business and consumer demand for data bandwidth, utilizing existing systems to efficiently boost capacity for current usage and future growth. 200G provides a compelling business case for any operator looking to lower their total cost of ownership while still deploying extra speed and capacity in their existing 1830 PSS networks. Colin Brown, General Manager of Networks at Spark, said: "Today's digital revolution is driving massive growth in data traffic, with businesses and consumers needing to instantly access and share information anytime, anywhere, doing so quickly, efficiently and securely. Nokia has helped Spark NZ reach a new milestone with our world-class Optical Transport Network, achieving our vision of a data-driven future for New Zealand and underpinning an integrated network including fiber, 3G, 4G, 4.5G, wireless broadband and Wi-Fi." Ray Owen, head of Oceania at Nokia, said: "Like many operators, Spark has faced relentless growth in bandwidth demand, largely driven by an increase in video streaming by business and consumer users. By taking a flexible approach to this challenge with New Zealand's first 200Gbps fiber link, together with Nokia, Spark is well placed to meet continued demand growth while meeting existing user expectations." Did you know? About Spark NZ Spark is New Zealand's largest digital services company delivering mobile, fixed and IT products and services to millions of New Zealand consumers and businesses. Our ambition is to be a winning business, inspired by customers to unleash the potential in all New Zealanders. Spark New Zealand is a multi-brand business, with principal brands Spark (supporting home, consumer mobile and small business customers) and Spark Digital (supporting government and business customers with strong Cloud services, mobility and ICT capabilities). Specialist and flanking brands include Skinny (consumer mobile), Revera and Appserv (data hosting services), Lightbox (internet TV), Qrious (data analytics), and Bigpipe (consumer broadband). An in-house incubator, Spark Ventures, is developing other new business opportunities. www.sparknz.co.nz About Nokia Nokia is a global leader in creating the technologies at the heart of our connected world. Powered by the research and innovation of Nokia Bell Labs, we serve communications service providers, governments, large enterprises and consumers, with the industry's most complete, end-to-end portfolio of products, services and licensing. From the enabling infrastructure for 5G and the Internet of Things, to emerging applications in virtual reality and digital health, we are shaping the future of technology to transform the human experience. www.nokia.com
News Article | August 11, 2015
Spark has entered battle on the home security front with the official launch of its "Morepork" service, the company's first offering to address the so-called smart living market. But with industry giants such as Google and Apple also eyeing the emerging market, the New Zealand telco won't have it all its own way. Spark began offering Morepork, named after a native owl, to customers on its broadband plans today, allowing them to monitor their homes from their smartphones. Morepork monitors homes with sensors and cameras connected to the cloud and sends alerts to customer's smartphones if it detects changes such as movement or windows and doors opening. It can also take a photo or record a video clip. "It's the type of disruptive new innovation that will re-shape the home security market," Spark Ventures GM of Smart Living Gemma Croombs said. Morepork is the first of a range of smart living products Spark is developing, she said. Spark customers who sign-up for a Morepork will receive a starter kit with a control panel, three door and window sensors, an image sensor and a video camera. Customers can buy extra sensors, cameras and a smoke alarm. Customers can choose to pay NZ$519 upfront and NZ$20 a month over 24 months or NZ$999 upfront in full for the starter kit. They then choose whether they want a self monitoring plan (NZ$29.95 per month) or the professional response plan (NZ$49.95 per month). Spark home, mobile and business CEO Jason Paris said Spark had been working with US-based Alarm.com to develop Morepork's software platform.
News Article | September 4, 2014
Spark New Zealand, formerly known as Telecom New Zealand , has appointed Ed Hyde as the chief executive officer of its big data business, Qrious. Launched in March this year, Qrious is a stand-alone startup part of Spark Ventures innovation and incubator business unit. It is Spark's entrance into the big data market, aimed to help businesses within segments such as government, healthcare, public transport, and housing, to use available data sets to improve their products and services. It is servicing these companies through on-demand expertise and cloud offerings, including platform as a service and software as a service. Qrious has also partnered with Apigee to use its API platform to manage and monitor its data, analytics, and application platform. Rod Snodgrass, chief executive of Spark Ventures, said Hyde's appointment will be pivotal to Qrious as the company assists New Zealand organisations with data, analytics, and applications. "Qrious is ready to expand its horizons and deliver insights to more New Zealand businesses. Ed has a strong strategic, product, and commercial focus, but more importantly, Ed is a guy who wants to push boundaries, challenge the status quo, and change the game," he said. Hyde has previously held roles within Spark, including as senior vice president for Spark Ventures, general manager for mobile product for Spark New Zealand, and commercial director for Yes Telecom in the UK. Commenting on his appointment, Hyde said that Qrious will help businesses better leverage available data to make faster and improved decisions. "Organisations can privately and securely host their own data and combine this with other public or private data sets such as demographic data, address databases, and weather to create more powerful insights than previously possible. Our experts can help them to work with this data to derive valuable information and understanding," he said. Qrious is also establishing a Data Science Academy, where students will be trained on analytical techniques. In April, the company's general manager Cyrus Facciano said the academy will help fill the data scientist gap that exists in New Zealand. "Talent is a major problem. When we were doing our initial analysis and using the studies around data scientists and the global shortage, we estimated there'd be about 1,200 data scientists short in New Zealand in the next three years," he said at the time. "We had a look around, and we saw there was one university offering it, but there were a total of six pupils, so we figured there's a major limit with realising that value."
News Article | May 18, 2015
The head of infrastructure, APAC for Amazon Web Services says organisations not using cloud or looking at where it fits in their strategy risk being overtaken by more agile competitors. "Cloud is becoming the new normal, and not using cloud is just like fighting gravity. It is inevitable," says Glenn Gore, head of infrastructure, APAC for Amazon Web Services. "If you are not using it or looking at where it fits on your own strategy, you run the risk of being overtaken by others using the platform to increase their agility and scale," says Gore in his keynote at this year's AWS Summit in Auckland. More than 1300 business technology professionals attended this year's conference. Tim Dacombe-Bird, regional sales manager, AWS says this year's event is a "dramatic turnaround" from the first summit in New Zealand three years ago. This year, he says, 61 per cent of attendees were from mid-market companies and above. Before, the majority of attendees were startups and small businesses. "The cloud is becoming the default position of customers looking to build new applications and services," says Gore. Gore says when he joined Amazon, he would speak to an enterprise customer once a week. Now he is speaking to enterprise customers "multiple times a day". Their questions include how to get the same agility of the startups, some of which they are going to compete with. For startups, he says, cloud is a natural starting point as they like to disrupt long serving industries. "They need to innovate, experiment, take big risks to see what works and does not work." The software providers, meanwhile, are shifting across to make their software cloud apps native. "There are different services coming out natively from the cloud." The shift is also affecting the skills in the marketplace, as more people are getting AWS levels of training and certification. "We are seeing people vote with their feet," he says. "They want to play with technology that makes their life easier. People are starting to pick companies they want to work for based on new technologies, access to innovation and access to make a difference to things they are passionate about." The themes of speed, disruption and innovation were reiterated by other keynote speakers who are also AWS customers -- Xero CEO Rod Drury; Chris South, head of dynamics services at Network for Learning, and Thomas Salmen,GM of enablement at Spark Ventures. "Our culture is one of speed, says Rod Drury of Xero. "We know if we can go faster than incumbents we can grab significant market share," says Drury, noting that Xero had released 729 updates last year. "We are continuously updating our product, speed is our competitive weapon," says Drury. He says when Xero started nine years ago, the three main accounting software vendors around the world had updated their software every 18 months. "What really turns me on is deployment speed and being able to really re-architect our whole dev model over the last two years so we can release small bits of functionality really, really quickly and take that dev ops time period out which gives us more and more velocity," says Drury. "It just scares the hell out of our competitors," he says. "They just have not had a competitor that can operate so quickly, and I think our numbers are showing this." He says the following title of a book remains Xero's mantra: It's Not the Big That Eat the Small...It's the Fast That Eat the Slow . It was written by Jason Jennings and Laurence Haughton and was Xero's reference long before Xero even started. Thomas Salmen, GM, venture rnablement at Spark Ventures, says AWS has allowed the group to process ever increasing sizes of data from its stable of startup companies. These include Qrious, Lightbox, Big Pipe and Skinny. "We have got hundreds of terabytes of data, and AWS has been a critical part of that journey," he says. Lightbox, for instance, has had 7.5 million hours streamed since its launch. "That is a massive tidal wave of content, he says. "The numbers ar Chris South talked about how AWS is helping the Crown owned agency meet the scale needed by the users of Pond, its online learning hub. The audience for Pond is big, he says, and these include 60,000 teachers and 750,000 students, or 20 per cent of the New Zealand population. But If you add the community around them, like whanau it is "pretty much the whole country". "You are not going to run this stuff on small hardware," he says. "We need the scale to do this," he says, but do not want to do any 'heavy lifting' or 'reinvent the wheel' for the technology they will use. He says when teachers told him how Pond has helped them find resources they could use in the classroom, the meeting "stopped being a technology conversation" and became a teacher conversation. "If we can help the children's teachers, it would make a huge start to making better education," he states. Sign up for CIO newsletters for regular updates on CIO news, views and events.
News Article | May 2, 2013
Five years after being started as a back-bedroom project by Michael Acton Smith, Mind Candy, the company that came up with the hugely successful Moshi Monsters kids game, has achieved a lot. Unusually for most UK consumer startups, it’s reached across the globe to become a global brand attracting 80 million registered users, up from 50 million in 2011. Clearly this has been good for growth given that Mind Candy’s 2011 declared sales were £29m. But though tonight it celebrates its success with a lavish party for staff and guests, the company itself stands on a precipice, and the precipice is called mobile. That said, the company knows this, and plans to launch three brand new gaming worlds in the next few months. In the company’s favour is a self-aware CEO. Acton Smith knows Moshi’s mobile and tablet, and its mobile offering is pretty weak, given that its target audience of young kids has switched almost overnight in the past two years to tablet-based games like Angry Birds, Plants And Zombies, Heyday and the rest. Moshi has done very well in licensing its characters for merchandise, generating half of its revenues from licensing and royalties deals this way – but that can’t last for long if the games themselves don’t satisfy its young audience. Mind Candy CEO Michael Acton Smith admits that web site traffic has slowed as tablets have taken off, but he says the company is well positioned for the mobile future. Mind Candy has had a total of $10 million in funding from Index Ventures, Accel Partners and Spark Ventures. While Moshi Monsters has 80 million registered users, it declines to release monthly active users, a metric used by most gaming companies today. It sounds like its getting ready for that shift of position. Speaking to TechCrunch, Acton Smith said the company was making a big shift to a mobile strategy and that it was “vital that we crack this.” Indeed, it’s looking like a seismic change at Mind Candy. Acton Smith says three entirely new worlds are being created which will build “entirely new IP.” Moshi Monsters, however, will be kept “evergreen,” develop further onto mobile, and a full-length movie is slated for launch later this year. “We are hiring aggressively for this” says Acton Smith. The new games will be more broadly aimed at families, so parents playing alongside kids. “We’re big fans of Pixar and how it created movies aimed at the whole family,” says Smith, who has gained a reputation as a quirky and creative character, and is sometimes described as the Willy Wonka of London’s tech scene. The moniker works after a fashion – the Mindy Candy office boasts a tree house and a slide. Moshi Monsters started out as an online world of adoptable pet monsters for boys and girls aged 6-12 back in 2008. It slowly crept to 1 million users before taking off in the summer of 2009 and growing by 1 new registered user per second. Moshi is biggest in the UK but has a global fan base. The top five territories are English speaking (UK, US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand). Mindy Candy has been on a roller coaster ride – almost closing in late 2008 when the business ran out of cash after blowing its initial funding on an Alternative Reality Game called Perplex City before Acton Smith sketched out the first Moshi Monster in a London cafe.
News Article | August 7, 2014
Telecom New Zealand, the country's major telecommunications retailer, today assumes its new brand, becoming Spark New Zealand. Managing Director Simon Moutter said the change marks the biggest step in the company’s recent transformation, and reflects huge industry changes and global shifts in communications. “We now do much more than provide a copper line telephone service and we no longer own the fixed line network," he said "We’re into a whole raft of new technologies…business cloud services, data centres, Internet TV, whatever new is around the corner. The Telecom brand simply didn’t reflect this new world." The company traded as Telecom New Zealand for 27 years after being spun out of NZ Post and privatised. More recently, the company's market power came under regulatory scrutiny and it was operationally separated in 2008. That was a painful and not very successful shift and the company largely embraced structural separation from its network business, now called Chorus, in late 2011. Moutter said the new Telecom has listened to customers, improved services and lowered prices "dramatically". It has introduced public WiFi zones, launched new Cloud services in part through the NZ$96.5 million acquisition of Revera last year. It has also entered content marketes, including partnering with Spotify Premium and launching Internet TV services. "But despite all these changes, we know many New Zealanders – particularly among the half of the population who are under 35, or those from more diverse backgrounds – think Telecom is ‘not for them’." Moutter said. "The same applies to former customers who may have left us many years ago." The Spark shift will be a stimulus for new customers to "take another look", he said. Behind the scenes a huge IT project is also under way stripping out many of the complexities introduced by operational separation, streamlining processes and making the company more customer focused. The company’s business and IT services division, Gen-i, is also chaging brand, becoming Spark Digital. Spark Home, Mobile and Business is the new name for Telecom Retail. It operates under the Spark and Spark Business brands. Spark Wholesale is the new name for Telecom Wholesale and Spark Ventures is the new name for Telecom Digital Ventures. The names of other business units such as cloud businesses Revera and AppServ, mobile business Skinny, big data unit Qrious; internet TV service Lightbox and Telecom New Zealand International, have not changed.
News Article | July 10, 2012
London-based game outfit Mind Candy, the maker of an insanely popular virtual world for kids, made a significant move on Monday — buying another British studio, Origami Blue. While MindCandy has bought IP before, this marks the first company-sized acquisition for hotly-tipped startup, and an interesting one too. Origami Blue was formed by refugees from Disney’s Black Rock studio, which was closed down in 2011. But although Black Rock specialized in racing games like MotoGP, it seems that Mind Candy is buying it for work they’ve since been doing on augmented reality applications and animation. The company said in a statement that the OB team would become the engine behind a new experimental development arm it’s calling “Candy Labs”. But it looks like the company’s ambitions don’t end with a single purchase. A recent job listing for a manager to work on M&A suggests that the company is looking for more than just the odd tumble — and may be at the start of a serious acquisition spree. The ad, which ran a couple of months ago, suggests that more buyouts could be on the way. Applicants would be required to “set strategy and source potential M&A and investment targets,” it says, monitor the market for potential movement and “determine bidding strategy and negotiate deals.” It’s a big step from the company not least because it hints at an apparently strong financial position — achieved despite relatively modest venture funding from big names like Index and Accel. While its last audited accounts show £1.2 million of profit on revenues of £7.5 million (that’s $1.8 million on $11.6 million), they go back to the end of 2010. Since then, the company has increased its user base to around 75 million people globally, and last year Spark Ventures cashed out in a move that valued the company at $200 million. In the meantime, Mind Candy boss Michael Acton Smith says “”our valuation is now substantially higher than that” and the business has been talked up as a potential IPO candidate. Side note: interestingly one of Moshi’s biggest competitors, Club Penguin, (which is also owned by Disney) has its UK headquarters just a stone’s throw from Origami Blue’s offices. Update: Clarified MindCandy’s 2009 purchase of the website Tutpup, which Acton Smith says “was a simple IP acquisition. No staff came across with the deal.”
News Article | November 27, 2014
Sir John Hegarty & Tom Teichman’s bold vision to put Soho’s tech scene on the map Two of the biggest players in advertising and venture capital came together this week to launch The Garage, London’s latest incubator in the heart of Soho. Based at 62 Dean Street, the Garage is the brainchild of Sir John Hegarty, the advertising creative behind agency giant BBH and Spark Ventures’ Chairman Tom Teichman. Their new venture will enable them to share their breadth of expertise in both finance and branding, as well as their contacts books, with the next generation of up and coming startups from tech and the creative industries. “And valuable brands are crucial to the survival of startups, to give you the edge over your rivals.” He cited countless examples of brands that have mastered this including the likes of Apple and Dyson. Hegarty and Teichman have known each other since the 80s and were some of the first investors in Mind Candy, the creators of the now infamous Moshi Monsters series. Mind Candy’s founder Michael Acton Smith also happens to be a Soho resident, and will act as an advisor on the programme along with notonthehighstreet.com’s Holly Tucker. Video: Holly Tucker says be more than your brand Taking a look around the space, you quickly realise this is worlds apart from the ever predictable warehouse setting seen in Shoreditch. The Garage is set in an old wine merchant townhouse from 1787 and is chic, warm and welcoming. A maximum of 6 early stage companies will be residents at one time and will receive £50,000 funding as well as subsidised desk space at the Garage. In return the partners at the Garage will receive a small minority stake in the business. Crowdcube, one of Britain’s biggest equity crowdfunding platforms, will also base themselves at the Garage. Regular visitors to startup spaces will be familiar with the now obligatory ‘wow-factor’ piece in the office. It started out with ping pong tables and slides and more recently we’ve seen iPad controlled coffee machines. When asked about his obligatory gimmick, Tom Teichman’s response summed up the unique selling point for the Garage: The Garage Soho is now open for applications. Find out more here.
News Article | March 17, 2013
So the rumors that Spotify is raising a new round of financing of around $50 million have been confirmed by TechCrunch. That gives it a valuation of $250 million. The money will come from Asian investor Li Ka-Shing and another venture firm, potentially Wellington. Our report from October that Spotify had raised €15.3 million from Northzone Ventures and Creandum at a €71.6 million pre-money valuation was close-sih. In fact it was €20 million, and – most interestingly – included investments from all the big music labels. That put the company at a €100 million valuation. Now, more rights holders are participating, pressured by lots of interest from other VCs. Spotify has 2 million UK users but in Sweden it’s rumoured to have at least 1 million, and a growing footprint in Germany. Is it true that labels are making more money now from Spotify than iTunes in those markets? Well, they they clearly have a direct relationship with the company, but put it this way, my builder has heard of iTunes – but he hasn’t heard of Spotify. Meanwhile We7, a UK-basd ad-supported music streaming service and integrated MP3 store which competes with Spotify only in the UKalready has already amassed 2.5m UK people and 1.5m via media partners which include the NME, The Guardian, The Sun and GQ. We7 competes with streaming music sites Last.fm, Spotify, lala, and Imeem and with music search sites such as Seeqpod, Songza, Skreemr, Deezer, and HypeMachine. In January last year We7 took a $7m/€5m series A round from Eden Ventures, Spark Ventures and musician turned entrepreneur Peter Gabriel. While Spotify pushes for a US launch and retains its Joost-style model (stream from a desktop application) the web based nature of we7 means that the music can be played anywhere and shared via social networking sites, Twitter and even email. Their in-house research says 94% of users will listen to ads if they get music for free, so they’ve pushed the advertising angle hard, doing things like turning the service green for the launch of the latest Green Day album. They’ve also gone for the biggest audience base that was attractive to advertisers. In theory that means it can scale faster. But Flash does not play on the iPhone, and Spotify is pushing it’s mobile angle hard with an iPhone app waiting for approval in the app store.
News Article | July 11, 2014
Mind Candy, led by star gaming property Moshi Monsters and founder Michael Acton-Smith, has been seen as one of the breakout successes of the UK startup and gaming world. But as many others in the space know all too well, game fads come and go, and so things are changing. Today Mind Candy is announcing that Acton-Smith is stepping down as the company’s CEO, while Divinia Knowles, current COO, will become president of the company and take a place on the board. The company is now looking for a new CEO. Acton-Smith will remain in the role until that person has been announced but will also be moving to a creative role in the company. The changes come at an interesting time for Mind Candy. Moshi Monsters appears to be dropping fast in popularity, and Mind Candy is rolling the dice hard on a new, upcoming game called World of Warriors, while at the same time pushing hard on new mobile apps. Mind Candy is firm on presenting this as a mutually-agreed decision. “I love this company, I’m obsessed with it,” Acton-Smith tells us in an interview, “but Mind Candy is a different kind of company to when it was just Moshi Monsters. There is a lot of staff, operations globally, and challengers. “I’ve moved away from the creative side, which is the part that I’m crazy about…. I’ve had discussions with the board and the most value I can add is on the creative side rather than operational side. I’ve decided to step aside into a creative leadership role.” He’s also outlined some of these reasons and developments in a video that Mind Candy has posted on YouTube, embedded below, in lieu of a more formal, written press statement. The move, the company says, is more in the vein of what many startups in the U.S. also do as they grow. “We’ve spoken about the difference between UK and European startups, and I think what’s extraordinary about Mind Candy and Michael is that this is a Silicon Valley move,” adds Saul Klein, the Index Ventures partner who sits on Mind Candy’s board. “You don’t see this happening normally in the UK where founders and CEOs have such an extraordinary level of ambition of what this business could be.” Much like Rovio with Angry Birds, Mind Candy has taken the Moshi brand and expanded it to many other places, from toys to TV shows (and don’t my kids know it). The last publicly-stated figures for its audience is at over 80 million registered users. In Mind Candy’s yearly accounts at UK’s Companies House for 2012, the last published year (2013 are due to be published at the end of September this year), it reported total revenues of £46.9 million ($80.3 million), up over 60 percent on a year before, on pre-tax profit of £10 million (£17 million). But there are indicators that in recent times Mind Candy’s star has fallen. Traffic to its flagship property, moshimonsters.com, has decreased by some 53 percent in the last year to June 2014, according to comScore. It’s not clear how much of an impact that would have on a business that claims to have pulled in some £100 million on licensing revenues, but what it does show is that the core brand experience is changing. Acton-Smith is refreshingly honest about the challenges facing a (relatively speaking) legacy gaming company. “Our business has moved from web to mobile, and it’s a tough space for kids and entertainment companies,” he says. “We have great games and lots of downloads but it’s challenging out there.” That’s echoed by Klein, but along with an ambition to think ahead. “Moshi never quite cracked the U.S., but we think Warriors can,” says Klein, who describes Mind Candy in terms reminiscent of another gaming juggernaut that has seen some stumbles, Rovio. “What’s exciting to me is that the original vision for Mind Candy was Disney 2.0,” he says of the company and its ambitions. He first became acquainted with it when Acton-Smith was just starting it out in his flat in Battersea in South London (before the heady days of the “Silicon Roundabout” in the East End of town). “Even then, the company had a number of incredible brands and products,” he contines. “So now what we’re seeing is finally that transition from Mr Moshi to Mr Mind Candy. This is coming at a point when the business is mature enough and has a number of really exciting products.” Mind Candy, which has been around since 2004 and built its business around desktop web use, has been trying to change with the times by turning its attention more aggressively to mobile. Last year, to coincide with Moshi Monsters’ fifth anniversary, it launched three new games. And earlier this month, the company kicked off a new app and social media effort in the form of PopJam, a social network aimed at children that the Guardian described as “Instagram for kids”. The company, according to CrunchBase, has raised $21.5 million, from Index Ventures, Accel and Spark Ventures between 2006 and 2011. Earlier this year Index partner Saul Klein joined the board. We had heard that the company has also recently had to raise a debt round, possibly to help it stay afloat, but Mind Candy would not confirm this directly, nor deny it. “From time to time we always look at our capital, and over the last few months we decided that we needed to do a round to take an opportunity to go forward,” says Knowles. “There are lots of financing options and debt is one of them.”