EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2014: Meet the category winners

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This year’s category winners are thriving – they are creating jobs, contributing significantly to GDP growth and boosting innovation.

Five New Zealand entrepreneurs have taken top position in their respective categories and now compete for national honours at the Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards on Thursday 16 October 2014 at the Langham Hotel, Auckland.

The category winners are:

  • Products: Mark Rice, CDB Goldair
  • Services: Michael Whitehead, WhereScape Software
  • Technology and emerging industries: Vaughan Rowsell, Vend
  • Young: Dan Radcliffe, International Volunteer HQ
  • Master: Patrick Teo, BCS Group

Congratulations to all our category winners. Find out more about each of these exceptional entrepreneurs below.

Mark Rice, CDB Goldair
‘Great connections'

When it comes to the business of marketing and selling appliances, electrical and lighting products on either side of the Tasman, CDB is clearly one ‘switched on' operation.

The power source behind the growth and diversification is sales veteran Mark Rice. In the industry two adjectives describe him—‘attitude and driven'. He has a reputation also of knowing what works and what gets results...and then going for it from there. Mark isn't a believer in back up plans. He counts on his team, and himself, to turn any adversity into advantage.

Mark's single-mindedness has also helped the company out of some potentially tight situations. The day he launched the company, the all-important exchange rate had the NZD at 0.395 to the US greenback. His argument was that if he could make money in bearish conditions, imagine the health of the balance sheet when positive fiscal fight back was achieved. When others are battening down the hatches Mark sees an opportunity to prevail and prosper.

Boasting 1800 product lines and a brand menu including Goldair, Sodastream, Yonanas, Elto Electrical and Orbit Lighting, CDB plugs into two main markets. In New Zealand, CDB distributes to Mitre 10, Bunnings, Placemakers, Foodstuffs, Countdown, Briscoes, The Warehouse, Noel Leeming, Dick Smith, Harvey Norman, Smiths City, JB Hi Fi, and Electrical Wholesalers including JA Russell, Cory's, and Ideal. CDB's biggest strength lies in large format retail environments with M10, TWL, and Briscoes.

In Australia, the business is just 18 months old but already has secured distribution with Masters Home Improvement, Harvey Norman, The Good Guys, Mitre 10, K-Mart, and Coles.

The business started in its current form in 2000 off the back of a management buyout of PDL Industries Retail business prior to PDL Industries being sold to French multi-national Schneider.

Michael Whitehead, WhereScape Software
'The Data Chef'

The use of the words ‘data warehouse’ conjures up something big on size and even bigger on storage capability. Put the words ‘big data’ into the mix and you have the makings of a business phenomenon (incorporating the data generation and management plus big data technology and services markets) that, by 2017, is destined to be worth US$65 in the next three years.

WhereScape Software’s Michael Whitehead has the enviable position of being the creator of a company that is considered an international market leader in this new ‘pack and save’ IT model. He thinks of himself as a data chef working, not in a restaurant, but in a warehouse where efficiency, decision making, access and speed are all on the menu.

The concept came to him in the 1990s when he was working for a computer hardware company. The landscape was awash with an ever changing array of software and tools—but mainly in the form of ‘ingredients and cooks’. What was missing was the creative energy of ‘chefs’ who could take all the elements and concoct recipes (covering systems, processes and solutions) that would whet and satiate business and market needs.

Rather than a boutique style operation, WhereScape is big scale and big time focused on helping operations extract data from a warehouse setting in order to make tasty and sustainable decisions. The really ‘big’ idea behind the venture was to automate much of the complex-yet-rote work involved in the building and running of data warehouses. This could cut the time and cost by as much as 80% and help business realise value from their data that much faster. Rather like a fork lift operating at Mach 3 in accessing the right elements of the intellectual inventory.

With a team of close to 100 scattered around the globe, WhereScape’s software is used by some of the world’s largest companies, and Michael is hungry for a greater slice of this opportunity.

Vaughan Rowsell, Vend
‘Shopping in the sky'

The evolution of the species in retail shopping has arrived in the form of Vend. ‘Clicks and mortar' is still in the parlance of state of the art shopping, but the next level of capturing customers will involve what Vaughan Rowsell is selling. A world first business built on cloud technology offering point-of-sale, inventory and customer loyalty software for iPad, Mac & PC. One that is easy to set up, manage, and can be applied across a whole series of stores

Launched in 2010, Vend is now available in over 140 countries with 80% of its business coming from retail meccas such as North America, the United Kingdom, Australia and new markets such as South Africa, Europe and Asia. Vend currently is used at 10,000 sites around the world. The business is being serviced at sites outside of home base New Zealand including Melbourne, Toronto and San Francisco and new premises about to open in London and Berlin.

As with many great New Zealand inventions, Vend took seed in Vaughan's garage. It was literally launched on a shoe string with only seed funding from a number of friends and colleagues.

Despite these somewhat humble beginnings, Vend from the start was a business solution that would not be anchored to New Zealand shores. Within the first month of launch he had secured offshore customers. He also was not obsessed with seeking growth solely from cash-flow. In order to create opportunities offered by being first to market he was able to secure a number of VC injections from a supportive stable of local and international investors. From being the sole Vendor Vaughan's team now numbers 100 and rising.

Vaughan is adamant, however, that he wants the success of Vend to benefit New Zealand. His goal is to build a billion dollar global success story from home so that the country's high tech sector continues to benefit the economy.

Dan Radcliffe, International Volunteer HQ
‘Destination Good Cause'

Whether it is someone travelling abroad looking to try their hand at turtle conservation and wildlife preservation, or someone in a ‘gap' year looking to teach in far-away countries and climes, chances are Dan Radcliffe's International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) will have something that fits the bill.

Established in 2007, IVHQ has grown to become the world's leading volunteer travel company. Its mandate is to provide responsible, high quality and affordable volunteer programs in over 25 countries including exotic destinations such as Victoria Falls, Nepal, Vietnam, Peru, Sri Lanka and Morocco. The programmes cover teaching, childcare, medical, construction and conservation activities.

To date over 36,000 people—mainly females aged 18-25 and living in North America, the United Kingdom, Australia and China—have had their OE experiences made more meaningful thanks to IVHQ.

Far from being a niche part of the market, volunteer travel is often cited as the fastest growing sector within tourism.

IVHQ's sense of wanderlust is also a reflection of the founder's itchy feet when it came to career options. After achieving a Master of Business degree and securing a prestigious job, Dan lasted only three days in the corporate world. He quickly realised that he could never reach his potential by working for someone else. He returned to the family farm in Taranaki to work on building up the capital required to fund his start-up.

While some in small town New Zealand rolled their eyes up at his concept of launching a travel business with a ‘feel good' factor, Dan had other ideas. A trip abroad backpacking and volunteering in Africa cinched the deal. One of the keys to success was identifying, and then training, host organisations where IVHQ ‘tourists' would be visiting and working. The quality, integrity and user friendliness of his website was also imperative. The solution allows bookings, itinerary planning, pre-flight preparation, recording experiences and involvement with friends.

Patrick Teo, BCS Group
Going the extra mile

Traveller in Honolulu, baggage in New York. It’s an old joke, but for Patrick Teo, the thought of 26 million pieces of luggage going missing each year is the stuff of nightmares.

But, it’s also the stuff of a smart business, the contributor to a record breaking year and a sharp intake of breath from global competitors as the kiwi smarts notch up another win on the corporate belt.

Teo heads the BCS group of companies; a global company in the airport systems, baggage handling and logistics space.

On his watch, now almost a decade old, his team have put the ‘self’ into self check-in at airports. They’ve created Sym3, the world’s most advanced visualisation package for automated processes, addressing a global market valued at over US$1bn p.a for automation and control. And in a global coup, inking with NZ-born, double Oscar winning technology, their soon-to-be-commercialised check-in avatars will become your own personal assistant.

Its ultra-clever bag tags, conveyors, RFID readers, sorters and controls are making a dent in the mis-directed baggage statistics and BCS technology is at work in some of Australasia’s largest logistics facilities.

For Teo, motivation comes from a career working in an environment that showed him the value of people, efficiency and the power of the team. The BCS team has more than tripled in the past 10 years, and revenues increased seven-fold.

The challenges are global and the results are startling. A smart decision to concentrate on the growth of airports and airlines in Australasia almost a decade ago saw BCS ride out the global financial downturn almost unscathed. Competitors who had focussed on the US and Europe, and ignored Asia, found slim pickings when those markets collapsed and the Asian tiger continued to grow, right alongside BCS own growth.

For Malaysian-born Teo, this was just part of the strategy and a good fit with his team’s forward planning.

Despite–or because of–a background in engineering and IT, Patrick has a passion for creating ‘beautifully efficient and well-oiled teams and machines’. This together with a focus on developing strategic partnerships here in NZ and internationally has enabled BCS to become a true tier one player and take on the global European giants head to head

Oiling the team is about creating an innovative solutions focused culture and the machines are an engineer’s dream performing in challenging locations around the world.