Inside: Terabyte Interactive

  • Digital
  • February 26, 2014
  • Ben Fahy
Inside: Terabyte Interactive

It's one of the oldest digital shops in the country and it has done work for a huge number of clients. And, like the internet itself, Terabyte Interactive keeps on changing.  

Founded in 1990, the company started off offering print design services, which quickly developed into designing digital interactive CD ROMS, educational games and interactive touch-screen kiosks. From 1994 to 1998 Independent Newspapers Ltd progressively invested in Terabyte. And in 1999 it was sold to IT Capital.

The world renowned Virtual Spectator grew out of a joint venture between Terabyte and Dunedin's Animation Research and, when the internet arrived, it started to make waves globally by winning awards in Europe and the USA.

In 2002 Terabyte returned to private ownership, and then in 2007 chief executive Doug Hanna increased his holding to 100 percent. But he says "what we've had from 2007 on is quite different to the Terabyte of old". 

Doug Hanna

Photos: Nancy Lan

"We've grown a lot in the last 18 months or so," says Hanna, who has been involved with the business for the past ten years. "When I took over back in 2007, we had 16 people. But we've invested pretty heavily in the business. Now we've got a team of 37, and growing through the GFC required a lot of hard work by everybody ... We've grown about 33 percent in terms of staff and revenue." 

The potential for New Zealand companies—and especially software as a service companies—to thrive in a global market is huge, he says, because "the internet is a fantastic leveller". Terabyte works with process management software​ company Promapp, intelligence-led software and solutions firm Wynyard Group and movie ticketing company Vista, a Kiwi company with around 30 percent share globally and designs on reaching 60 percent. And while it would love to be involved in the business strategy with these types of companies, Hanna says the clients generally have that side of things under control, so its job is to create professional looking, functional websites that will help create a positive impression for these companies hoping to get their foot in the door overseas.

As for its other major clients, it does a lot of work for NZTE, DairyNZ and NZ Parliament (it was responsible for shifting it off the Microsoft platform and, while he admits it's not the sexiest site, it was a massive project as it's one of the biggest sites in the country, clocking in at 750,000 pages). And it also does a lot of work in the tourism space, with Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism, Tourism New Zealand, Trojan Holdings, Real Journeys and plenty of others on the list. 

"It's a great product to promote and there are lots of opportunities for e-commerce too," he says. 

It also works with The Radio Network and The Australian Radio Network, and was responsible for a big redesign a few years ago that saw all of their stations shifted onto a single platform. 

"They've been a client for eight years," he says. And that longevity certainly isn't unusual, he says, "but we work hard to build and maintain those relationships". 

"I think one of the things that sets us apart is that we're extremely client focused. I'm from a technological development background so we've got a real client service ethic. We do the right thing and see projects through. So what I like to do is have full control over the delivery of them." 

And he says maintaining control of the process and doing the work inhouse is becoming increasingly important. 

"What's happening with the web is it's getting a hell of a lot harder, so you're less able to outsource things and get the quality that you need. The reason for that is responsive design, the range of options we now have and the level of sophistication. It's a lot more complex and there's a lot more front end development work required." 

So with tens of thousands of expensive, flashy websites lying dormant and largely unvisited around the web, is it all worth it? 

"Our work is mostly in the B2B area and my view is that the internet is a huge leverage opportunity in terms of the way you can change your business and increase sales. Marketing websites are one thing. But the real value is in putting your business online so you have more customer engagement and you're available at any time." 

Corporate websites are nigh-on a necessity these days "because people need to find you, it's expected and it's a cheap way to get your profile out there". And he says companies like The Warehouse are seeing great results from e-commerce, with the online store at thewarehouse.co.nz growing from nothing to being equal to the biggest Warehouse store in the country last year (while he's not sure about the figures, he imagines setting up a new physical store would cost somewhere in the vicinity of $20-30 million, whereas setting up an e-commerce site might cost $1-2 million and it's integrated into the back end). 

Despite many years in the trade, and hundreds of projects to the agency's name, he's still excited about the possibilities the digital realm offers and he thinks "we're at the tip of the iceberg in terms of how business can utilise the web". 

"I'm really looking forward to seeing how it's being used ten or twenty years from now." 

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