Customer stories

The global Kiwi start-up

open this image in new window: PredictHQ co-founders Campbell Brown and Robert Kern

Demand forecasting service PredictHQ always knew its destiny was to solve big problems for big international enterprises.

At a glance

  • Launched just three years ago, PredictHQ’s co-founder moved to San Francisco in the early stages to target top tier customers and investors.

  • The demand intelligence venture’s marquee clients include Uber, Domino’s and Booking.com.

  • It has since raised NZ$15 million and is rapidly expanding its product offering.

  • The start-up’s success was recognised at this year’s New Zealand Hi-Tech Awards with three significant wins.

PredictHQ founder Campbell Brown’s advice to Kiwi tech start-ups is to go global as quickly as possible. If that sounds ambitious, he’s already walked the talk by building a business that has served global customers from day one.

Established just three years ago and counting Uber, Domino's and Booking.com among its early customers, PredictHQ identified a major gap in the forecasting and marketing tools available to these international businesses.

Brown discovered the impact of real-world events on demand first-hand while working at online car, campervan and cruise ship bookings startup One Republic. Although his team knew about the biggest events and public holidays, he was amazed to realise the outsize impact of the many events that fly beneath the radar. He and cofounder Robert Kern realised that while there were instruments that mined historic data, this was not enough and there was no single, accessible international service that aggregated events.

The company never saw itself as a Kiwi-only start-up, Brown says. “From day one our mindset was global. Signing up huge businesses was always the plan, which can be daunting for early stage start-ups but when you are solving a big problem for businesses it’s possible.”

Working with such massive brands has helped the company refine its vision, he says. PredictHQ provides intelligence across 30,000 cities, and has now built a strong data science foundation that enables it to scale and create more innovative products. The latest is Aviation Rank™ which will launch this year. It merges flight booking data with event data, enabling it to identify and predict the events that generate inbound and outbound traffic for airlines.

“We are building new layers of intelligence across our key categories,” Brown says. “Towards the end of the year we are then going to bring this extremely unique product to market which closes the loop and allows us to control the data, intelligence and the platform.”

Risking it in the US

Brown is familiar with the journey of building a successful tech business having run the marketing for One Republic. After the company was sold to Webjet in 2016 he co-founded PredictHQ with fellow Online Republic alumni Robert Kern and Mike Ballantyne.

He soon realised that to secure Silicon Valley investors and customers he was going to have to move there. So, he uprooted his young family and shifted to San Francisco at an “almost painfully risky stage for the business, before we had much recurring revenue”.

“But it was critical, because it meant we could land world-leading customers as well as exceptional investors.”

The risk paid off. Late last year PredictHQ raised NZ$15 million in a Series A funding round, bringing on tier one US venture funds such as Aspect and gaining access to their expertise and networks.

Coming in from outside the San Francisco ecosystem meant the Kiwi firm had to get creative to gain traction. “A turning point came from an opportunity I almost said no to, pitching to a room of Stanford MBA students with a panel of investors ready to rip the pitch apart,” Brown says.

One of these investors was Theresia Gouw, who had been a partner at top tier Silicon Valley venture capital firm Accel before striking out on her own to found Aspect. “At the end of the session, we hopped in an Uber and I got to re-pitch it again, this time to directly to her partnership team.”

PredictHQ now has 60 staff across its Auckland and San Francisco offices – Auckland is the data and engineering headquarters while the US team is the commercial hub. Meanwhile it is set to open a European office by the end of the year.

The company gets the best of both worlds, Brown says. “Moving to the US was a hefty shakeup of our sense of what was possible. New Zealand has world-class data science and engineering talent, but we don’t yet have thousands of people who have built and scaled companies that are making hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

“Moving to San Francisco confirmed for us how quickly we can grow a massive business with the right strategies and people.”

Triple winners

PredictHQ’s fearlessness was recognised at this year’s New Zealand Hi-Tech Awards, where it took out the Duncan Cotterill Most Innovative Hi-Tech Software Solution Award, the Kiwibank Most Innovative Hi-Tech Service Award and the Coretex Hi-Tech Emerging Company of the Year Award.

Callaghan Innovation has worked alongside the company as it has developed, offering Project, Student and Growth and Grant support, but also connections.

“The insights and questions from Callaghan’s network helped us plan better and enabled us to grow faster,” Brown says.

Some of the key ways Callaghan Innovation has been able to offer assistance has been in supporting activities such as talent acquisition, Business Innovation Adviser Craig Shipman says.

PredictHQ has always had a laser-like focus on going global, and doesn’t need help with strategy, he says. “It was really a case of what reinforcement can we give around the foundations to increase their speed,” he says.

In turn the company has been great about giving back, Shipman says. Brown gave a presentation to the Kiwi firms heading up to the massive SaaStr event in the US last year. “It was a real eye-opener for young startups, here’s this guy saying ‘right, when you get to a certain point when you need to move to the States’.”

PredictHQ’s five top tips for Kiwi software start-ups wanting to go global

  1. Go global as quickly as possible. If you plan to take on the world, get out there and do it. You want to be building a product for global customers, not just New Zealand ones.

  2. Team is everything: Build yours carefully. Hire people who are smarter than you, and who take team unity and personal growth seriously.

  3. Take big risks. If building a major global business was easy, everyone would do it.

  4. Pick your partners well. From recruiters to investors, having really high standards and picking people you can genuinely collaborate with is important.

  5. Never stop raising your expectations - about what your start-up can achieve, what your team can achieve, and how much your team members and you as a leader can grow.

To learn more about PredictHQ you can view their profile on Scale-Up NZ, a free online platform providing valuable insights on hundreds of companies in New Zealand’s innovation ecosystem.

Updated: 9 September 2019