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Sentient Software - adding value to the project

This article was published on 16 July 2012

R&D funding from Callaghan Innovation's R&D Grants fast-tracked an Auckland software company's business by about two years, according to its owner.

When Sentient Software became a finalist in the 2009 PricewaterhouseCoopers Hi-Tech awards, it was a major achievement with an unexpected bonus. Owner Steve O'Neill was surprised when the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's (MBIE) Science and Innovation Group contacted him and made him aware of a range of funding options available to businesses like his.

Sentient Software had been growing significantly since its incorporation in 2005 as a Software as a Service (SaaS) enterprise in the Project Portfolio Management (PPM) industry. However, Steve knew that in order to grow and to compete overseas, he needed a significant technology stretch.

The government support has had dual benefits. The investment of over $230,000 helped Sentient Software hire top industry expertise, and produce feasibility studies and high‑level designs that subsequently resulted in building their ideas into their product offerings.

The other benefit was clarifying their thinking about the future direction of the business.

“If we couldn't answer a question that we were posed during the application process, it made us sit up and sharpen our thinking. It helped us to learn about ourselves and to solidify our strategic intent,” says Steve.

The company has now grown into an industry leader in PPM and despite its small size, successfully competes against international software giants. Staff numbers have also grown, including two full-time positions in Australia in the past 12 months.

Steve is full of praise for the assistance offered by MBIE Science and Innovation.

“I had my reservations and thought it sounded too good to be true, but we’ve never looked back,” he says. “MBIE funding significantly lowered the risk of the project and enabled us to thoroughly check out the market and what products we were competing against.”