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Customer story

Rocketspark: Boosting the e-commerce efforts of small businesses

This article was published on Sep 21, 2021, 11:30 AM

Reading time: 4 minutes

Small businesses are ramping up their e-commerce efforts, Rocketsparks website building software a huge help. Callaghan Innovation is helping ramp up Rocketsparks international aspirations and feed its talent pipeline.

What's in this article

    At a glance

    • Cambridge-based Rocketspark makes software that allows non-technical people to create websites and has gained a strong following from graphic designers.
    • Callaghan Innovation’s support in building connections in the ecosystem, advice and funding has helped the business refine its software development process, spin out new innovation and feed its talent pipeline.
    • Rocketspark is now ramping up international expansion and hiring offshore.

    Because this project was research-oriented, it was risky for us as a self-funded business to take on. Callaghan Innovation’s support to take on interns helped us de-risk the project, and meant we could work on something more innovative

    - Grant Johnson, CEO, Rocketspark

    Finding their niche

    From restaurants to fitness studios, COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in 2020 put the rocket boosters on many small businesses’ digital aspirations. Cambridge-based website building software Rocketspark was there to help.

    But as businesses continue to lift their e-commerce game, Rocketspark is still riding the wave, in particular gaining a loyal following among non-technical graphic designers who are using the software to create websites for their clients.

    “This partner model is a key accelerator of our growth,” Grant Johnson, CEO of Rocketspark explains. “You might have one graphic designer who creates just a website or two per month for clients, but for us the lifetime value of each of those customers is valuable.”

    Grant Johnson, CEO of Rocketspark

    Grant Johnson, CEO of Rocketspark

    Developing a path to success

    While Rocketsparks loyal community has helped steer the software development path, Callaghan Innovation support has helped the business accelerate it.

    For example, with Callaghan Innovation support, Rocketspark engaged digital consultancy Hypr to undertake a detailed review of its software development processes. 

    The review revealed the business was spending substantial time testing new software features, which could instead be automated by building testing into the code. 

    “That fundamentally changed our development process; testing is much more automated, and we can launch a new feature without having to manually test everything.”

    Craig Shipman, a Callaghan Innovation Business Advisor who works with Rocketspark, says the business has successfully leveraged support from others in New Zealand’s innovation ecosystem. It has worked with BNZ technology company specialists to gain a working capital facility, for example, and accessed a forecasting expert via an introduction from Icehouse CEO Gavin Lennox.

    As well, Rocketspark has boosted its R&D efforts through Callaghan Innovation R&D Experience Grants, which support businesses to take on tertiary student interns.

    Over two summers, between 2018 and 2020, four Waikato University software engineering students worked on developing an AI SEO tool, Flint. Launched at the end of 2020, Flint helps users automatically optimise their content to boost their search engine rankings. 

    “Because this project was research-oriented, it was risky for us as a self-funded business to take on. Callaghan Innovation’s support to take on interns helped us de-risk the project, and meant we could work on something more innovative,” says Johnson.

    Most of the students supported by the grants have continued to work for the business part-time, and two are set to join after they wrap up their studies. 


    Flint screenshot

    Flint screenshot

    Eyeing up offshore opportunities

    Rocketspark has users in 27 countries, with around 70 per cent based in New Zealand, and the rest predominantly in Australia and the UK. The business recently received coinvestment from NZTE’s International Growth Fund and is about to hire a partner manager in Australia – its first offshore-based sales role. 

    “People often say markets offshore are so different, but in the small business sector, particularly in the sections where we work, we’ve found their wants and needs are very similar, so New Zealand has proven a great test bed,” says Johnson.

    “As a subscription-based business, as we’ve gotten better and more competitive, we’re able to generate more revenue and create more jobs, so there’s a compounding return on the support we’ve received – which is also for the betterment of New Zealand.” 

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