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Customer story

Seequent: Seeing success after seeing below the surface

This article was published on Oct 14, 2021, 11:48 AM

Reading time: 4 minutes

With support from Callaghan Innovation, 3D geological modelling software business Seequent attained the elusive ‘unicorn’ status back in 2021. And things aren’t slowing down.

What's in this article

    At a glance

    • 3D geological modelling software business Seequent makes the ‘unseen’ of the subterranean world ‘seen’, aggregating geoscience data to give users a fuller picture of what lies beneath the earth’s surface.
    • Seequent’s R&D programme, supported by Callaghan Innovation grants, focuses on staying one step ahead of the competition; consistently releasing new products to meet customer needs in diverse global markets.
    • Following its landmark acquisition by Bentley Systems, Seequent attained ‘unicorn status’, but is still looking to continue its growth across the globe. 

    Callaghan Innovation gave us the confidence and the ability to be our own most-feared competitor, rather than waiting for it to come along.

    - Shaun Maloney, former CEO, Seequent

    Google Earth for below the surface 

    A unicorn. Very few New Zealand businesses can boast of being one. Seequent can. 

    The Christchurch-based 3D geological modelling software firm was acquired in 2021 by Bentley Systems - a US-based, Nasdaq-listed engineering software business - for US$1.05 billion, meaning Seequent joined the very elusive club.

    Propelling Seequent on its meteoric growth journey has been its innovative technology, which is both globally disruptive and unique.

    Described by Seequent’s former CEO Shaun Maloney as ‘Google Earth for beneath the earth’, the business’ software tools aggregate geoscience data to give its users a fuller picture of what lies beneath the earth’s surface. This allows those in sectors such as mining, geothermal energy, environmental management, and civil engineering to make the ‘unseen’ world beneath our feet ‘seen’ – and make better decisions accordingly.

    Seequent's former CEO, Shaun Maloney

    Investing in future success

    Maloney insists good business strategy and execution were behind Seequent attaining its $1 billion valuation in just over a decade. Crucial to that was having professional management lead the business from its earliest days - something unusual for a technology startup - and looking deep into their target industries to identify megatrends and build strategies to target those opportunities.

    Enabling this strategy, and subsequently staying ahead of the market, has relied on a strong R&D programme, supported for a number of years by Callaghan Innovation Growth Grants (since replaced by the R&D Tax Incentive) and R&D Experience Grants

    Maloney explains that rather than continually adding new features and functions to existing software, Seequent will develop a whole new product, and retire its predecessor. 

    “That model means you’re not encumbered by legacy solutions; that you’re current and relevant for your user base as their needs change; and your competitors are always chasing their tail,” he says. 

    “However, it's an expensive business model, and that’s where support from Callaghan Innovation comes in. Callaghan Innovation gave us the confidence and the ability to be our own most-feared competitor, rather than waiting for it to come along.”   

    “Callaghan Innovation is one of a number of government agencies that we actively engage with and that are highly networked. When we work together with these agencies we see it as a government-level partnership, which is very powerful when you’re building a global business,” Maloney says.

    Blazing a trail 

    Despite being globally established, growth at Seequent is still evident. The 2021 Hi-Tech Company of the Year finalist has more than 400 staff, offices in the Americas, Australasia, Africa and Europe, and isn’t sitting still. While the acquisition back in 2021 was a huge milestone, the business is still firmly looking at what else they can achieve. 

    “Creating a billion-dollar business was in our sights since 2012, but it was never the end game for us,” says Maloney. “None of our goals are end games, and the sale just signals the start of the next chapter in the journey. Our team is already figuring out how to triple that vision: to turn that $1 billion into $3 billion.”

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