Tech delivers rich pickings for talent as ecommerce matures

March has barely begun, but a couple of stories highlight not only the growing maturity and mainstreaming of ecommerce, but also further confirmation that technology offers rich opportunities for talented young New Zealanders.
Written by Darren Greenwood, Contributor

On Monday, we saw the news that Torpedo7, which claims to be the largest online sports retailer in Australasia, now has a new majority owner.

The fact that this buyer is the bargain-basement The Warehouse chain, noted for its omnipresent Red Sheds, highlights this. The Warehouse is an iconic Kiwi mass-market discount retailer, with perhaps the highest profile of all the retailers — but it still saw the need to buy Torpedo7 to expand its online presence and multichannel retailing.

Thus, one of New Zealand's largest retailers felt it had much to learn from a business founded just nine years ago, a business which then launched operations in Australia in 2006, and now employs 200 at its Hamilton headquarters.

In addition to its sports sales, Torpedo7 also operates its own daily deals website, 1-day, another sector where maturity is also occurring.

The same is true in the online auction sector, where newspaper giant APN, which now owns the dominant GrabOne daily deals website, announced over the weekend that it would close its Sella auction website, the largest rival to New Zealand's Trade Me behemoth.

With APN owning GrabOne and Sella, and Fairfax part owning Trade Me and its sister Treat Me, it's clear to see how old media has mixed with online sales, further confirming how mainstream ecommerce has become.

But back to my other point about the "rich pickings" to be made for a bright idea.

The Warehouse will be making an immediate NZ$20 million payout for Torpedo7, which could eventually rise to NZ$33 million, should certain targets be met.

Still largely owned by twenty-something Luke Howard-Willis and his father — Torpedo7 announced a "strategic sale" of 15 percent to Carsales.com of Australia last year — the pair stands to receive a tidy payoff.

A rich and deserving reward for the years and effort they put into the business.

Aged just 35, GrabOne founder Shane Bradley also now has a multimillion-dollar fortune to enjoy, one also richly deserved for creating a successful daily deals site to rival any other.

Indeed, I guess the success of Luke Howard-Willis and Shane Bradley confirm something else.

That New Zealanders can take an idea, which may originate from overseas, and turn it into something local.

Thus, why have Groupon, which does exist in New Zealand, when you can have your Kiwi GrabOne? If America can have Amazon, why not have a local equivalent selling something more tailor made for Down Under, like sports equipment?

And this brings us to the country's most successful ecommerce creation of all, offering further proof. "Young" Sam Morgan and Trade Me, a successful venture that delivered its creator an NZ$227 million fortune and showed how a relatively small Kiwi organisation can trump the mighty eBay and become a major fixture in everyday New Zealand life.

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