Yet another NZ tech company sold offshore as UK outfit buys eBus

Auckland-founded eBus Media Network has been sold to London-based IMD.

Both companies specialise in the digital delivery of video for the advertising industry. They use cloud computing technologies to distribute commercials quickly to TV broadcasters, plus web and mobile channels.

eBus shareholders include its founders, Sam Morgan, Movac’s Philip McCaw and The Icehouse’s Ice Angels seed investment fund.

Terms of the deal are confidential, but Icehouse CEO Andy Hamilton says his organisation’s Ice Angels seed investment fund made a positive return.

The sale raises (yet again) the awkward issue of why so many NZ tech companies – such as Navman, Right Hemisphere, Next Window, Endace, Sonar6, EMS-Cortex and Zeacom – end up in the hands of foreign owners, many after getting a helping hand from the Crown.

“It is what it is,” Mr Hamilton says.

eBus began life in 2005 as one of the companies under Icehouse’s business incubator programme in Auckland. The driving force behind it was CEO Carmine Marsiello, who came to New Zealand in 2004 from his native Italy, where he had already built then sold two multimedia production companies.

In operational terms, the company has already become a lot less Kiwi. Mr Maisello and eBus’ development team moved to Singapore in 2009, bar one staffer who remained in Auckland.

It was always the plan to get as close to the market as possible, Mr Hamilton says. Singapore was literally at the centre of the action.

eBus investors knew the US and European digital ad delivery markets were already spoken for, but that there was an opportunity in Asia and Australia.

If things took off, the plan was to buy a competitor, The Icehouse boss revealed. If not, "we knew people would come hunting". And hunt and buy they did.

The sale has brought money back to New Zealand, Mr Hamilton says.

The process of growing then selling eBus has also yielded an important contact, The Icehouse boss says: Singapore investor Jayesh Parekh, whom he hopes will back other NZ startups.

ckeall@nbr.co.nz

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