Serko: Flying high in the Kiwi sky...
For a company specialising in online corporate travel booking, how fitting to hear that Kiwi firm Serko is going places.
Fresh from announcing its initial public offering in Auckland this week, the blossoming cloud-based technology company is flying the flag for the New Zealand ICT market, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s great to see Kiwi technology being recognised across the world,” says Darrin Grafton, co-founder and CEO, Serko.
Speaking to Techday after revealing plans to list on the NZX Main Board to fuel the company’s growth ambitions, Grafton is unequivocal in his view that being Kiwi is good for business.
“We’re a very welcoming bunch in New Zealand and this culture gives us an advantage for sure,” he adds. “We treat every client like its our first and show enormous respect for the different cultures and traditions we encounter.”
Recent success stories of fellow Kiwi businesses GreenButton and Xero excelling overseas help reinforce Grafton’s belief that New Zealand tech is no longer catching up to the rest of the world; it’s now leading the way.
“We’re not afraid of expansion,” adds Grafton, who believes the timing is right for Serko to raise additional funds to accelerate its growth plans. “We don’t shy away from tough decisions and we’re an incredibly business savvy group of people.”
An award winning online travel booking company for businesses and government agencies, Serko is based in Auckland, with offices in Sydney Australia, Xi’an City China and Gurgaon India, employing over 100 people across the region.
“We’re very conscious about keeping our Kiwi identity as experience has taught us that we can be a strong New Zealand company and the market will still recognise this,” adds Grafton, who believes previous misconceptions of tech Down Under are in the past.
“The industry knows we’re big league players and can compete on the same front.”
Serko will issue $17 million of new shares and existing equity holders have offered to sell a further $5 million of shares, an offer which is open to institutional investors, clients of NZX Firms and retail investors in both New Zealand and Australia.
After spending seven years developing a robust technology solution capable of streamlining travel bookings, it appears the company's ambitions of becoming an international player are set to become reality.
“We’re certainly progressing according to plan,” adds Grafton, who co-founded the company with Chief Strategy Officer Bob Shaw in May 2007. “We set a model which targeted second level growth within six to seven years and we’ve achieved this goal.
“The first part of our plan was to get onto every corporate desktop, gain the market share and then control the content sources. We have built the framework of our technology and have a network of resellers pushing this out both regionally and wider.
“The second aspect of our strategy is to develop new technology and leverage growth in the market.”
Serko technology has always worked says Grafton, but typical of the Kiwi culture that embodies such a dynamic company, the Parnell-based firm did not stop there.
“We wanted to bring out a new technology framework which made a difference,” adds Grafton, who says disrupting the market with innovative technology is second nature to Serko.
The company’s flagship product is Serko Online, an online booking engine used by corporate administrators and travellers to book flights, accommodation and car hire from the broadest possible set of travel providers.
The engine ensures that travel bookings comply with corporate travel management policy without limiting the users’ choice of travel provider.
For Grafton, taking a legacy system and making it cool embodies everything that Serko stands for, highlighting the surging levels of innovation flowing through the veins of his 100 plus staff.
“We love to innovate,” says Grafton, offering the clearest indication yet of the company’s outlook on introducing new technology to the market. “For us it’s about saying these things can be done differently, they can be done better and they can be cooler.
“Others may leave such legacy systems in the ‘hard to do basket’ but we thrive on disrupting the technology and making a difference.”
After previously announcing plans to list on both the New Zealand and Australian Stock Exchanges before September 2013, Serko’s reason for delaying the process was simple.
“There has never been any rush,” says Grafton, who has since recruited a board of directors rich in experience. “We have taken our time to find the right governance and board people on a strategic level and for us, the timing is right.”
As a result, the company welcomed Simon Botherway, Claudia Batten and Clyde McConaghy to the board as independent directors, in a move which heralds Serko’s shift to the next level.
“I’m delighted with the calibre of our new Board, and the range of skills, experience and perspectives they will bring to the governance of Serko,” said Grafton at the time.
“Serko has ambitions to be an international player and has its immediate sights set on becoming a significant force in the Asian corporate travel booking market.”
Whether it be the quirky business cards or the travel themed office, all the cogs in the Serko wheel help generate a culture of innovation, a culture which is driving the company to Asia and beyond.
And for Grafton and his team, the journey is just beginning...
From today, investors can pre-register their interest in the offer by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once the offer is open (expected to be 4 June 2014) potential investors will be able to submit their application form online or otherwise in accordance with the instructions.
The minimum application is for $1,100 (being 1,000 shares). The offer closes at 5.00pm on Thursday, 19 June 2014 and Serko expects that its shares will be quoted on the NZX Main Board from Tuesday, 24 June 2014. Future announcements through NZX will be released under ticker code SKO.