Why we’re launching a Scaling SaaS Exports Initiative to take Kiwi SaaS companies to the world

 |   Hayley Horan, SaaS Partner Lead, Microsoft New Zealand

The explosion in digital transformation spurred by workplace trends, the pandemic and the imminent arrival of hyperscale cloud here in Aotearoa has created huge growth in our tech sector. Tech is now our second largest export sector.

This means understanding the challenges (and opportunities) digital exporters are facing has become more important than ever. This period of huge growth is a massive opportunity for New Zealand tech companies – which makes it as important for us at Microsoft to consider how we as an organisation can change the way we work with our partners, or the services we offer, to help local businesses capitalise on that opportunity.

New Zealand has strong market conditions to foster innovation – and we see this with the companies creating digital exports. Local Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies including Auror, Volpara and LawVu are just some of the homegrown organisations that are growing fast in global markets. The government has recognised the importance of getting behind our innovators by allocating $20 million to support the growth of the SaaS community and market New Zealand innovation to the world.

Today, we’re delighted to announce the launch of our own new Scaling SaaS Exports Initiative, which is all about building, selling and growing Kiwi SaaS companies at scale!

This follows three basic steps:

  1. Build: Building SaaS products for scale from day one, together with the global Microsoft technical team as an extension of your tech team.
  2. Sell: Now you are built for scale and speed, the next step is to get you market-ready via the Azure Marketplace. Listing on Marketplace isn’t about being on a busy online shelf. It’s about Microsoft taking the load when it comes to reselling in international markets – think tax, currency and regulations
  3. Grow: When you’re on Azure Marketplace, you can transact around the world with Microsoft as your reseller. Microsoft can then provide sales support to co-sell to customers in new markets.

Solving the “scaling challenge”

We want to see Microsoft become an international sales agent for Kiwi SaaS companies who are in the right place to scale into global markets. Through this initiative we’ll bring together all the different tools Microsoft has available to help Aotearoa’s SaaS companies build their product for global scale and sell their solutions to millions of Microsoft customers around the world. Auror, LawVu and Volpara are the first three SaaS companies in New Zealand to join this initiative, and we hope to help many more reach their full potential.

Many in Aotearoa’s SaaS sector have spoken about the “scaling challenge”, the need to break down the barriers to local SaaS businesses going big and going global. As a company with a strong 30-year presence here in New Zealand, our people don’t just work alongside local businesses and communities – we’re part of them.

So, we’re invested in helping boost Kiwi organisations as far as they can go, through skilling programmes and partnerships to help local tech innovators find the resources they need to grow, and soon, the country’s first ever hyperscale datacenter region. This will make it easier for local SaaS companies to develop their products in the cloud and sell them to the world.

With the Scaling SaaS Exports Initiative, we’re taking it a step further, helping address some of the pain points like how to grow reach, leveraging the strength of our global customer relationships to make it easy for anyone in the world to buy Kiwi SaaS innovation, along with simplified purchasing.

We already work alongside many SaaS companies to build out solutions together, from small start-ups to the likes of Soul Machines, with whom we’ve partnered to co-develop a new generation of human AI. But it’s the next step – scaling – where this initiative really has the power to add rocket fuel to local SaaS businesses, and our economy.

As Volpara CEO Teri Thomas recently told us: “Running a global software company from New Zealand presents some unique scaling challenges. Our partnership with Microsoft enables us to apply smart machine learning technologies to the 60 million breast screening images we have in the cloud to amplify our innovation, and then communicate the story of our value proposition globally.”

Reaching the right audience is another challenge. So we’re working to solve this too.

As Auror co-founder Tom Batterbury says: “We’re really strategic when it comes to engaging with our customers in new markets. We’ve always made sure to understand the extent of their challenges and where our software can help, but it’s the cherry on top to have a global partner advocating for your software through other channels and enabling larger reach. With huge markets like the US or the UK, where Auror is about to launch, having the support of Microsoft through this initiative is invaluable.”

Making sales and purchasing frictionless

Many of the world’s companies have existing commercial agreements to buy Microsoft products. That’s exactly what the Initiative is designed to tap into, on behalf of our partners.

LawVu is a great example of a business that’s leveraging the Microsoft stack to maximum advantage, building something fresh and world-leading on Azure, then integrating it into Teams for ultimate ease of use. We want to make it easy for customers around the world to choose products like LawVu’s, enabling them to select partner products from Microsoft’s commercial marketplace under their existing Microsoft agreement, just as they would any Microsoft product.

“That approach is great news for our customers, who won’t be faced with those additional and often lengthy procurement processes (or need to raise new budgets) to choose from more great solutions. Our solution is all about making internal processes less painful and more straightforward, and that’s exactly what this initiative enables us to do, making it so much easier to convert new customers, supported by global recognition of Microsoft’s platforms,” says Sam Kidd, CEO and co-founder of LawVu.

Having the support to grow is another key challenge we’re focused on. We know SaaS businesses grow faster if they have a full 360-degree roadmap and infrastructure for scale, from knowing who to approach to tapping into the right external resources. If we can do a lot of the heavy lifting for digital exporters as they look to grow into foreign markets, that frees up time and energy for them to focus on creating better and more innovative solutions.

So, building on our investment in local cloud through the New Zealand datacenter region, we’re providing a service to manage billing, sales tax and foreign currency management in multiple markets, so Kiwi SaaS companies can scale with a partner that global organisations already recognise and trust.

The best bit is, Volpara, Auror and LawVu will be the first of many. To quote Microsoft New Zealand Managing Director, Vanessa Sorenson:

“This marks a hugely exciting transformation for Microsoft New Zealand as much as our partners. We’ve moved from being a technology provider with a network of resellers, to becoming a reseller for our partners as well. As the groundswell around our technology sector continues, we believe the Scaling SaaS Exports Initiative, and the way it harnesses the reach and scale of Microsoft globally, is what our tech start-ups need to prosper. We can’t wait to help more SaaS partners realise their true potential on the world stage – and help create a real innovation economy in Aotearoa that brings more opportunity and prosperity for everyone.”

As Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O’Connor said recently, it’s vital to support and encourage New Zealand exporters to diversify their export markets, which will help guard both them and our national economy against future shocks like Covid-19. This is about breaking the generational issue of scale in our SaaS community, with massive opportunities to grow our whole economy.

The tech sector is now the second largest contributor to GDP. With programmes like the Scaling SaaS Exports Initiative, it could become number one.