In 2006, he formed InterGrid, which provided computer processing for customers including software vendors. Houston says in 2011, the company was renamed, taking the title of its flagship product.
Houston says they recognised they needed a global platform and partner and started working with Microsoft primarily from 2010 onwards.
Houston discloses that the relationship with Microsoft was strengthened when GreenButton joined the BizSpark programme. The latter supports start-ups with free software, and support for three years. "We have really been incubated by the team here," he says. "It was a real partnership, an acquisition by osmosis."
Lessons on starting up
Houston discloses he had "doubts, lots of times" during the 10 years he and the investors and supporters were building the company.
"I like to think the lessons we learned are not what to do."
He says "the world has no problems with doing development work in New Zealand", but start-ups have to be in the market in order to sell, which meant establishing an office in the United States. "We should probably have moved [to the US] earlier."
He says marketing the company in the US was another area they could "have definitely done better".
As well, support from the investors was critical. "The massive opportunity comes in an extended time frame," he states. "We have to be nimble, but when you are working with Fortune 500 companies, you [must] have the fortitude, determination, and support from your investors to stay the course. That has been incredibly important."
Houston says Marcel van den Assum, having left Fonterra as CIO, was one of GreenButton's original angel investors. Van den Assum, is now chairman of the NZ Angel Association. "He has been a real voice of wisdom and mentor for me."
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