Famous technology originated in Dunedin

JOHN ANTHONY
Last updated 05:00 02/06/2014

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The  best universities in the world are using medical technology designed by a Dunedin student nearly 30 years ago.

Founded by Michael Macknight in 1988, ADInstruments sells hardware and software products to medical and health researchers, scientists and educators.

In 2007 International Space Station astronauts also started using its flagship product - the PowerLab data acquisition (DAQ) device.

Researchers used it to measure astronauts' brain, aortic blood flows, arm vein pressure, arterial blood pressure, breathing rate and the amount of carbon dioxide exhaled.

By connecting patients or subjects to the module using electronic sensors, researchers are able to get readings at recording speeds of up to 400,000 samples per second.

Typical applications include research and teaching across human and animal physiology, pharmacology, neurophysiology, biology, zoology, biochemistry and biomedical engineering.

Macknight, who is still company director, said its equipment can be found in leading universities and labs around the world including the University of Oxford and University of Cambridge.

The company employs more than 200 staff in 13 international locations including 60 in Dunedin.

It is privately owned by Macknight and his family and has turnover of about $30 million per year, Macknight said.

Most of the hardware is made in Sydney while the software and some hardware is made in New Zealand.

ADInstruments has three offices in China and is expanding its operation throughout India and the Middle East. "Our customers are very international. They move around a lot and they collaborate with people from all over the world so it gives us great potential to sell our equipment all around the world."

Why did you decide to start your own business?

It was sort of by accident. I developed a product as part of a university project and it proved to have appeal to people around the world.

What's the best way of knowing whether an idea is worth pursuing?

If you come up with something that when you show to people, they actually want to buy it, that is a good sign. People can encourage you but it is only when their money comes out do you know how they really feel.

How important is market validation?

Things only work if you are giving people value. The market can be pretty blunt about telling you if you are giving value.

What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?

One thing I always think about when looking at people for roles is that you don't give people responsibility, people take it. The best people see opportunity and step up.

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Describe one attribute you consider essential to becoming a successful entrepreneur.

Belief. Things are more difficult than they first appear and take longer. Obstacles, including people, regulations, financial and technical, keep coming up and if you don't work through them patiently with belief it will all work out, you would give up 1000 times.

What have you sacrificed to be an entrepreneur?

Anyone who thinks that they should run their own business so they can have time off whenever they want is kidding themselves.

What have you gained from being an entrepreneur?

Making the decisions that will ultimately define a business is a challenge and is high pressure but it is very rewarding and satisfying. And if things don't work, you can only blame yourself.

Who is your "business guru", or who do you admire, and why?

I admire Apple and Steve Jobs for demonstrating that design is more than how something looks. If you take the time to understand a problem and implement the best solution, not just what people are asking for, you can change the world.

What is one thing readers would be surprised to learn about you?

We love Dunedin and find it a great place to run a company. The people here are as good as you could find anywhere in the world.

- Stuff

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