Entrepreneur grows business in the cloud

02:04, Oct 30 2012
GREENBUTTON: The idea for the business came to Scott Houston in his job as the chief technology officer for Weta Digital.

The year was 2009. Scott Houston had sold all his assets to develop his cloud-computing business, GreenButton.

He had put in five years of hard slog to build it up. He was broke and desperately needed funding.

Given the global financial crisis had hit New Zealand shores, it was the worst time to get funding.

However, he eventually did - $120,000 in a five-minute Dragon's Den-style pitch at Angel HQ in Wellington.

"It was a 'live or die' moment. Lucky I pulled it off," he said, laughing.

Fast-forward to today and the company has since raised $4 million from local venture capital companies, the Government and several angel investors.


Houston founded the company in 2004, well before the notion of cloud computing and companies such as Amazon or Microsoft were even considering the business model. The idea for the business came in his job as the chief technology officer for Weta Digital.

In 2003, the company needed to buy 1000 processors to build a new data centre, just to get one film shot done.

"Here we are eight years later and we don't need to buy the data centres - you just need to push the button," he says.

The GreenButton is a program that software developers embed in their applications so that when their customers need more processing power to render movies or process large amounts of seismic data, they just push the button from a drop-down menu.

GreenButton is working with channel partners such as Dell, IBM, Pixar, Halliburton and Numerix.

All these jobs are run on data centres across the globe but are managed from the company headquarters in Wellington.

The company intends to open sales offices in Europe and Asia in the next two years.

Why did you become an entrepreneur?

I don't think you make a decision to become an entrepreneur. It comes naturally to me.

I had a partnership with a guy in London developing computer trading systems in the 90s, and was a co-founder of a PC company in the 80s. It was my passion for computers and new technology.

What have been the biggest obstacles in running your company?

We were probably two to three years too early in the market but it allowed us to develop a solution that has gone further than anything else in the world.

Name one thing you have learnt from while in business, and from who.

I've personally learnt the most from our chairman, Marcel van den Assum, the former chief information officer of Fonterra, in terms of being more strategic in how we approach things and being patient and keeping our focus on the end goal.

What are your business and personal goals?

Getting more balance in my life. The company is now able to run seamlessly without me. I went on a three-week holiday with my partner recently.

The business isn't about me any more. The company is mature and has a great management board.

Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs?

Don't give up on the dream. There have been plenty of times where there have been dark days, and friends and family, out of concern for your wellbeing, have said: "You've given it your best shot. Time to call it a day". I've got a good network of supportive friends who."