Email evolved

Richmond entrepreneur targets global market

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 08:21 19/03/2014
Richard Wells
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ
CONNECTED: Richmond based IT expert and founder of Name@Number Richard Wells.

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A Richmond-based IT expert has come upon what he believes is the next step in the evolution of electronic communication.

Telemarketer and former Microsoft partner employee Richard Wells has launched a new web service called Name@Number which provides users with an exclusive email address constructed from their existing mobile phone number.

How it works is that all email sent to the Name@Number address is forwarded on to whichever email address or addresses specified by the user.

Mr Wells said the scheme was built around providing users with the most exclusive email address possible.

"Essentially all I've done is create an itemised and exclusive email address for people or businesses. You keep hold of your existing email account, and all this is, is like an itemised number plate on the front of your email account - like a personalised number plate on a car."

Mr Wells said it was a more secure way to operate email because it was harder for spammers to guess a phone number. He said Name@Number could not access private emails, but simply forwarded them.

"There's no interface. It's physically impossible to see emails," he said.

General manager Hayden McCall, of New Zealand information technology research hub iStart Limited, said he was familiar with Mr Wells and Name@Number. He credited him for his good entrepreneurial streak, but did not think the concept of creating a number as an email address was too difficult.

"I guess you could say I was a little underwhelmed when I first heard about it, but Richard is one of life's more interesting individuals," Mr McCall said.

The name of the company has been trademarked but Mr Wells conceded that the concept was difficult to protect. He has spent 14 months so far on developing the brand, and up to $10,000 in development costs.

Mr Wells, who hails from the UK, worked in Australia for a Microsoft partner and then discovered New Zealand in 2009 when the global financial crisis struck the IT sector and he was laid off. As a keen mountainbiker and motocross rider, he was drawn to Nelson after stopping here on holiday.

He works from home in Richmond as a telemarketer and started tinkering in his spare time with the idea for the new web service, which was initially a bit of fun. He said the idea came to mind while he was stuck in a hotel room in Los Angeles in 2012.

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"As I sat there I got thinking there had to be a simpler way to communicate.

"Global companies spend billions of dollars annually on research and development to make life simpler."

He tried many different names with the Intellectual Property Office but they kept getting rejected, until he finally came up with Name@Number and the name stuck.

Mr Wells already has customers around New Zealand and in Australia, the UK, US and Germany. He declined to say how many.

"Some have come on board of their own accord and some as a result of me having approached them."

Mr Wells has so far emailed close to 8000 potential customers to announce the service.

"It's impossible to work out how big the market could be, but it's certainly global."

He was also committed to this region and had ensured his product was marketed as being 100 per cent New Zealand designed and operated in Nelson. He had included a "Nelson" link on his website that directed users to the Nelson Tasman Tourism website NelsonNZ.com. That meant a "potentially extensive amount of additional traffic hitting their servers - I plan to run offices in Nelson", Mr Wells said.

He had also recently engaged with the Nelson Tasman Business Trust and was looking at taking on a mentor to help grow the business.

The product can be purchased directly off his website nameatnumber.co.nz

- Nelson

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