Small Business: Rush is on for firms to collaborate

FOR some start-up businesses, collaborating with other like-minded companies is something they do from day one.

Smartphone video game developer Rush Digital Interactive not only shares its offices in Auckland's Ironbank building with Pixel Fusion, a web development company specialising in internet start-ups, but they pitch for business together as well.

Rush Digital, launched by Danushka (Danu) Abeysuriya in late 2010, has worked with Pixel Fusion on a recent web project for Air New Zealand subsidiary Altitude Aerospace Interiors, Rush Digital providing the 3D technology. They also pitch together regularly for work with ad agencies such as Colenso BBDO.

Says Abeysuriya, Rush Digital's chief executive: "Among video game developers, we have a term 'co-opetition' - it's really strong in the industry." It means when teams get stuck, they look to other teams and share business intelligence and analytics to solve the problem.

The thinking is they are not in direct competition but are building a great product for the industry, he says.

Sri Lankan-born Abeysuriya and his team of 10 staff and contractors are working on a game with Ninja Kiwi, the successful Auckland games company known internationally for its Bloons portfolio of smartphone games.

"They are the most sensible people I have ever worked with. They are a real model for how you build a business from scratch and how you handle IP," says Abeysuriya. Rush Digital's core IP is IgnitionWare, a proprietary game engine technology.

For Rush Digital, North America, specifically San Francisco, is one of its most important markets. Earlier in the year, Abeysuriya spent time at the Kiwi Landing Pad on the NZTE Catapault programme meeting companies such as FarmVille creator Zynga.

"In San Francisco, we are mainly appealing to indie developers, small and medium-sized game studios," he says. About 20,000 developers converge on the city each year for the Game Developers Conference.

Rush Digital has been invited back to the city as one of 11 New Zealand tech businesses to participate in the NZTE Investment Technology Showcase at the Emirates Team New Zealand base during the America's Cup in September. Alongside companies including Eroad and Green Button, Rush Digital will present to wealthy potential investors.

Making it on this list of high performers, says Abeysuriya, is partly thanks to an introduction from Ray Thomson, the chairman of the Angel Association of New Zealand, who is a shareholder and on his board. Thomson is the father of one of Abeysuriya's university engineering friends, Jacob. Other Rush Digital board members are SmallWorlds co-founder Mitch Olson, also based in the Ironbank building, and Darryl Singh, head of 3D specialist PureDepth.

Abeysuriya, 26, says having offices internationally is a must for Rush Digital, starting with one in San Francisco. He is also interested in Korea and Japan for their large gaming markets, and Indonesia.

Abeysuriya will need to raise capital for that kind of expansion.

He says Rush Digital has been cashflow positive since 2011 and he expects turnover this year to be $500,000, although he says that is pessimistic with the growth he is seeing in the services arm of the business.

Abeysuriya is the majority shareholder, with Thomson and NZ Venture Investment Fund owning the rest.

"We have reached this point through collaboration and a focus on core engineering strengths," he says.

Top tip

For collaboration to be effective it has to be long term. Craig Boxall at Pixel Fusion and I have a long-term vision. We are not just making money, we are generating value.

Business achievement

Being one of the "old boys" of mobile, building a team, having shareholders and directors.

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