Hard work behind success

Nick Reekie (left) and James Alder, co-founders of online discount booking company Bookme. Photo by Stephen Hawkes.
Nick Reekie (left) and James Alder, co-founders of online discount booking company Bookme. Photo by Stephen Hawkes.
Queenstown-based online discount booking company Bookme was recently named the highest-ranked New Zealand company in this year's Deloitte technology Fast 500 Asia Pacific index. Business reporter Sally Rae speaks to co-founder James Alder about the company's success.

When James Alder discovered Bookme had been ranked 18th in the Fast 500 Asia Pacific index, he was ''blown away''.

He attributed the company's success to a lot of hard work and long hours and said it stood on the index - with growth of 1359.4% - as a ''real grassroots Kiwi company''.

It had evolved from an idea and was developed on a shoe-string budget. It was self-funded, with no big investor involved, and involved pulling various talents together, something Mr Alder is very proud of.

The recognition from Deloitte was huge, as the Bookme team was ''head down, tail up'' every day and did not often get the chance to celebrate that they had come a ''hell of a long way'' since the company's launch three years ago, he said.

It was also an opportunity to reflect on the people who had helped them along the way. Bookme was founded by Mr Alder, Nick Reekie and Logan Murray and launched in November 2010.

Mr Alder (32), who majored in marketing at the University of Otago, had always been keen to do something entrepreneurial.

After graduating, he had decided Queenstown was a ''fun place'' to head.

The idea of Bookme was born over a period of time, as he spent his evenings writing notes, on the computer and working out how such an online system might work.

There had been ''heaps of challenges'' along the way, familiar to any new small business. ''When you're shaking the tree and changing the way things are traditionally done, you do meet a lot of opposition,'' he said.

Mr Alder laughed at how the trio thought their first day going live would be ''huge'', yet no bookings were received until the third day. It was a ''very nervous'' wait, he admitted.

But since then business had grown ''pretty rapidly'', mainly due to a lot of hard work and long hours.

Bookme was developed from within the New Zealand tourism industry by a team with a keen understanding of the challenges facing activity and attraction operators, Mr Alder said.

It worked effectively for the activity operator because they were selling downtime at a discount, out of peak demand times.

''On Bookme, the operator still sells his peak demand times at full price, and he can choose to discount the few seats he has left much closer to the time of the experience. ''It is a better model for the operator and therefore for the consumer, because the operator can give a deeper discount by being accurate with timing.

''A coupon-based system means operators often have to sell their peak demand times at discount and this is a very blunt instrument.

''The Bookme concept is a much sharper and more effective tool to manage sales accurately at the optimum margins, and it generates full-price bookings alongside the discount spaces sold,'' he said.

The company comprised six employees, including the three co-founders, and they worked well together as they all believed in a common goal, he said.

The possibility of ''taking it out there to the world'' - certainly to Australia and possibly some other overseas markets - was exciting.

Queenstown had been a great environment in which to found a start-up, as it was small but very intense, with a real business environment, he said.

-sally.rae@odt.co.nz

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