Wanaka best spot: travel app developer

HerePin co-developer Mark Bardi spent about two months in Wanaka last year working on the...
HerePin co-developer Mark Bardi spent about two months in Wanaka last year working on the application. Photo: Tim Miller.
The co-founder of a new travel application says Wanaka was the perfect place to help get the technology up and running.

HerePin is a free messaging app for  cellphones, which aims to help connect travellers with others nearby.

Co-developer Mark Bardi spent about two months in Wanaka last year conducting surveys with backpackers and working on the development of the app.

Mr Bardi worked from The Cell shared working space located in the former police station in Ardmore St.

"The experience working was by far the best environment I have been in, in terms of shared working spaces."

Working alongside other entrepreneurs and being able to talk through ideas and receive feedback were some of the advantages of working at The Cell, he said.

Mr Bardi, who is originally from the United States, said the idea for the app came to him during a 500-day solo backpacking trip around the world, without the use of technology.

Hostel lounges and common areas were full of other travellers but instead of making new friends they were more interested in  sharing their experiences by phone with friends thousands of kilometres away, he said.

Wanaka turned out to be the perfect place to research the app as  backpackers arrived in the town every day, Mr Bardi said.

Queenstown was his first choice, but he decided to base himself in Wanaka after finding he couldn’t get the responses he wanted from travellers there.

"Wanaka was a bit more relaxed for backpackers and they weren’t overwhelmed like they were in Queenstown."

Now based in Auckland, Mr Bardi and the app’s other developers, Greg Elisara and Michelle Copeland, hope to expand the business into Australia and Asia.

The app had about 5000 users,  about 80% of whom were Kiwis, Mr Bardi said.

Nearly 100 new users were signing up each day, he said.

About $250,000 had already been invested in the company.

The only thing he  regretted  was not staying longer in Wanaka.

Established last year, The Cell is run by the Centre of Unique Business Evolution (CUBE) in Wanaka.

CUBE business development manager Jason Watkins said besides office space, The Cell offered the chance to work around a variety of people involved in different industries, such as manufacturing jewellers, marketers, IT people and media production people.

One of the advantages of working around such a diverse range of people was ideas could be shared "over the water cooler", Mr Watkins said.

"Often it’s just ideas but sometimes you can find one or two other members of The Cell working on each other’s projects."

The Cell had 22 working spaces,  about half of which were taken by long-term occupants, Mr Watkins said.


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