Based in the little known but thriving tech hub of Palmerston North, Umajin has created a mobile app development solution which enables marketers, designers and developers to quickly and simply create native apps for Windows, OSX, iOS. Umajin sells its product throughout the world and its customers include companies like Lexus, Mastercard, Intel, Dreamworks, Vodafone and IBM.
Russell Brebner, Chief Product Officer, spoke to us about Umajin’s journey so far and how they’ve found working with Simmonds Stewart.
Brothers David and Russell Brebner are the driving force behind Umajin. They started the business that was to become Umajin in 1996, while David was still a student at Massey University. David, the CEO, is the driver of Umajin’s technical innovation and its commercial success, whilst Russell is the Chief Product Officer and the person that keeps the business on course.
Umajin has been delivering innovative software IP and services within New Zealand and overseas for 20 years. In the beginning, due to its capability in 3D, gesture and multi touch, Umajin (or Unlimited Realities as it then was) was selected by Dell to create the Dell Stage for all Dell consumer machines in 2009.
Umajin then transitioned to a product company, and its software engine has now been used to deliver over 30 million apps across 120 countries through international corporate partners including Dell, Acer, ASUS, Sony, Intel and HP.
In 2015, Umajin raised substantial capital from US investors and flipped to the US. The Umajin head office is now in Boston and the company is incorporated in Delaware, while the company’s R&D continues to be run from its New Zealand subsidiary in Palmerston North.
Russell says that one of Umajin’s greatest challenges has been finding the level of capital they needed to continue to grow. Russell describes hitting a brick wall in trying to raise capital in New Zealand, leading Umajin to look further afield.
Russell says that nothing was easy when raising capital – and when raising a larger amount of capital from overseas investors while flipping the company to the US, the whole process became a lot more complex. They feel fortunate to have come out the other side with a significant investment and a strong business.
In terms of ongoing challenges, Umajin must deal with the complexities and logistics of a US headquartered holding company, US directors and US investors. Russell has had to quickly come to terms with the administrative and regulatory complexity of running a US company. And David continues to travel to the US, to Canada and to the UK, rarely being found back home in Palmerston North.
Umajin first used Simmonds Stewart in 2006, not long after we first opened our doors for business. Since then, we have advised Umajin along its growth journey, through reorganisations, capital raises, share schemes and complex commercial deals.
Russell values Simmonds Stewart’s commercial focus. He says Simmonds Stewart understands what is most appropriate for each stage of the business and takes a practical and pragmatic approach. Russell believes that this same approach to preparing documentation has stood Umajin in good stead for getting deals done quickly and efficiently. He notes that Simmonds Stewart put a great structure in place before we began the next step of our capital raising – that ground work made the process much easier.
Umajin and Simmonds Stewart have worked closely over the years and Russell has appreciated having Simmonds Stewart as part of their extended business team, as well as a commercial and legal sounding board. Russell also highlights the business and investor connections that Simmonds Stewart partner Andrew Simmonds provided to Umajin in the early days of its business – some of these have been critical to our success.
Russell has worked with a number of law firms in the past. He says that it’s all very well getting advice on the law but Simmonds Stewart’s advice also crosses over to discerning business advice and a strong drive to get the required results. Simmonds Stewart provides the colour that you need to understand what is driving and motivating the various parties.
Umajin’s innovation has been recognised not just in New Zealand (they are past winners at the NZ Hi Tech awards) but internationally by winning significant contracts with major international players and achieving substantial investment from US investors.
Umajin have been unrelenting in their pursuit of technical innovation and have retained their vision in the face of many challenges. Simmonds Stewart is intrigued to see what the next 20 years have in store for such a resilient and ambitious company.
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