The lakes and mountains of Queenstown weren’t the only objects of beauty that tempted Robert Clarkson to call the town home.
Clarkson also met his partner there. And he started his own computer repair, technology and website design business. He also teaches web design at the Southern Institute of Technology College.
Clarkson, like a lot of other people in IT today, caught the tech-bug as a youngster with his first PC. What is unusual, perhaps, is that he took his PC apart to satisfy his curiosity, a habit that eventually lead to the building and repair of computers for family and friends.
As a student he earned a Master of Science in systems design for internet applications, on top of his BSc in computer science. He cut his teeth professionally in web and application development, and Facebook application development for various companies before landing in Queenstown back in 2008.
Clarkson hails from Darlington in the UK and settled in Queenstown on an extended trip down under.
“I went to Australia for a year first, and then came through New Zealand,” he says. “I didn’t really have any intention to stay but I got to Queenstown and thought ‘shit this place is beautiful’ and I’ve been here since.”
Cue girflriend and one global financial crisis, and presto: you get a Queenstownian businessman there to stay.
“I met my girlfriend in Queenstown. She’s actually from Germany originally,” says Clarkson. “When the financial crisis hit, I don’t know what made me do it, but I just decided I’d start my own business.”
Clarkson admits this was a risky move.
“I’d never run a business before in England either so I didn’t really know what I was doing and that didn’t help really. For pretty much a year and a half I was very poor. Probably as poor as I‘ve ever been,” he says. “But I’d been used to it because I was a student for four years in the UK. It was unpleasant but thankfully I can say I’ve now just been and gained enough experience in business and gained enough clients to be doing pretty well. And I’m doing pretty well for myself now so it’s good.”
PC Mechanic operates on a basic break-fix model, while Clarkson provides web design and teaching on the side.
He says teaching at SIT “keeps me ticking over”.
“When I came over, [New Zealand] was just a little bit behind the UK in terms of broadband adoption,” says Clarkson. “However I’ve noticed that infrastructure-wise the government is doing really well over here in terms of being online. When I came here I noticed that a lot of government stuff was already online. You've got a little bit more agility it seems.”
Clarkson describes himself as a personable guy with a lot of patience for the technology layman and a keen footballer, runner, surfer and snowboarder making the very most of what Queenstown has to offer.
His website building includes PHP and object orientation. “It’s the best way you can program because it encapsulates the functions to do with a particular object inside that object. It’s a lot neater.”
Clarkson says he also likes to use the New Zealand made CMS system Silverstripe. “I think it’s brilliant. The worst thing about it is the lack of documentation. In my opinion Silverstripe is a really good idea but it’s not been implemented too well. But the actual idea behind it is brilliant absolutely brilliant.”
Clarkson says the future of computing can change the way we organise our society in a huge way. “I think we could see more players in the cloud market. I think hopefully I’d like to see a revolution in terms of government. I’d like to see peer to peer open source government so we can see who’s sponsoring which bills and I’d like to vote through my computer on what government is doing and their direction.”
Clarkson is one of the first New Zealand-based businesses to accept the payment method called Bitcoin. “I can send money to anyone in an email, ping it’s done, in your Bitcoin wallet. It’s Brilliant. I’ve actually put some of my savings into Bitcoin, I’ve speculated because I think they’re going to be big.”
“People can just sign up for stuff and without realising it they’re actually changing the way we work. Things like peer to peer in terms of the records labels and email in terms of sending people letters. It [the internet] is changing the way we do things. And the best thing about it is that you can’t stop it from happening. You can’t make a decentralised currency like Bitcoin, illegal.”