It's a race for monetising out of free services, says Steve Simms

It's a race for monetising out of free services, says Steve Simms

Tomizone co-founder says he makes good income of offering free services

Executive director and co-founder of wireless service provider Tomizone, Steve Simms, says business is growing and the company is now preparing to launch its first channel strategy in the ANZ region, since the company's foundation in 2006.

“We are quietly working on a reseller model for the ANZ region,” he says, adding that the company has also been keeping busy with “a couple of other products in the pipeline” and a focus on expanding into China.

“We are engaging with vendors. They put our product behind their product offering,” Simms explains. “It is something that is still new for us. We will have a solid channel strategy in the coming months.”

Tomizone has a strong relationship with D-Link, as well as other vendors such as Ruckus and Cisco. The service provider also works closely with distributor Connector Systems. “From a service layer point of view, our product is very portable,” says Simms.

Since it was founded almost six years ago, New Zealand-based Tomizone has grown to be the largest provider of wi-fi services in Australasia, with core product streams in areas such as hospitality, transport and consumer wi-fi, along with metro wi-fi zones.

“Business is going well. We survived the recession and a bunch of technology changes,” says Simms. “Growth is not going to stop. We’ll see Tomizone 3.0.”

Simms believes the country is “still quite fragmented in terms of ideas and how things should happen,” at least as far as provision of wi-fi services is concerned. He says that a lot of segments, such as hospitality, continue to struggle with the idea of free wi-fi services provided to customers but also believes that it is “a race for free, but to monetise free, something that Google has been doing for years”.

“We make good income out of offering free services,” Simms adds. “Monetising of free is where a lot of the international markets are heading.”

“We have more data than ever, more tablets - all of this is helping the business. The growth in data is not shy. Also, the growth of free wi-fi in transport systems is just nuts.”

Tomizone is also involved in a number of council initiatives, currently at various stages of development, according to Simms. “We’re a lot ahead in New Zealand. We’ve proved that Auckland city can be a fully integrated wi-fi system. Australia is looking at that and wanting to do the same. We are going to see some interesting things happening,” he says.

Simms started his working life at McDonalds as a management cadet, before getting a broadcasting degree at Christchurch University. He spent a redundancy cheque from Radio New Zealand on setting up an IVR company that provided automated 0800 and 0900 services and competitions. “This company allowed me to make the first pre-paid mobile phone in 1996 on the Telemedia platform along with Phone Card Services. Telstra New Zealand then acquired the company that acquired me and I worked my way way into management there and then at Telecom and Vodafone,” he recalls.

He started Reach Wireless with Chris Jones in 2003 before joining forces with Phillip Joe to start Tomizone. “The business of wi-fi is going through a lot of growth and consolidation,” he says. “Business is in an exciting phase right now. Our biggest opportunities are in exporting licensed ideas along with bits and bytes that are only just beginning.”


Where do you live now and where did you grow up and have lived before?

Auckland. Originally from Sydney in the 1970s but brought up in Papatoetoe.

Are you married? Kids?

I am married to Carol with two early teen kids.

What are you currently reading?

When I get a chance - Stephen King, 11/22/63

Who is your mentor? Or someone you admire professionally?

Admiration for change culture leaders; Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and  Steve Wozniak. They have (or had) no boundaries with their ideas and just did it. Locally, I admire Craig Heatley as he is one of New Zealand's quietly successful entrepreneurs - I met when I worked at Rainbows End as a teenager.

What would be the best advice you could give to someone in the same business as you?

Think global, get smart people with large networks working with you and have a lot of patience and discipline.

When you were little, what did you think you would be when you grew up?

An airline pilot.

Do you have any favourite sports?

Rugby, Segway polo, motorsport.

What's your favourite gadget?

My iPad.

Your favourite website?

What's your drink of choice?

Strong flat white or any boutique Pilsener beer.

What do you think has been the single most important advance in technology?

The iPhone.

If you weren't in technology, what would you be doing?

Flying planes or fixing them.

Could you describe what a typical day in your role involves?

Consolidate the day before into an action list, set up the current actions, check with team and push sales all day.

What do you consider to be your major strengths or skills?

Creativity with the ability to articulate the complex in a plain English way. Selling.

How do you keep the work/leisure balance?

Weekends are sacred time to spend with family and friends (thank goodness for the iPhone).

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