Pingar secures Microsoft UK's blessing

Pingar secures Microsoft UK's blessing

Unlike many of its predecessors, one of New Zealand’s latest technology exports does not hail from the capital or the Big Smoke.

Instead, Pingar, which describes itself as a dynamic technology publishing company, is based in Tauranga.

But though the “brains” behind the company is based locally, its frontline is on the other side of the world in London, home of its global sales and marketing office.

And it is here that Pingar has secured its latest success – the company has been picked by Microsoft in the UK as one of five companies to join the vendor’s exclusive Start-Up Accelerator programme.

Managing director Peter Wren-Hilton says the scheme is only available to a small number of very high potential start-ups, adding Pingar was identified by Microsoft for its high-growth potential. “This was even more satisfying as we were chosen from the highly competitive UK market, where there are some of the most creative entrepreneurs in the world.”

The Start-Up Accelerator programme will provide Pingar with a range of support services from consulting services and early access to technologies, to software, licences, and channel and marketing support.

According to Wren-Hilton, what sets Pingar apart is the revolutionary contextual search technology it developed.

“It is becoming harder to find quality information on the internet – there is just so much information, both structured and unstructured. We thought there had to be a better way. Pingar uses a contextual search engine rather than keyword search. You type in a question; the search engine understands the question and seeks to answer it.”

Unlike a keyword search that presents its results as a list of hyperlinks, the Pingar technology finds and extracts the relevant information, which is compiled into a dynamic report that still contains links to the documents that are the source of the information.

“The platform aggregates the most valuable, subscription-only content on the internet, providing customised reports at no cost to users.”

Pingar targets content owners such as media organisations and universities with the aim of embedding the technology on their websites.

The technology also generates advertising revenue, which is shared with content owners, as it can be used to develop accurate demographic profiles of its registered users. “It helps organisations monetise their content. We believe there is more value in knowing details about the user, rather than the keywords they search on,” he says.

Wren-Hilton and co-founder John Beer, who lives in the UK, came up with the concept about two-and-a-half years ago.

The company has been working with Microsoft since its conception and has a close working relationship with the vendor’s emerging business team in Redmond and the UK.

This has resulted in its Smart Analytics technology being embedded in Microsoft’s Office 2007 suite in December last year with the release of Service Pack 1.

“It was out of that engagement that the invitation to join the Start-Up Accelerator programme came about,” says Wren-Hilton. “They identified us as being a start-up with technology that matches their road map. They see a role for Pingar within certain core Microsoft applications.”

The company is now in discussion with Microsoft about potentially embedding the Pingar technology in Sharepoint.

This has led Pingar to explore how its search technology can be applied to larger enterprises, says Wren-Hilton. “Finding information on many large companies’ intranets can be difficult, particularly if it is spread across multiple sites. We are becoming more interested in the enterprise model – that is potentially a huge market for us.”

Meanwhile, the company is ramping up its sales and marketing operation in the UK, where it already employs five people, including chief executive Timothy Burgess.

However, Pingar’s research and development base will remain in New Zealand, says Wren-Hilton.

The company only has three full-time staff locally, but contracts around eight developers, mostly from the University of Waikato and has a team of 10 developers in Bangalore.

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