The little town that could...

Most of us would have read "The Little Engine That Could" as children.  The small locomotive saying “I think I can, I think I can…” and eventually making it over the mountain. Even at a young age, the idea of the underdog succeeding resonates with us.

With five of the Rocketspark team living in the small New Zealand town of Cambridge (population 18,750), we have a strong bond with this little town that could. Cambridge has a track record of punching above its weight. New Zealand’s high performance rowing and cycling centres are based in Cambridge along with the olympic gold medallists that now call Cambridge home. Then there’s also the world-class conservation project of Sanctuary Mountain on our doorstep.

Rocketspark is a small software company that has big dreams as it targets international markets far beyond the edges of Cambridge. In February 2015, Rocketspark won the Xero Add-on innovation award at Xerocon in London. But globally, it is the little software company that could.

It’s because of this bond with Cambridge that we decided to enter three categories in the Waipa Business Awards (Waipa is an area that includes Cambridge and nearby town Te Awamutu). We are really pleased to be finalists in the Customer Service Excellence, Emerging Business Leader (Jeremy) and Employee of the Year (Greg) categories.

The nature of hosting websites that are on 24/7 and customers in different time zones can lead to some unusual working hours, so work/life balance is an important value of Rocketspark. Living in Cambridge gives the team ready access to wakeboarding, fly fishing, snowboarding, bush walks and surfing – anywhere from 10 minutes drive to a couple of hours. The village itself is styled much like a quaint English village with an Edwardian town hall, village green and main street with cafes and boutique shopping.

Rocketspark has steadily evolved based on customer feedback and being based in a small town provides ready access to direct feedback from a wide variety of clients within a concentrated area. You can’t beat meeting with people to hear what they think and we regularly get out from behind the computer screens to meet clients face to face in our home town.

A small town in the heart of New Zealand’s cow country is a far cry from Silicon Valley, London, Sydney, Auckland or Wellington – where you might expect to find a software startup. But Cambridge is no hick town. The attractive lifestyle and affordable housing is making Cambridge one of New Zealand’s fastest growing towns, attracting professionals from Auckland, Wellington and overseas. One of the benefits of basing a globally focussed business in Cambridge is that the comparatively small business community gives ready access to influencers. We were recently invited to meet with our local member of parliament, Louise Upston to tell her more about what we’re up to with Rocketspark. The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce is not only a client but also a great advocate for Rocketspark.  Being two hours drive from Auckland, an hour from Tauranga and thirty minutes from Hamilton, networking opportunities outside of Cambridge are also plentiful and the travel easily manageable.

Access to talented people is one of the challenges of fast growing software companies everywhere, so isn’t that a challenge in a small rural town? Not all of the Rocketspark team lives in Cambridge. Some of the team live in London, Te Awamutu and Hamilton and one in beautiful Wanaka, nestled in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. With digital communication tools like Skype, Slack, Google Hangouts and Basecamp, the team stays connected – even across time zones. So although we think Cambridge is great, if someone wants to work with Rocketspark they can live anywhere with fast internet.