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Tool maker weaves web of success

CREATING tools that allow people to build websites anywhere at anytime has paid off for Perth company Harvest Road.

The company recently won the commerce and business category in the inaugural WA Information Technology and Telecommun-ications awards.

It has also signed initial agreements with IT&T giants Sun Microsystems and NEC.

The Sun link will be used to penetrate the US market and NEC to enter Malaysia, Hong Kong and Japan.

The company has agreements with 6,500 schools, two virtual universities, 60 associations and 200 other corporate clients.

It has sold 1.25 million client licences and is targeting two million clients licences by June 2000, including all the major internet service providers in Australia and New Zealand.

Harvest Road managing director Grame Barty said the company had just finished its first round of venture capital and was due to list on the Australian Stock Exchange in September.

The company’s web publishing tools allow communities and special interest groups to own and operate their own web portals.

Currently, information about such groups is usually stored on other people’s web portals and can be out of date. The group or community often has little control over information circulated about them.

“Our tools allow multiple contributors from the community offering greater depth and accuracy of information,” Mr Barty said.

He said his company was leading the world in creating products that allowed web links from mobile phones.

“We’re removing the Internet from the desktop and focussing on creating a ‘webtop’ environment,” Mr Barty said.

A webtop environment will allow users to access the Internet from anywhere.

“The view at the end of the day is there are only two forms of access – a web TV type that has a bigger screen with better resolution and a keyboard – or the next generation of mobile phones.

“For many markets the expansion will be through mobile phones.

“The bandwidth to come through new generation mobile phones will be substantially greater than what’s available on a standard phone line.”

Mr Barty said he had always believed the Internet was a powerful communication medium – but it needed simpler mechanisms.

“At the moment the Internet is very complex. We developed something that makes it easier,” he said.

Mr Barty combined his telecommunications and intelligent networks background with what he felt the market wanted.

But the road to success was not assured.

Mr Barty said the three years of research and development were tough.

“The turning point came when I realised everything I owned was in the business,” he said. “In a funny way it made rejection easier to handle. We became known as a very persistent company.

“You definitely have to pick a niche. But while the details may change as you’re going along, you can’t change the fundamental of your idea.

“We’re at the coal face every day and have a good understanding of what people are needing and wanting.

“We’ve always proactively marketed the capabilities of our product as we’ve been educating people.”

Mr Barty said it was small companies that were making all the breakthroughs.

“They’re making all the innovations and leading the market and now they’re being noticed by the big companies,” he said.

“The big companies can’t create the innovations fast enough so now they’re choosing companies like mine. They’ve never done that before.”

Mr Barty said he had resisted all attempts to draw his company to the US or the eastern states.

“We have to halt the exodus to the US. It’s piracy by another name,” he said.

“If Nokia can dominate the mobile phone market from fifteen kilometres below the Arctic Circle, why can’t we run our business from Perth?”

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