Chris Thompson – Head of Next Generation Marketing, Telecom

“Everyone who works in the Internet area is very good at thinking about the future and trying to predict what will come out. When Xtra started up, people said, “In the future everyone will be connected to the Internet and be buying stuff off the Internet so you’ll need e-commerce and shopping malls and content”. There was a logical sequence of things that everyone thought would have to be there. What people got wrong was the timing of those events – it’s probably a 20-year journey not a 20-day journey. The killer application was email and pretty much still is for most people these days. You take it for granted now! If you wanted to communicate with somebody in another city you could ring them, well that cost money and they had to be at home, or you could write them a letter and that took days. You could send them a fax but they might not have had a machine. Email was just absolutely revolutionary. So that was the application which drove an option. We have lots of theories about all these other things. In fact, we had teams of people working on e-commerce engines, portals and advertising sales and all of these kinds of businesses that would be ancillary. But we got the timing of those completely wrong generally because we were way ahead of the market. Investing in all those areas but years ahead. So we simplified the business over time as we learnt that there weren’t pots of gold in e-commerce. We had a very big website presence with lots of people writing content. There wasn’t lots of local content in New Zealand and we were trying to put some of that right, not because we were a content company, but because we were an Internet company. We believed in the Internet and believed that stuff needed to be there. We ran that unprofitable content side for a long time because we thought it was part of the offering and initially it was a really good thing for people first getting online. To a lot of people they said that they knew they were on the Internet when they saw the Xtra homepage come up...”


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