The Ion Technologies team: Nick Lironi-Irvine, Jamie Penney and Phillip Hutchings
In this interview series, we get to know our co-operative members. Today we talk with Ion Technologies founder Jamie Penney about the business and why they chose to establish a co-operative.
Founded in 2017, Ion Technologies is a Bay of Islands-based technology company that specialises in delivering a wide range of services including developing data dashboards that help businesses see how they are performing at a glance as well as creating mobile apps.
Today Ion has a team of three co-operative members, who work with clients throughout New Zealand and the world. The three members (Jamie Penney, Nick Lironi-Irvine and Phillip Hutchings) are all software developers who work remotely.
1. Jamie – why did you decide to create a co-operative?
I wanted to build a business, but I didn't want to exploit the work of others in the process. I have worked for a long time in the tech industry and I’ve seen how in this sector, and others, the benefits and rewards from the value created are not equally shared.
That wasn’t the sort of business I wanted to go into. I began Ion Technologies at little risk to myself off the back of a contract job and saw that it could be a good way to organise a larger team of contract workers together in a way that benefitted everyone.
2. Tell us about your journey so far?
Before I started Ion, I knew I wanted to move back home to the Bay of Islands and enjoy the lifestyle.
It was important to find people who had complementary skills and who could work remotely to join the business. After some time, I convinced Philip to join me. I sold him half of the company in January 2018 for the face value of my shares (an entire $60), and we made a deal to convert the company to a proper co-operative once we had our third partner.
Then Nick joined us last year so our co-operative journey began.
We are really enjoying it and making more money now, which is pretty cool. Together, we are able to offer a much broader service and increased value to our clients.
3. Where did you go to access information on the co-operative business model?
I had listened to some of Richard Wolff's work on You Tube about co-operatives and read up about some famous examples like Mondragon in Spain. I also listened to podcasts that talked about the benefits of worker co-operatives. For specifics, I looked at the Cooperative Business New Zealand website and read some of the information your team had put together.
4. Who did you go to for specialist advice on setting up the business?
I originally started the business as a limited liability company, and converted the entity to a co-operative using Buddle Findlay's help on recommendation from CBNZ.
One of the good things about being a co-operative is that it is easy to bring new people in. Bringing Phillip on board initially took accounting and legal resources, but now members can enter and exit the co-operative without either.
5. What has been your greatest challenge to date?
Our biggest hurdle so far was when one of our members had a significant life event and wasn't able to contribute to the co-op at full strength for a few months. We had set aside money to cover something like this and in the end were able to support them through that hard time and they're back contributing more than before now.
6. What has been your greatest learning that you can share with others looking to establish a co-operative?
Communication is absolutely key to making this model work. If you can't communicate openly and transparently between members, then you will struggle to keep the business working.
It is a really high trust environment and we have regular meetings to talk about our expectations and make sure we are on the same page.
7. What is the future vision for Ion Technologies?
At the moment, our income is all generated from the hours we sell.
Our next step is looking to develop our own products. That will be more challenging and a longer road but we are hoping to get a few more people on board in future, which will free up more time for us to spend on our own projects.
8. Where can our members go to find out more about your services?
Our website is https://iontech.nz and it gives an introduction to what we offer.
We work with new and existing businesses to build software products and tools. We have extensive experience with start-up companies and can help get your product off the ground. We can also help with maintaining or improving an existing piece of software that your company has built. We have done extensive work with data gathering, reporting, and business process automation work. If you have your own development team, our senior software engineers can work with you in a consulting capacity, sharing their wealth of knowledge working at some of New Zealand’s biggest software companies and start-ups with your team.