Optimal Usability started in 2003 as part of Wellington’s Creative HQ and is now New Zealand’s leading usability consultancy. Here’s a quick look at how we got here.
Sam Ng and Trent Mankelow meet at Unisys as part of the graduate recruitment programme. They work on some pretty interesting telephony stuff and also flat together.
Sam and Trent start Unlimited Potential – a young ICT professionals network. That goes well so they decide to start a usability company, pay a grad student $500 to whip up a brand, and get their first couple of gigs.
Optimal Usability is official. Sam and Trent vie for elbow room on their shared desk at the
Creative HQ business incubator in Victoria St. A lot of caffeine goes down. They get around town and have coffees with anyone who will listen.
Things really start to roll. All the early leg work has helped make Optimal Usability synonymous with usability in New Zealand. We hire our first employee, Nikki. Poor thing has to start with an e-govt review of 120 websites. We move into new premises on Marion St, also popular with Wellington’s ‘ladies of the night’. And finally get our own desks.
Boom. We win Start Up of the Year, which may have something to do with the 971% growth on last year. It’s a year of exploration and branching out. We diversify the technology we test to include IVR systems, desks, mobile handsets and out of the box experiences. Our team grows from three to eight. Trent gets itchy feet and heads up to Auckland to set up an office, with the help of a NZTE grant and a bit more incubation from the Ice House.
We are twice as busy as the year before and Shailesh Manga joins us – finally giving in to
18 months’ hard wooing. And so begins our tradition of employing bright sparks we already know and love. We leave Creative HQ – we’ve incubated! – and move to our current building in Cuba Street.
In October the floor we are renting comes up for sale, and shortly after another branch of the Optimal family company materialises: Optimal Property Ltd. We re-brand and move into new offices in Auckland.
Trent has had a guts full of the traffic and heads back to Wellington. Shailesh takes the reins in Auckland, we win a couple more awards, and one lazy weekend Sam creates a pretty spectacular piece of software for one of our banking clients. Quickly followed by the launch of Optimal Workshop. We were already eyeing up Australia when Susan Wolfe fortuitously approaches us about collaborating on some work across the ditch.
Optimal Experience is established. We win a couple of Deloitte Fast 50 awards and our team continues to grow with more great people coming on board.
Optimal Workshop has 5,000 users from around the world. And in Oz, Susan enjoys Optimal Experience so much she becomes the majority shareholder.
These days it’s a far cry from two people sharing a desk. We now have 30 people across all three companies and our client list is a who’s who of corporate New Zealand, many of whom have been with us for years.
We’re still learning, still diversifying, and chipping away daily at our vision of helping New Zealand organisations to provide world-class customer experiences.