In the time it’s taken for a tour of Mata Digital’s spacious, airy offices and then stroll up the street to grab a coffee, it’s easy to see entrepreneur Tim Hampton’s passion not only for his businesses, but for Matamata as well.
The walk to get coffee is peppered with friendly greetings from locals and commentary from Tim about his beloved home town.
Tim (pictured standing, with his team) is passionate. He’s civic-minded. Thoughtful and visionary. And at just 22, he owns three thriving businesses that he’s chosen to establish and build in Matamata.
It’s hard not to be inspired by Tim’s enthusiasm. Not just for his businesses and for his team, but for the potential that he sees for Matamata to continue to grow and thrive in years to come.
The thing is, Tim’s three businesses have grown a lot since he established the first one as a 15-year-old at Matamata College. Again, he needs more staff. Four, in fact, in the next few months. Finding the right people isn’t the problem. Housing them is.
“You’ve got 20, 30 people turning up to view a rental property in Matamata,” Tim said. “There just isn’t enough housing here.”
That makes it difficult for people looking to relocate to Matamata for a job. There are a few houses for sale, but not everyone’s able or wants to buy a home straight away.
Also relevant is the common denominator within the teams at Tim’s three businesses – they are all millennials. Their average age is 26. Understandably, landlords will rent to a family instead of a young, single person. So, one of the things Tim’s working through in his mind right now is how to accommodate his new team members.
There’s no doubt he’ll work it out. He’s a solutions man. After all, that’s what he’s built three businesses around.
Career Central was Tim’s first foray into business.
In 2012, Sue Hancock, a new careers advisor at Matamata College, was struggling to keep track of student information. The previous careers advisor had kept paper notes; Sue thought there had to be a better way.
Sue approached Tim, then a Year 12 student. He’d just written a sports management system for the school and she asked him if he’d also be able to make a database to record student career ideas and plans.
Fast forward six years, and Tim has graduated from Waikato University with a computer science degree. He still works with Sue on Career Central, which has now grown from a simple Filemaker programme to a comprehensive web-based career management system that has been adopted by more than 100 schools in New Zealand.
“That’s about 105,000 students using the programme – or, about 25 per cent of our New Zealand school market,” Tim said.
And this year they’ve also begun a “test flight” in 10 schools in Brisbane, Australia
Tim has always been interested in computers and knew he’d end up working in that space somehow. From the age of four he loved all things Apple, so friends and family always knew to buy him Apple merchandise – cords, plugs, paraphernalia – for birthdays and Christmas.
Mata Digital was born when Tim was at university. He was approached by the local RSA; they needed a new website. Tim learnt to build one on WordPress. Since then, the company has grown organically; Mata Digital has built dozens of websites and manages updates and content for about 200 websites each month.
And out of Mata Digital was another spin-off company – LuminateOne – for the work that didn’t quite fit into Mata Digital’s remit of website builds and Google AdWords
LuminateOne specialises in custom software development. Tim met fellow LuminateOne director Nick Humphries at university when they were working together at the university’s cyber security lab. Both saw a need for businesses to have access to better cloud solutions and LuminateOne was the result.
Now the build everything from apps to complex data processing solutions for stock and logistical systems.
The three businesses fit nicely together; there are natural cross-overs and the close-knit, blended teams collaborate on projects regularly.
While there is loyalty from a local customer base, Tim said about half of their customers are based in Hamilton. Some are further afield, and others have global reach – which Tim’s team are rightly proud to have helped with.
LuminateOne worked closely with A Little Bit Yummy (ALBY) founder Alana Scott. ALBY’s website provides low FODMAP recipes and resources approved by dietitians to help people dealing with issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, coeliac disease and food allergies.
“We built the site and platform for Alana and now ALBY has huge global traffic – around 1.3 million visitors per year,” Tim said.
The work is keeping the team of 16 full- and 2 part-timers busy. Tim needs to add another four in the next couple of months. Which brings us back to his conundrum about where to accommodate those people.
Tim has much to say about the decisions being made by local government, particularly regarding housing and the opportunities that he can see for better capitalising on the area’s tourism industry.
He’d like to see the average visitor nights increase. He’d like to see tourists stay longer in the district before they get on buses and head to Rotorua. And that may well happen thanks to a $1.7million funding injection last year from the Provincial Growth Fund.
Two PGF applications made by Matamata-Piako District Council were approved; $900,000 towards a feasibility study and business investment case for a Te Aroha tourism precinct and $800,000 towards a feasibility study for a Waharoa industry hub.
The announcement was made at the time by the Prime Minister who said the investment towards initial work on projects could help unlock huge potential in the area and capitalise on strong forecast growth in the Waikato.
“The Matamata-Piako District is well placed to build on its strategic location between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga – the so-called Golden Triangle. The completion of the Waikato Expressway in 2020 will further enhance transport linkages across the region and local people are keen to build on this opportunity,” said Ardern.
Parking in the township is at a premium. So is office space. They don't have a Chamber of Commerce, says Tim, and he thinks there needs to be a voice for business.
He says population growth predictions for Matamata for the next few years are fairly static, figures backed up by a May 2017 report that outlined growth – or decline – in resident and dwelling numbers.
“We need to ask what a measure of success looks like. We need to look at how we’re planning for the future, for the next 10, 20, 30-plus years, so that businesses can grow and flourish, and so we create employment and contribute to the area’s prosperity.”
There are constraints, but Tim sees the potential and you can be sure he'll be part of the district's growth. He is passionate about the Matamata-Piako area and wants to see it continue to flourish.
Matamata has served Tim well and he has no intention of moving the business elsewhere. Opening a branch in Hamilton, maybe, but Matamata is HQ. And he’s giving back to the community that’s supported him.
“We’ve started running a free coding club that caters for kids aged 9-13 from around the district.” And it’s incredible to watch the kids – even the younger ones – pick up coding so quickly.
“They might be struggling with reading or writing, but they can create lines of code.”
He’s also working on becoming a Living Wage Employer.
It was no surprise that the Prime Minister paid Tim and the teams a visit when she was in town late last year when she made the PGF announcement. Invited to Matamata by the local BNI group, the PM was given a tour of LuminateOne and Mata Digital after the BNI group suggested Tim was a shining example of a young entrepreneur helping to put small-town New Zealand on the map.
The email from Tim’s friend and staff member Stephanie Kingsford to The Waikato Story suggesting Tim may make for an interesting story sums Tim up succinctly: “He is the epitome of ‘get s**t done’. P.s. he is also super humble.” That he is.