Stuart Cowdell - 5159
Stuart founded the telecommunications business, Digital Island in 2004 along with fellow Old Collegians, Blair Stuart and Glen Larsen, who collectively operate as the three company Directors.
Their rapidly expanding company has been recognised for its excellence by being placed for three consecutive years (2007, 2008 and 2009) in the Deloitte Fast50, winning the 'Fastest Growing Telco & ISP' category in 2007 and 'Fastest Growing Technology Business' in 2008. They were also placed in 2008 and 2009 at the Deloitte Technology Fast 500 Asia Pacific Awards and in 2010 were a finalist in the Vero Excellence in Business Support Awards. Since the company began, Stuart’s role as Commercial Manager has seen him manage the sales function of the business. He is now a current parent at Saint Kentigern Boys’ School where his son Max is enrolled.
Q. What was your career path after leaving the College?
I went straight on to university and completed a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Auckland. After that I chased a dream and went windsurfing in Hawaii before coming back to New Zealand to a job in technology where I worked for just over three years. Then, with my future wife, Roz, I left for the United Kingdom on my OE for about four years. Upon returning to New Zealand I worked at a company called Infinity Solutions as an Account Manager for two years, which has subsequently morphed into Fujitsu. After leaving that role,we started up Digital Island in 2004. We’re now heading up to our ten year anniversary in February next year.
Q. How did Digital Island evolve?
Blair was also in the UK while I was on my OE and we’d talked about starting up a business. Once we were both back in New Zealand we were delighted that Glen was also at the right stage of his career to start the business, so it all came together. We were always going to be in a technology business and identified a gap in the market for a business to business telecommunications company. With our backgrounds, we also knew a lot about the problems that businesses face, so we proceeded to build a business around that concept. Now after ten years, the company is still growing rapidly, at a rate of approximately 20-25% year-on-year and we have done since we began. We employ 40 people now and work out of a Green Star rated office in Grafton, Auckland. All three of us are still 100% involved in the business and still eat lunch together every day. It would be also be fair to say the Saint Kentigern Old Collegians network has been extremely valuable in terms of building the business.
Q. What are some of the most beneficial skills that the College taught you?
Economics with Mr Goldie was excellent! But it’s as much about what I would call peer group and trajectory, that’s what the school gives you, and is probably one of the best things about Saint Kentigern in terms of being exposed to many other likeminded people. I’m still very close friends with lots of the people I came through the College with. Curiously, most of us are doing similar things in terms of owning and building businesses.
Q. Where did the name ‘Digital Island’ come from?
Blair thought that one up. It’s actually quite difficult to name a technology company. If you have a go yourself, you’ll find that just about every name out there is taken. We felt it was a really good fit for New Zealand, being an island – Digital Island – it sounded great.
Q. How is Digital Island different to other technology companies?
The fact that it’s New Zealand owned, the Directors work in the business and we are a medium business ourselves so we understand the needs of medium businesses. We can also bring the best technology that’s available in New Zealand to market and we understand it and can explain it. So we make it simple for our customers to join Digital Island and over 95% choose to stay with us every year. We basically help companies stay ahead of technology, that’s the easiest way to explain it.
Q. Where to from here?
We’re going to continue to grow the business. With the massive growth in cloud based services,we basically have a runway opportunity at the moment to continue to grow at a very rapid rate. Our competitors keep making all their staff redundant and buying one another and generally keeping themselves busy with themselves, which represents a marvellous opportunity for us. We intend to be the business provider of choice in New Zealand.