Give it some thought, and you’d have to say that thinking is the ultimate weightless export.
It is exactly what New Zealand’s been encouraged to ‘produce’ as well as milk, meat, wood and scenery that have been our, forgive the pun, bread and butter for the past 100 years.
And doing exactly that, while slipping under the mainstream radar, is Auckland-based company, Atlantis Healthcare.
It turns over tens of millions a dollars a year in helping people stay healthier – in particular through medicines adherence solutions; or in many cases, assisting them to stick to their prescriptions.
The 15 year old company’s skills are in designing personalised messages to help drive behavioural change, particularly in diseases such as diabetes, obesity and asthma. These afflictions cost health programmes around the world billions of dollars a year, and non-adherence to prescriptions and lifestyle changes is a burgeoning charge on health systems.
Atlantis has picked up numerous international awards for its programmes, and last August was the recipient of New Zealand’s largest single venture capital investment. It received a $20 capital injection from London-based White Cloud Capital for a 50% share in the private company.
Part of this investment has been targeted at growth in Europe, centred on growing its London Global Solutions Team
This is part of a British contingent that has grown to 40 people from 15 less than a year ago - spearheading its European and Middle East growth plans.
Atlantis follows the dictum of niche/niche growth (concentrating on the adherence or more specifically the non-adherence part of the medical market), and under that banner its chief executive Michael Whittaker it has the world's largest health psychology team under one banner.
The company is also targeting growth in North America in the next 12 months, and is continuing part of its strategy of working alongside major pharmaceutical companies to help people stick to their prescriptions. The New England Health Institute puts the cost of non-adherence to the US healthcare system at $290 billion a year, which is about 13% of the total budget.
In doing so Atlantis is allocated part of the pharma budget that would normally be allocated to marketing activities, and working with a range of industry stakeholders including healthcare providers, government agencies and insurance companies.
The individualized patient programmes use the latest developments in health psychology, along with as sound a possible understanding of each person's thoughts and beliefs regarding their health and the treatment's that best for them Whittaker says.
As a private company, Whittaker has no requirement to reveal Atlantis' revenues. However, he says it is in the realm of tens of millions of dollars a year - a figure obviously set to grow strongly in line with the 30-40% annual growth achieved over the past few years.
Such growth, and its core business is also what attracted venture capitalists White Cloud to Atlantis - though it has been a two-way thing according to Whittaker.
"It operates differently to many private equity companies, and is family based," he says. "it is made of a dozen or so large, wealthy families over a number of generations and covers nearly every continent. We liked them from the beginning, and their ethos resonated with us. They don't have the pressure of wanting a two or three year build and flick."
Whittaker says White Cloud offered Atlantis, with no pun intended, patient money, as well as breadth, depth and stability of funding and other contacts.
What sticK particularly likes about Atlantis' business model, is its core is thinking about thinking - in particular other peoples' thinking. By helping people achieve better health by encouraging and motivating them to stick to their prescriptions and lifestyle changes, everyone wins.
Atlantis are leaders in their market, and appear to have partnered well to grow its business. For many of the world's medical markets, an analogy could be that of the cavalry coming over the hill to really help out just when you need it.
But there's not a horse in sight - just brains.