Photo: He’s so ‘appy! Nic Gibbens wearing Apple Watch and office mascot Pootle.
When the Apple Watch was launched in September 2014, British artist Bansky released a controversial drawing of an iPhone with roots that strangle and sink into the hand holding it.
But while Bansky might be sceptical of Apple's newest product, others aren't: the Apple Watch has only been available in the US since April and already three million people have signed up for the wearable technology.
Kiwi Nic Gibbens is one of that three million. The chief executive of Wellington mobile app company PaperKite bought one of the watches in New York a few months ago. He's a total convert to the device which functions as a phone but also allows users to track their exercise and remind them of events with a flick of the wrist.
“It's all about bite-sized interactions that are more easily accessible than having to whip out your phone,” says Gibbens. “The basic premise is that you get ten second pieces of information, such as the weather or directions, without having to use your other devices.”
He's particularly enamoured of the watch's fitness tracker; it’s reminders to take screen breaks and the fact that with one touch, you can order an Uber cab.
“It tells you how far away the cab is and when it has arrived. I've found the watch incredibly convenient.”
But then Gibbens would say that; the company he founded in 2010 was one of only 25 globally who were invited to Apple HQ in Cupertio, California to develop apps for the watch.
Gibbens, who has developed a good relationship with Apple's Sydney office, says the day the watch was launched he got a call from Sydney asking what he could do with it.
“They said ‘you've got until the end of the day to come up with three apps’, which was a challenge but that's what PaperKite is about.”
The tech giant ended up selecting two of the company's apps for development – the All Blacks Rugby Union app, which allows users to quickly check scores and get game updates, and another app called Realifex.
“We developed Realifex for an Australian client who wanted to help people make life decisions. It acts like a live journal that people can talk into about their lives and the impact of things on their lives.”
British-born Gibbens is particularly proud of the fact the two PaperKite-developed apps were used on the front page at the Apple Watch US launch in April.
“It's an endorsement of what we're doing in Wellington; of the technical expertise, creativity and user-centric approach that we bring to the table.”
Gibbens, who spent a week at Apple HQ developing the apps earlier this year, describes the experience as “amazing”.
“Being at Apple was the Holy Grail. The resources they have are incredible. We learnt a huge amount and have brought those learnings back to Wellington.”
As well as Apple, PaperKite is currently working with global clients including BP, Randstad and AMPM, a US-based convenience store.
“Our app for AMPM is currently getting 1,000 downloads a day, which is crazy,” says Gibbens.
Growing up with technology
Nowadays, Gibbens is having to turn down work, a sharp contrast to four years ago when he started the company from his spare bedroom with $20,000 of savings. He now has 13 staff, and he's planning to grow the business to 20 staff by the end of the year.
Gibbens, it turns out, is living proof of the adage that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
His father is Barnaby Gibbens, one of the ‘fathers of IT’ who received an OBE for his services to the industry.
“I grew up with technology and can remember my father having one of the first mobile phones, which was the size of a briefcase and had a battery that lasted 15 minutes!” says Gibbens. “But I tried to avoid IT and did a degree in English and then an MBA.”
Genetics eventually won out and Gibbens ended up as the lead developer for online systems at News International in London.
But after eight years, he craved a change and bought a motorbike to ride around New Zealand.
“I fell in love with Wellington and when the money ran out, got a job as web manager at the ANZ National Bank.”
An early adopter of the iPhone (“I had one shipped over from America when they first came out”), Gibbens realised what a game changer the technology was and the opportunities it presented.
Five years ago he chucked in the day job to start PaperKite, a sustainable company that provides innovative solutions.
“We're not just an app shop, we're problem solvers. It's all about creating interfaces that provide a convenient and intuitive way of getting the information you need when you need it in the most accessible way possible.”
Gibbens is excited about Apple Watch's New Zealand launch and believes Kiwis will be as sold on the device as he is.
In fact, the only downside from his perspective is that his previous watch, a Breitling which once belonged to his father, is now gathering dust at the back of a drawer.
"My father's watch is so beautiful, it's a real design classic. I miss wearing it, but for now I'm totally sold on the Apple Watch."
Written by Sharon Stephenson.
July 29, 2015