Audion Innovision managing director, Boyd Dainton, has had a long history in the consumer IT business. He caught up with MATTHEW SAINSBURY to discuss trends in that space, the toys that are going to be hot over the next 12 months, and the Wagyu beef market.
What was your first job?
My first position was at the Postmaster-General’s department as a technician.
How did you move into the IT industry from there?
I’ve always had an interest in electronics going back to my childhood – I was always a bit of a mad scientist and I bought the fi rst computer in my home town from a mail order company in the US in 1977. It was a computer kit featuring a full 3K of memory.
I taught myself how to program it using Basic, and I went back to school and did a science degree in what is now called computing. Then I opened a business – firstly an audio retail business, and then I moved into IT retailing in 1980 and started a company called Dataparts, which was a very early retail operation for selling computers and components, and electronic add-ons. Back in those days, there was very little around. I sold that business in 1987 when I moved into wholesaling. Originally Audion was called Dataland, and basically we were distributors for people like Epson, IBM and various other vendors. Eventually, we moved more and more into distributing exclusive brands for overseas vendors, and we started to develop our own brands. One of those was called AVLabs, which has since become international.
In 2004, we sold 25 per cent of our business to a public company in Singapore called Ban Leong, and then we sold the entire company two years ago, and now I sit on its board.
What do you like about working for Audion?
Where we distinguish ourselves from the tier-one distributors is that we consider ourselves as a boutique distributor that specialises in brand development – not only for our own brands, but those that we represent, such as Razer and Akai. I’ve always liked gadgets and new technology. I’m 57 years old and people laugh at me because I’ve got Facebook – I’ve always been up with it. I’ve been programming computers since they’ve been available to the public. What’s interesting to me is seeing new products, and seeing a product idea all the way through from concept and design, tooling, manufacturing and then on the retail shelf.
What is your biggest achievement?
It would be our ability to launch AVLabs internationally. We wouldn’t have been able to do that without the involvement of Ban Leong. It’s very satisfying to see that from where it started. What do you dislike most about the IT industry? Dishonesty and cowboys in the business that give the rest of us who try to be professional a hard time. I do get pissed off with people who are dodgy and unfortunately there are plenty of them. ---P--- What will be the next big thing in the industry?
E-readers. Being an avid reader myself, I think the electronic version is going to be big. Amazon is doing it now, and some of the bigger brands are starting to launch products into that space. There’s a lack of media, but you can see someone like Apple really getting into that kind of product and making it sing. That’s 12 months away in my view. The other thing I see in the meantime is netbooks that feature applications like GSM allowing you to surf the net wirelessly over the conventional cell phone technology.
Have you got an e-reader?
I’ve got some sample ones here, but I’m not using one myself.
What attracts you to them?
The ability to download. When I buy a book, I typically go to Amazon – I try and source them locally once I’ve done my research, but usually I just buy one from Amazon, and what I do is keep them on a wish list. Once a wide range of books are available in the e-reader format and easy to download, how much easier would it be to pay your $10 and download the latest books?
What’s the main focus for Audion over the next 12 months?
We plan to consolidate the Akai licensed brand we’ve been concentrating on in the consumer electronics area. We have a roadmap for the next three quarters that launches more than 40 new products, some of those being quite innovative including a non-iPod MP3 player with a docking system, which we’ve designed from the ground up. One of the products that has really surprised me in the last six months is USB turntables. There are lots of people out there with collections of records – and there’s this odd market where thousands of these things are being sold to replace their old turntable, with a USB interface that allows you to record to your PC and save to MP3.
What do you do when you’re not at work?
I run a couple of Wagyu beef farms. We have a couple of farms in northern Victoria, and we’ve been running and developing our own genetic line for about two-and-a-half years. Between that and being a bookworm, it keeps me busy in my spare time.
How did you get into that?
I married a farmer, and I’ve always been interested in it. It’s becoming a serious commercial export business – at the moment, it is quite an immature business and market but it’s developing. We’re very fortunate to have a farm that features a lot of Australiana with a variety of animals and waterfalls.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
I always wanted to be a scientist – chemistry and mathematics were always my love. I never quite achieved it, but as I got older I discovered that one of my skills was identifying product opportunities and fi nding ways to market those.
- Audion Innovision is based in Shepparton, Victoria, and is supported by a team of 22 direct staff, as well as internal and outsourced warehousing teams.
- Its network consists of sales offi ces in both Melbourne and Sydney, as well as an extensive outsourced sales force Australia-wide. It represents brands such as Nortek, Lacor, Razer, Mustek and AVLabs.
- Audion’s stated mission is to have revenues exceeding $50 million and employ no fewer than 30 staff by 2010.