Custom D – Award Winning Web & App Developer


Custom D is a customised software development company working with clients to develop web & mobile apps, which often need complex, integrated workflows.  They are sector agnostic and work with start-ups through to established players; but what really spins their world is working with a partner who is looking to ‘shake up their market’.

Take their client Art Money, who offer ‘easy pay’ for buying art.  They came to Custom D before they launched and now have clients in Australia, New Zealand, the USA and are now launching into Europe.  Custom D has been with them throughout their growth journey, creating a platform that streamlines the process of applying for credit, verifying ID and onboarding for clients, pairing a simple customer interface with complex back-end logic.

A Sisterly-Split

Custom D was founded in 2014 as a spin-out from the Filemaker software development company, Digital Fusion, owned by Craig Saunders.  Julie joined Digital Fusion as the Operations Manager in 2004.  They had been creating databases and productivity tools since 1996 and wanted to add a web platform offering to their clients.  It wasn’t long before the web team was the same size as the Filemaker team and Craig talked with Julie and her colleagues about splitting the company and setting up a separate entity.

Julie describes it as a pretty challenging time, with a shift in roles, relationships and perspectives needed from them all.  Realising the responsibility for the business success fell squarely on the shoulders of her and her co-founders was a huge adjustment. Quite different to drawing a monthly salary.

Seven years on and Custom D stands as a successful business in its own right.  Creating a separate entity allowed Custom D to create its own identity and to build the skills and expertise needed for their clients and staff, rather than having to consider the Filemaker context.   The sister companies have a friendly rivalry with each other but also share some resources and refer clients.

He aha te mea nui o te ao

He tangata, he tangata, he tangata

What’s the most important thing in the world?

It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.

Julie admits to making a lot of mistakes at first, but adds,

“The biggest shift has been in my thinking about what the business needs: happy staff and happy clients.  It changes the way you do everything.”

She says the thing that makes a difference to their organisation is the people.  They have a team of 15, split across NZ and Australia and she spends a lot of time thinking about them and how to ensure they keep a happy workforce.  For example, she thinks about what our developers want and need to keep them enjoying their work and have changed people out of a job if the balance of work they are doing is not giving them satisfaction.

They pride themselves on developing a rich, deep relationship with clients and many of these relationships have lasted years.  They get to know them, how their business runs and what they are trying to achieve.  In many cases they have been able to be proactive and help clients with their broader tech needs, beyond the work Custom D is doing with them.  Julie calls it a “co-dependency” – a partnership in the true sense of the word, in that both sides need each other for success.  There’s no separation of customer relationships within their team – “everyone” is responsible for client management, even the dev team.

Award Winning

Custom D have recently scooped the Hi-Tech Award for ‘Best Solution for the Public Good’, jointly with their client, the Student Volunteer Army (SVA).

Sam Johnson founded the SVA after the 2011 earthquakes to help bring together volunteers and those in need. Custom D has worked with the team to create a scalable Volunteer Management System, allowing users to log and record volunteering activities; form teams and connect with the broader community.  It’s a great way for students to identify “employable” skills and articulate experience gained when they are job hunting and the app has already received a lot of global interest.

Julie describes it as a lot of work to submit an entry, but totally worth it.  She says it is great to have the recognition for their team, as they are usually pretty self-effacing.

“It’s a good ‘shot in the arm’ to get this external validation and means the award speaks for your abilities, without you having to,” she says.

Julie’s definitely got the awards bug now and says they are looking forward to entering (and winning) more!

To find out more listen in to the EPIC Podcast with Julie Ryan