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Martin Aircraft: Taking the jetpack into commercial production with Office 365

Today’s post was written by Peter Coker, Chief Executive Officer of Martin Aircraft

It was 30 years ago that Glenn Martin developed the prototype for the world’s first practical jetpack at his home in Christchurch. When I joined Martin Aircraft in April 2013, it was still very much a startup—seven full-time employees and five contractors—operating in what I call a “garage environment,” which is normal practice for New Zealand entrepreneurship. My role is to take the Martin Jetpack, which is on the brink of commercial production, into the global market.

Martin Aircraft has many prospective customers for the jetpack. We are targeting government agencies and first responders; various organizations that save human lives, such as search and rescue, fire, and ambulance. We have military organizations around the world who are also interested. And of course, there are tourist operators and private owners as well. So we have different marketing channels that we need to pursue and a supply chain that we need to support. But none of this would happen very effectively until I addressed our IT problems.

We had a rudimentary, hosted email solution with a web mail service that didn’t allow us to use our @martinaircraft email addresses. There was an old server sitting in our office. Everyone had a hard time finding information on the server because search didn’t work and documents weren’t properly organized. I worried about data security for our intellectual property, technical drawings and the like, because there was no way to allocate permissions to certain documents. We were always phoning around trying to find each other and get our questions answered. Everyone was frustrated.

Picture of Martin Jetpack with pilot

Martin Jetpack

When I envisioned the IT tools that we needed to support expansion, first and foremost was the ability to operate in a virtual environment, to seamlessly connect with colleagues, contractors, board members, and customers, no matter what part of the world they’re in. So I looked for an IT partner. I found the I.T. team and told them that we needed professional business tools. I don’t know much about IT—I’m more interested in outcomes—but when they showed me Microsoft Office 365, I knew we had found what we needed.With Office 365, we get reliable, web-based email, easy access to our business information that stays current across all our mobile devices, the ability to work on documents simultaneously across time zones, web conferencing, and instant messaging. All these capabilities add up to the IT systems we need for performing effectively in a global marketplace.

I’m going to be hiring up to 40 people in the next 18 months. Every office we set up internationally has to perform as efficiently as if it were our headquarters. Office 365 gives us the whole package for what I call the real base-line operational level of services for building Martin Aircraft into a global company. The best thing for me is now that I’m no longer worried about struggling with basic business tools, I can focus on building the company.

Read the Martin Aircraft Office 365 case study for the full story.