Indebted: Magic Memories co-founder/executive director John Wikstrom


Having been decimated by worldwide lockdowns, a Queenstown global success story’s been resuscitated by a local corporate hotshot who’d just saved his own company.

When the Covid pandemic took hold early this year, local-based Magic Memories — which takes photos and videos of millions of tourists at 170 attractions across 10 countries — suddenly lost all its business as those sites shut down.

These included world-famous attractions like Legoland and Madame Tussaud’s and sporting icons like Football Club Barcelona and Boston Red Sox.

In 72 hours, Magic Memories’ workforce plummeted from 1780 employees to just 15.

‘‘We just had to turn the taps off — we had to idea when things were going to open,’’ says co-founder and executive director John Wikstrom, a former New Zealand EY Entrepreneur of the Year in the services category.

‘‘We were in a desperate situation.’’

Wikstrom says he’d just joined a Queenstown technology advisory group with local tech titan Roger Sharp, who chairs global online travel business Webjet, though at that stage the two hadn’t met.

In April, Sharp emailed other group members an Australian Financial Review article entitled ‘Webjet’s 17 tense days of survival in ICU’.

It told how Sharp and executives had hunkered down and rescued the company by raising $350 million and slashing costs by almost 50%.

Impressed, Wikstrom emailed him and said, ‘‘Roger, love the article, we should chat’’.

White knight: Magic Memories rescuer Roger Sharp

‘‘I didn’t even know where he lived and then he goes, ‘mate, I live about 2km away, I know about Magic Memories and would love to help’.’’

After some Zoom calls, Sharp came onboard as an adviser for the next few months as the company set about raising capital.

Wikstrom: ‘‘His bigger lens was, ‘go once’.

‘‘We probably thought we needed to raise this much and Roger said, ‘no, you need to raise that much’.’’

In the end, the company raised $25.5m, mostly from existing shareholders.

On Sharp’s advice, the company also conservatively predicted it wouldn’t be back to pre-Covid levels till June 2022.

Sites started reopening in June, albeit with contact-tracing and social distancing in place.

‘‘We’ve got 50% of our sites back, running at about 50% volume,’’ Wikstrom says.

But it’s now making 50% more revenue per customer than before, as a result of using technology better.

Meantime, American Chamber of Commerce NZ this month awarded the company for its resilience and success.