ThinLinX co-founders John Nicholls and Jeanne Moloney-Nicholls established the company more than 10 years ago.

The hardware and software development company, founded on the Sunshine Coast, also operates an Office in Silicon Valley, California, in the United States (ThinLinX Inc is a fully owned subsidiary of ThinLinX Pty Ltd).

It develops small Thin Client / network computers for private and public Cloud computing, featuring high performance, low power and cost, and longer life than a PC.

“We’ll see more people using applications and desktops which are hosted in the Cloud, allowing them to work from anywhere, even their home.” 

Jeanne, a Sunshine Coast native, and John, an airline pilot for Ansett Airlines for 23 years, made the move into the digital sector when Ansett collapsed.

John has been involved with IT since 1981 and developed some of the world’s first modems which connected directly to the phone line.

He says when he developed the modems more than 34 years ago there was limited internet connectivity for anyone outside academia and the military. The World Wide Web was invented eight years later in 1989, with general internet connectivity becoming widespread in the early 1990s.

They decided to sell their house to provide seed capital for ThinLinX in the early days, and since then have raised about $4 million through angel investment and several government research and development grants.

John and Jeanne recall the day 10 years ago when they walked into the Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast with a cigarette packet wrapped in silver paper, saying it represented the next big thing: small embedded thin client computer devices.

John called it grid computing, saying desktops and applications would be served remotely and the thin client was all that would be needed at the client end. Today, it’s known as Cloud computing, with more people now using remote desktops and applications.  

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John says the Internet of Things (IoT) will be the next big focus.

“The new buzz word is IoT, which involves devices around the world sensing and collecting data, which will be available from the Cloud.

“We’ll see more people using applications and desktops which are hosted in the Cloud, allowing them to work from anywhere, even their home,” John said.

“BYOD (bring your own device), is also gaining traction where more people will go into their office with a laptop or tablet and connect to the company infrastructure.”

Staying connected to the global economy

John and Jeanne spend about four months of the year in the United States, where ThinLinX Inc has a staff of three in the Silicon Valley office and a contractor in Oregon.

“It’s about being where you have to be to get the job done. We can live in an area like the Sunshine Coast and run an international hardware and software development operation,” Jeanne said.

“Digital technology allows you to run your business and stay connected, regardless of where you live.” 

“As long as you have an internet connection, you’re connected with the world. We use the internet for emails and VoIP applications such as Skype.”

The ThinLinX Australian team chooses to work Australian and US business hours, starting the day at 5am and often work till about 6pm.

Their ‘time out’ involves walking to their outdoor office at the beach for breakfast, coffee, emails and the occasional conference call.

“We can live that lifestyle and still be part of the global economy,” Jeanne said.

“However, never underestimate the importance of face to face meetings with people. That’s why we work long hours and spend a lot of time travelling between Australia and the US, which has allowed us to develop some great relationships with large corporations in the US.

“It’s pretty cool for a Sunshine Coast company to be contacted by Microsoft’s head office in Redmond, Seattle in 2008, then through that relationship to be contacted in 2010 by Citrix in Santa Clara.”

Citrix was so impressed with the software that ThinLinX developed for its own hardware, they introduced the company to Intel in June 2014 for its Next Unit of Computing (NUC) and Intel Compute Stick products.

John says it’s important for growing digital technology companies to get a foothold in Silicon Valley.

“They will get more visibility and larger companies will take them more seriously if they have a footprint in the US as well, which is why we’ve set up ThinLinX Inc and an office there and still have a team based in Australia.” 

What are the challenges of being based on the Sunshine Coast?

“Digital technology allows you to run your business and stay connected, regardless of where you live,” Jeanne said.

“The Sunshine Coast is an area where people would love to live, but the challenge is the lack of jobs in the region, which is why so many locals have to commute between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast.

“Another challenge is the lack of funding to get companies off the ground. The first thing they need is funding, and then they can start employing people. But in Australia there’s not much investment money available compared to the USA,” John said. “However, we’ve been able to raise money in Australia over the years.”

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Photo: ThinLinx co-founders John Nicholls (middle) and Jeanne Moloney-Nicholls with Australian software engineer Paul Whittaker at Microsoft’s Mountain View Campus in Silicon Valley.