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Reflections on a highly successful NZ Technology Innovation Week 2013 #TIW2013

Got my feet back on the ground after a really stimulating and – don’t use this word too often! – inspiring time at last week’s Technology Innovation Week (#TIW2013 on Twitter) conference in Auckland. The theme for the conference was “Lifecycle of a technology company” and my hat is raised in respect to NZICT chief Candace Kinser who led the team which put together such a broad and comprehensive group of speakers and topics. The bar is set high for TIW2014 which is already in planning! Fantastic also to have the event kicked off by Auckland Startup Weekend and finishing on the biggest-ever New Zealand Hi-Tech Awards 2013.

In terms of my personal takeaways from the event, the main message is that the NZ Tech Industry is Right Time, Right Place, Right Now. There is an alignment of various trends all happening at once:

  • Highly successful NZX performers Xero, TradeMe and Diligent finally drawing attention from NZ investors as being credible and attractive propositions
  • NZ investors are slowly waking up to the SaaS / Cloud growth model driven by reliable recurring subscriptions: once your business model is proven then you can predict your next year’s baseline revenue and confidently focus on 100% annual growth
  • A raft of new tech IPOs arriving together:  Snakk Media, SLI Systems, Wynyard Group, Serko and found out about a few more companies now in the pipeline planning to list soon as well. More choice, more diversity.
  • Kiwisaver funds starting to hit critical mass ($12Bn under management now and growing!) which has two effects: firstly there is more money out there seeking investment, and secondly Kiwi fund managers are finally able to think about taking more long term positions rather than needing to retain liquidity year-to-year. All good news.
  • The GFC has treated NZ lightly and we are coming into a cyclic growth period fitter and leaner than before
  • Government support for the technology innovation export sector, and recognition that we are pivotal to NZ’s future economic success, is refreshingly welcome after years of focus on low-yielding primary industry and tourism
  • Most fundamentally, a clearly growing capability in New Zealand – cheerled by the hyperactive, ubiquitous and knighthood-no-doubt-imminent Rod Drury – for understanding what it takes to develop and grow successful technology businesses from here. What struck me most about the conference is how there is now a cohort of NZ entrepeneurs who have successfully taken their first business through to exit and are now re-investing in a second round, bringing international knowledge and experience to the table.
  • Events like TIW2013 are getting us more connected as a community – it was great to see a substantial contingent of the Christchurch tech industry make the trip up north and make great contacts to bring back home
  • With the industry growing in confidence, it seems to me that we are successfully developing a vocabulary of Kiwi tech business success which is being spoken more fluently around the country. Frequent mentions of “lean startup”, “accelerators”, “Angel”, “Series A/B”, “exits”, “liquidity events” and statements like “Venture Capital is called that for a reason” all goes to help us have informed conversations with investors and customers that will help to support and grow a successful industry. [PS Just don’t mention dividends… ROFL  ]

Loving being in the middle of it all, right time, right place, right now.

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