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25 May 2017
By Kerry Topp
New Zealands Reputation in Excellent Shape

Early in May, Technology Investment Network (TIN) and New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) launched the second annual Investor’s Guide to the New Zealand Technology Sector. If you haven’t read it, the report makes for interesting reading and provides wonderful insight into a buoyant New Zealand technology sector. 

The report illustrates New Zealand's tech sector continues to show strong and sustained growth each year, earning significant international revenue. According to TIN Managing Director Greg Shanahan, revenue from New Zealand’s top 200 tech companies grew 12% last year, with nearly $7 billion generated in offshore revenues. Encouragingly, growth was evident across every region and sector in New Zealand. 

As Ashlee Vance, freelance American business columnist and author of Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future put it,

"This country of 4.5 million people has started to churn out some awfully polished, extraordinary products... They’re world-class technological achievements – the work of a well-educated, creative people bent on competing on the world stage". 
The vibrancy of the New Zealand sector came to life in a palpable and demonstrable way during TechWeek'17. With 287 events in 24 locations, the whole week was both uplifting and inspiring – particularly to see so many inspiring Kiwi minds taking on global challenges and opportunities with vigour and ingenuity.

Over nine days, those who attended learned about a range of new tech initiatives from artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and digital payments, to augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) and Internet of Things (IoT). Events ranged from fireside chats, demonstrations and talks about key issues, through to hands-on practical workshops.

There were exciting companies on display at TechWeek’17 who are winning global business, international recognition, and offering exciting opportunities. Some of these included:

Geo AR Games: On average, our children sit idle for 8.5 hours per day and only play for 1 hour outside. Geo AR Games was founded to keep children healthy through outdoor exercise. The company specialises in AR mobile outdoor games and experiences. The difference to other technology is that the player is able to walk around in a mixed reality world as if it was real, and interact with what the player sees based on the player’s physical distance to the game content. Geo AR Games allows the player to explore both virtual and real worlds by creating a mixed reality experience.

Staple VR: The impressive Aleisha Staples and her crew worked in partnership with Starship Hospital tomap the different procedure rooms that children patients might visit during a stay in the hospital. Giving an early immersive experience of the CT scan room or X-Ray room allows the child to rehearse their experiences ahead of time and helps to alleviate stress and anxiety so they don’t have to be sedated so heavily for these procedures. Staples VR also recently completed a world-first for the New Zealand Fire Service by developing a fire-resistant 360-degree camera to create a sense of being in a burning house, used for fire prevention education. 

Corvecto: Founded by young entrepreneur and CEO, Henry Lane, Corvecto uses state-of-the-art VR goggles to assist with training across a wide range of professions and trades in industries "where you could die or get hurt" including; forestry, airline training, and construction. 

FaceMe: In Danny Tomsett’s view, customer experience is now off the leash. FaceMe's Founder and CEO has developed a world-leading Virtual Assistant platform to support meaningful human and AI experiences. The solution gives customers a conversational interface which enables personal, immediate and human-like experiences.  When combined with AI-powered learning, this considerably increases the scope and accuracy of digital self-service tools, ultimately reducing overflow into costly customer care. 

For me, a recurring theme within Techweek’17 was that New Zealand has some wonderfully talented folks and companies. However, to be a truly global player, we need to set aside our once humble demeanor and stand up and tell our story on the international stage. 

As Savannah Peterson, founder of Savvy Millennial, entrepreneur and 2016 Forbes 30 Under 30 member put it recently,

"You have this incredible gift of creating a lifestyle that the entire world envies, and they don't realise it was a lot of innovation that drove your beautiful lifestyle. Wake up to that, own that, be proud of that".
Techweek’17 was a resounding success.  More than 20,000 people participated in various events up and down New Zealand. But more importantly, for me, it brought the vibrancy of the sector to life. 

So as we look back at Techweek ‘17 and we stand hand in hand with Peter Beck and Rocket Labs the day after the first orbital-class rocket to be launched from a private launch site in the world, we should be proud of what we have achieved to date as a country. However, we should also be mindful there is much for us to do – particularly if we want to be a truly #1 economy, globally. 

The world is our oyster. Let's stand up and tell our wonderful Kiwi innovation stories, with pride and a loud voice.    

Kerry Topp – GM Transformation & Innovation – Datacom

Kerry Topp is the General Manager, Transformation & Innovation, at Datacom. He was involved in TechWeek'16 and '17 as both participant and presenter. His role is to help businesses to take on new ways of working and uncover innovative opportunities for growth - areas such as AR/VR, AI and Cognitive Solutions. Kerry is the Chairman of the Wynyard & Manukau Innovation Neighbourhoods, a Board Member on the Auckland Innovation Advisory and a working group member of the Future Skills Advisory Board.