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EPIC gets behind a new generation of Christchurch leaders

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

Christchurch is the latest forward-thinking city to host Smart Seeds, a global innovation program for
young talent to tackle the region’s most pressing challenges. The EPIC Innovation Precinct in
Manchester Street was the venue for the Smart Seeds Launch Event during February.

The city and region is known for its resilience and adaptability – something reflected in a new breed
of professionals and innovators taking centre stage. Leading the movement are 31 young minds from
across the region who have each committed to forming a team around one of five regional
challenges.

Maurice Hoban, Smart Seeds programme lead said; “we have participants from 15 local
organisations, each bringing a unique skill set from different backgrounds. It is a really
unique collaborative environment and we’re excited to see the outcomes.”

Stimulating collaboration are five challenges, each thrown down by industry leaders working
towards the region’s future prosperity.

What challenges are being tackled?
 How to make Christchurch a magnet for business and tourism tomorrow?
 How to make urban residents the stewards of healthy waterways?
 How to enable alternative modes of transport to reduce congestion?
 How to develop a regional workforce that can compete on a global scale?
 How to embrace emerging technology to enable new possibilities for automated transport?

Participants will now work together to pull apart the complex technical, social and commercial issues
they face in coming up with potential solutions.

To support their journey from the outset, participants were armed with new skills, tools and
connections including industry leaders to provide mentoring as teams grapple with new ways of
working.

Signs are promising with teams sticking around after the launch to make sure they were connected.
Industry leaders also took the opportunity to strike up some healthy competition between the
mentors and challenge development teams.

So what’s next? Participants will be building on the launch experience with workshops focusing on
ideation, pitching and influencing change before the Showcase Event in Christchurch on 9 May 2018.
For more information visit Smart Seeds Christchurch.

Who is participating?
Belinda Lewis – Downer | Rachel Young – Environment Canterbury Regional Council | Shaun Denholm – Intergen | Nick
Lovett – Christchurch City Council | Luke Parker – GHD | Steve Firth – Environment Canterbury Regional Council | Olivia
Smith – Environment Canterbury Regional Council | Paul Ferguson – Christchurch City Council | Hayden Sturzaker – Fulton
Hogan | Andrew Smith – GHD Advisory | Virginia Loughnan – Environment Canterbury Regional Council | Dayle
McLauchlan – Apollo Projects | Fraser Gemmell – Christchurch City Council | Sam Bellamy – Environment Canterbury
Regional Council | Jamie Robinson – Duncan Cotterill | Charlotte French – GHD | Samantha Funnell – Synlait | Jono
Burch – Intergen | Nickie West – Fulton Hogan | Rob Capon – Synlait | Cameron McKie – GHD | Emily Murphy 
Christchurch City Council | Nick Webby – Fulton Hogan | Andrew Springford – EY | Sam Smith – Apollo Projects | April
Hickson – Intergen | Jonathon Ireland – Fulton Hogan | Simon Pollock – GHD | Scott Davison – Fulton Hogan | Brodie
Akacich – CIAL

With inspiring mentors:
Kate Phillips – Intergen | Andre Bresler – GHD | Charlie Derrick – Environment Canterbury Regional Council | Carolyn
Gallagher – Christchurch City Council | Ken Renz – Environment Canterbury Regional Council | Joel Gabites– EY

Kiwi tech needs to ‘eat more of it’s own dog food’

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

The following article was originally published on Techday ChannelLife on 23rd November 2017.

Kiwi technology needs to start selling itself smarter  – and realise its full potential – if it wants to become the nation’s largest export industry.

That’s according to new research by Market Measures, which urges companies to ‘eat more of their own dog food’ when it comes to selling themselves.

“We don’t face the same environmental constraints of the other two major export sectors – agriculture and tourism – so the potential for tech is virtually limitless,” says Owen Scott, managing director of Concentrate Limited, who conducted the study along with Swaytech.

“Improving our ability to sell efficiently is one way of unlocking this potential, and ultimately becoming New Zealand’s primary export industry.”

“In the 2017 study we have found that Kiwi companies are over-reliant on company founders and high-value sales people to sell their products and services.”

Scott says more than 46% of companies said a founder was still closely involved in sales, and the average sales person in an export market was paid a base salary almost 50% higher than the typical equivalent US sales person.

“It’s not a scalable approach to generating export sales – 40% of the surveyed companies reported that productivity was their main problem when it came to managing their sales teams,” continues Scott.

Bob Pinchin, Swaytech’s managing director says the fact that US companies used on average three times the number of digital sales tools (e.g. email automation, contact intelligence and similar) than their New Zealand counterparts, was evidence they were more focussed on efficiency.

“In the tech industry, we call this ‘eating your own dog food’, but our firms are turning their nose up at these tools at the moment.”

“We have talented tech sales people who convert leads at an incredibly high rate, but it’s the volume of sales that is the issue – this productivity challenge is one we have to solve to overtake the other two big export industries,” says Pinchin.

While Scott adds, “Our tech sales people are really ‘artists’, talented and creative and able to craft sales, but what we need more of is scientists – people operating within a rigorous system able to produce repeatable, predictable sales results at a lower cost.”

Scott explains that more than ever before, New Zealand tech companies must be willing to invest in sales and marketing, which has been a constant trend of Market Measures since it began in 2008.

“It ranges from a stable 25% of annual revenue spent on sales and marketing (including salaries and costs) for established companies, through to an aggressive 86% for start-up tech businesses.”

Charles Haddrell, customer director at NZTE, the principal sponsor of Market Measures, comments on the findings, “Getting your sales and marketing strategies right isn’t just a nice to have – it’s a must have.”

“We’ve worked with hundreds of companies and know from experience that implementing robust sales processes, developing sales and execution skills, hiring well, and being aware of the technologies to support the sales and marketing functions are vital to being successful overseas.”

Now in its ninth year, Market Measures gathers information about sales and marketing from over 300 New Zealand technology companies, and compares the results to similar data from the USA.

The Market Measures report is available free for people who completed the survey. For other people it can be purchased for $375 (including GST). Access your copy of the report here.

Smarketing, the ultimate coalition

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

As the New Zealand governing coalition has finally been decided, now starts the real work to determine the policies and legislation required to implement their vision.  Their ability to deliver on this vision will have a lot to do with the alignment of the three quite different coalition partners – Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens.

Cooperation between parties with different agendas, and varying worldviews, is something also played out every day in tech companies between the sales team and those responsible for marketing.

Getting alignment between sales and marketing doesn’t just make for a harmonious workplace, it can improve annual revenue growth by 20%*.  Each needs to know and understand the desired outcome from the ‘coalition’ and work together to strive for the common goal.

Companies where the sales and marketing teams regularly meet, agree goals for completion within specific timeframes and, once agreed sign up to deliverables on each side of the relationship will not fail to improve their annual growth. The relatively cringe-worthy name given to this aligned sales and marketing focus is ‘smarketing.’

To read the full article click here.

Hi-tech heroes – Adherium

Monday, November 20th, 2017

STICKING TO THE PLAN

HOW A NEW ZEALAND HI-TECH AWARD WINNER IS BUILDING A GLOBAL DIGITAL HEALTH BUSINESS

Adherium | New Zealand Hi-Tech Awards

Image: http://www.adherium.com/

In the third instalment of our Hi-tech heroes series, Concentrate talked to Garth Sutherland, Founder & Executive Director at Adherium, winners of the Most Innovative Hardware Product category at the 2017 Hi-Tech Awards.

Developing medical technology products is not for the faint-hearted. You can’t usually escape the need to prove clinical efficacy, a complex and laborious task. Let alone the need to localise products across global markets, build high quality support and find channels to market amongst the behemoth pharmaceutical and medical companies.

Adherium have stuck to their own plan for over 14 years, and are starting to reap the rewards. A ‘medication monitoring system’ called the Smartinhaler™ is the first commercial incarnation of their work, comprising a connected platform of sensors, apps and cloud technology that work with a patient’s asthma inhalers to help them and their care providers to ‘adhere’ to their medical regimen.

Adherium has proven that by enabling people to better ‘adhere’ to their prescribed medicines, they are likely to experience better health outcomes – hence the company name.

To read the full story, click here.

Hi-tech heroes – RedShield

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

INTO THE CYBER-WAR FRAY

Andy Prow, founder and CEO of RedShield.

In the second instalment of our Hi-tech heroes series, Concentrate talked to Andy Prow, Founder and CEO of RedShield, the company that won both the best product and best service categories at the 2017 Hi-Tech Awards.

If you were choosing a global market niche to target, cyber-security would have to be one of the hottest, but also the most competitive. So fraught has the security of our digital systems become, that the United Nations recently added ‘cyber’ as the fourth domain of war after land, sea and air.

Into this battle has waded Kiwi tech company RedShield, taking a highly innovative approach to help distressed businesses while differentiating themselves in a crowded market.

RedShield describe their offer as ‘web-application vulnerability remediation as-a-Service’. Customers pass their web-traffic through RedShield’s online service, which ‘shields’ any vulnerable applications.

At first glance, this sounds a bit like a fancy firewall for large companies. RedShield understood that they needed to offer something more, characterising their offering as “software with a service”, says founder and CEO Andy Prow.

“Most SAAS (software as a service) is accessibility and licence, you buy and you drive it. If we took the same approach with RedShield it wouldn’t work, there needs to be an expert component for RedShield to go live and stay live. Without the service, we are just another cyber-security tool that a customer isn’t really getting enough ROI (return on investment) from because they don’t know how to apply it.”

Gartner recently pointed to application shielding as one of the biggest problem spaces in the cyber-security area, says Andy, validating something they identified over six years ago. “The cyber-security space in the US and UK is becoming bigger every day, in New Zealand it’s a problem but the level of attacks isn’t the same – the fraud claims, the amount of data stolen simply isn’t at the same quantum.”

“Complex enterprise applications are a slow-moving beast battling against a fast-moving attacker (cyber-threats). A new threat comes out and you have 20 million patient records at risk, and you’ve been told it will take a year to fix it, what do you do?”

To read the full article click here.

Hi-tech heroes – Pushpay

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

KEEPING THE FAITH

Having the courage to focus on a market sector and use innovative digital tactics to generate sales leads is core to the success of Pushpay, winner of the supreme award at the 2017 New Zealand Hi-Tech Awards, as well as Innovative Company of the Year. Concentrate talked with co-founder and CEO Chris Heaslip about their marketing journey so far.

Like any award-winning technology company, Pushpay has shown outstanding innovation around its mobile payment product. Just as important to the company’s success has been innovating in the way they market and sell, says the company’s co-founder and CEO Chris Heaslip.

“Innovation for us is not just about product innovation. One of the mistakes we make as Kiwis sometimes is thinking innovation stops with the product. Actually that is where it begins – innovation in the go-to-market is one of the most critical factors in our story,” he says.

At the heart of this marketing innovation is Pushpay’s decision in 2015 to focus its growth efforts on churches in the USA. Heaslip and co-founder Eliot Crowther had originally conceived their payment app as a way of helping churches collect money more easily from their members, but were selling to a range of sectors.

“I can remember a time in 2015 and we had just moved to the US, and we were very unfocused. We had a lot of good ideas, but no execution in any of them. I got together with the senior management team and we talked it through, and wondered if our investors would understand the (church focus) story.

“There is a Chinese saying that ‘a man who chases two rabbits catches none’, and that was us at that time. We were so bifurcated. Choosing that focus was a turning point for our company.”

A focus that is working. Pushpay last week published their annual results for the year ended 31 March 2017, recording a 79% increase in customer numbers from 3766 to 6737.

Pushpay improved their annualised committed monthly revenue (ACMR – a measure of recurring revenue), a key metric for a software-as-a-service company, by 158% to $US50.5 million and are forecasting that they will achieve break-even on a monthly cashflow basis by the end of the calendar year.

According to the company’s website, 10 of the top 20 and 36 of the top 100 largest churches in the USA use their products, including the largest church in the USA, which has over 39,000 average weekly attendees.

Chris says other vendors weren’t looking at the church sector, “People missed the growth of the evangelical churches. The number of actual churches is decreasing but attendance is growing in the US. There is lots of consolidation, and some large churches are growing rapidly.”

Extending the animal metaphor, Chris cites US business writer Jim Collin’s concept of the fox and hedgehog, where the former is chasing every shiny thing and not making much progress, while the latter is taking a slow and methodical movement towards a single goal. “That was us, so doubling down on the faith sector made sense because it was so under-served.”

To read the full article click here.

Ethique raises half a million dollars in less than a day

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

Canterbury business Ethique is smashing the competition and their recent crowdfunding venture raised their goal of $500,000 in less than a day.

“It’s amazing. I knew it would go quickly after 1,300 of our customers registered their interest, but I’m blown away that it went that quick,” says Ethique founder and CEO Brianne West.

West started the business in 2012 in her home kitchen, creating solid haircare and beauty bars in an attempt to reduce plastic waste.

Since launching they have stopped over 200,000 plastic bottles from going to landfill.

To read the full article, click here.

Part of a women-led venture? Apply to SheEO

Monday, November 13th, 2017

SheEO is a leading global innovation in the female entrepreneur marketplace. Their radical new model to finance, support and celebrate female entrepreneurs has received global attention by capturing the hearts and minds of women around the world. Over 150 regions from Asia-Pacific to Latin America to Europe and North America have applied to replicate the model in two short years since launching.

Applications are now open to New Zealand to become part of the initiative. Click here to find out more and apply.

‘Virtual gets real’ forecasts strong NZ cross reality sector growth

Friday, November 10th, 2017

The NZVRARA (The New Zealand VR/AR Association Inc.) has today released the first of two reports commissioned on the New Zealand VR/AR Ecosystem.

The Report, titled ‘VIRTUAL GETS REAL: The Explosion of Cross Reality in New Zealand’ profiles a rapidly growing local industry that is predicted to contribute to New Zealand’s Digital Nation with annual revenues of NZ$324M and employ over 2,200 people in 2019.

Download the full 120-page report.

Cross Reality (XR) is increasingly being used to refer to the virtual-to-reality continuum of immersive technologies including augmented and mixed reality.

The report has calculated that over 1100 fulltime employees are currently working in the sector in New Zealand, and that this is estimated to double within two years. The Association’s members and industry participants have identified that filling these roles is a key issue facing the sector. The report recommends undertaking annual independent sector surveys for headcount, revenue and other key metrics so that actual and forecast growth can be measured and appropriate actions taken.

To read the full article, click here.

Half of IT executives want to detect in-progress attacks before it’s too late

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

It can take only minutes for a data breach to cause significant damage to an organisation and it can take months for the same organisation to identify and to respond to those threats.

Almost half of IT executives want to detect an attack in progress while there’s still time to act, according to a recent RSA study.

The good news is that there are better ways to speed months up to mere minutes – this can now be a reality with tools like automation as part of your arsenal.

The benefits of moving faster and mobilising teams with better tools mean those teams can outrace the next cyber threats with detection and response. They can also deliver the right insights to see threats coming and ward them off faster.

To download the eBook, click here.

Calling for nominations for the 2018 Canterbury Tech committee

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

Canterbury Tech is calling for nominations for the 2018 Canterbury Tech committee. There are three (3) positions to be elected.

Voting will take place on 5 December or by proxy if you are unable to attend the AGM.    Each individual member or member company is entitled to one vote each.

We hope to receive a record number of nominations with a view to having a diverse, talented and dedicated pool of candidates.

Being elected on the committee gives you the opportunity to play an important role in advancing Canterbury as a tech hub, connects you with key individuals working in the sector locally and nationally, and is a great way to give back to the community.

Candidates must be current fully-paid members (corporate or individual) of Canterbury Tech.

Regardless of the current relationship with Canterbury Tech, all candidates must complete the Nomination/Application Form and demonstrate passion and a commitment to carrying out the key objectives of Canterbury Tech in helping to grow, connect & inspire our members.

Please submit your application form by Wednesday 22 November 2017 either online or by email to chair@canterburytech.nz

We recommend potential applicants read the MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE GUIDELINES

Christchurch EPIC innovation hub’s lease extended by seven years

Monday, October 30th, 2017

As we celebrate the next stage of the EPIC journey, it is great to see the support of the community, particular with the media recognising the significance of what we do. See below a summary of an article featured in bizEDGE NZ on EPIC’s latest announcement.

The Christchurch innovation hub EPIC is celebrating the EPIC building’s roll-over from its initial 5-year term to the new 12-year term (7-year extension) to 2024.

The companies within EPIC have grown to build a combined turnover estimated to be in excess of $50 million per annum.

Having hosted over 570 public events over the previous 5 years, catering to over 20,000 visitors, plans for the next seven years focus on EPIC remaining a fresh and enjoyable space for tenants and public alike.

As such, EPIC is embarking on some significant upgrades.

Not just a splash of paint and new carpet, EPIC tenants are receiving a new kitchen, six upgraded meeting rooms, new office pods for consultants and the big ticket item is a 100-seat event space which can be converted into two boardrooms.

Much of this will benefit the wider Christchurch community which uses EPIC as a base.

EPIC has played an unplanned role supporting New Zealand international relations, hosting tours and events for ambassadors from more than a dozen countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, France and China.

Click here to read the full article.

Five ways to make your tech B2B website more engaging

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

Your website is such an important part of your business. Websites today have multiple roles such as customer service reps, training providers, quality monitoring teams, order takers and sales and marketing staff.

For the average B2B tech company, your website plays a crucial role at different stages of the sales process.

So, what can you do to your own site to make it more engaging for visitors and make them want to stay and interact with your company?

Before I get into my list, I just wanted to mention that the design of your site matters. For me personally, if I come across a poorly designed website with images that look pixilated or in some cases – stock images with the watermark still on(!), no typography structure, or an illogical layout, I’m instantly turned off about the company and I subconsciously judge that the company is either small or not very professional.

Having said that, make sure that it’s designed for your ideal customer. Put yourself in their shoes and think about what they want to see on your site and how they will navigate it. And remember that you only have a few seconds to make the right first impression. So make it count.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, here are five ideas to make your website more engaging:

#1 VIDEO (THE MOST POPULAR FORM OF MEDIA)

#2 CHAT FEATURE (COMMUNICATE DIRECTLY IN REAL-TIME WITH WEBSITE VISITORS)

 

#3 COPY (GET YOUR MESSAGE ACROSS CLEARLY)

#4 PERSONALISATION (TAILOR YOUR SITE TO YOUR VISITOR’S NEEDS)

 

#5 POP UP FORMS (CONVERT VISITORS TO LEADS – WITHOUT BEING ANNOYING)

There are multiple ways to create a more engaging and interactive website, these five ideas are just scratching the surface. The key take-away from this is that they all relate to taking a customer first approach and having elements on your site that will make it easier for them to find out what they are looking for and that you understand what they need.

By doing this, not only will they be more engaged with you but also more likely to interact and invest more of their time into your company.

To read the full article, click here.

New legal structure for social enterprises?

Monday, October 16th, 2017

Social enterprises combine entrepreneurial spirit with a strong dose of ‘heart’ as they work to make a real difference in our world. And it is not just part of a temporary trend. The 1,600 people who assembled last month in Christchurch at the Social Enterprise World Forum demonstrate that.

Social enterprises often operate as limited liability companies, but new legal structures to govern them have been introduced in a number of countries. Lawyer Steven Moe argues we need these options in New Zealand.

All of us want to lead lives of purpose and meaning, and more businesses are seeking to position themselves in that direction as the old paradigms are tossed off the throne that profit and private wealth creation is king. New Zealand has the chance to be a true world leader through a new social enterprise legal structure that other countries would look to as an example, and which the next generations that follow us demand.

Read more about legal structure changes for social enterprises here.

What would a CBD shuttle mean for the city?

Friday, September 29th, 2017

From 1998, the popular yellow electric shuttles ran every 10 minutes on a set loop around the central city, until the February 2011 earthquake. The hop on, hop off service was free to use.

In August 2016, the Greater Christchurch Public Transport Committee, which includes staff from Environment Canterbury (ECan), the Christchurch City Council and the NZ Transport Agency, commissioned a report on reinstatement options.

One year and two reports later, ECan, which runs city bus services, put out a Request for Information (RFI) to companies that could provide the service. A feasibility study is due in October.

So what would this mean for our city? Would it bring in more foot traffic, boosting the appeal of living and working in the city? Or would it make no impact at all?

Read more about it here.

New Christchurch library a step forward with tech

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

The recent announcements around the new Central Library highlight key technological features showing the effort to move the city forward in the world. Following the 2011 earthquakes there was much talk about shape the city should take through the rebuild. One such idea was to create the “Silicon Valley of the South”.

While we aren’t going as far as that, we have seen a real emphasis in ensuring the city is well equipped with the best technology and is a welcome place for technological innovation. The results are clear with a number of key players taking up residence in the CBD.

To find out more about the new library, click here.

Christchurch Tech Story

Monday, September 25th, 2017

The Christchurch Tech Story has been developed to amplify Christchurch’s reputation as a technology innovation hub, helping to attract talent and funding.

Photos, infographics and banners reflect our “connected, world-class and creative” messaging, helping the city’s tech sector become better known for developing innovative products and services for global niche markets.
Please check out and trial the resources and messages – we’d love to hear your feedback

How does the Kiwi tech industry measure up?

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

The eighth annual Market Measures survey of New Zealand hi-tech sales and marketing opened today.

Conducted by marketing advisory firms Concentrate and Swaytech, and sponsored by New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, the study draws data from a sample of New Zealand-based technology companies on their approach to marketing and selling their products.

This year’s Market Measures study has a sales-strategy focus, recognising the potential for greater efficiency in lead generation and conversion across the New Zealand hi-tech sector, especially when exporting.

The results will be available as a report in late October 2017. Participants of the survey will receive this for free; members of Market Measures supporters can access the report for $75 (including GST); and it will available for the general public to purchase for $375 (including GST).

Market Measures 2017 is supported by industry associations ATEED, Canterbury Tech Cluster, ChristchurchNZ, EPIC Innovation Centre, WREDA, Hi-Tech Trust, NZ Tech Industry Association, NZHIT, and Priority One.

To participate in the survey, click here.

HubSpot CRM review: better than your average toasted sandwich maker

Friday, September 15th, 2017

Blog from Concentrate

According to one of those useless studies that seem to fill our news feeds these days, toasted sandwich makers have been revealed as one the most commonly owned but least used household appliances. I wonder if CRMs (i.e. software that manages information about your sales activity) hold the same status in a typical business.

HubSpot CRM is the first CRM I have personally really used. I mean ‘really used’. It helps me to manage my sales opportunities and all the activity involved with them, and ultimately it helps me to do a better job of selling.

Like most people involved in sales and marketing, I have used many CRM systems over the past decade, ‘using’ at least three in recent years. I probably used my toasted sandwich maker more, in reality.

I used the systems because I had to – not to manage my sales activity, but because the company needed a centralised contact list and a way of monitoring the number of sales opportunities coming through. Data was entered when I remembered, or was reminded to, and always only after the event.

The problem with most CRMs is they are too focused on the requirements of the sales manager, rather than sales teams. Often CRMs are used to impose structure and reporting by management across the sales team, rather than helping front-line sales people do their job.

In this context, the following are six features that I like most about HubSpot CRM.

  • Ease of use
  • The flexible relationship structure
  • Automatic company information
  • Sales Pro
  • Integration with Marketing Automation
  • The mobile app

To read the full blog, click here.

12% growth for New Zealand gaming industry

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

The New Zealand Game Developers Association confirms that the NZ gaming industry is booming. NZ game developers earned $100 million last financial year. Kiwi gaming companies earnings have increased by 12% since last year.

55% of New Zealand’s studios describe themselves as independent self-publishers, 14% focus on contract work and outsourcing, while 28% mix contracting with developing their own original IP.

Developing and publishing original game IP seems to be the most successful business strategy, with 65% of studios’ revenue coming from direct sales and 14% from selling advertising in those games.

Read more about the study’s findings here.

Christchurch’s Connexionz continues U.S expansion with new California office

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

Originally published in the IT Brief NZ

A Christchurch company is expanding its global footprint by opening an office in California.

Connexionz delivers fully integrated Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) applications, servicing transit agencies across Australasia, Asia, Europe, South America and North America.

Based in the Highridge Business Park in the Valencia suburb of Santa Clarita, the new Connexionz office is a major step in the company’s US expansion strategy.

The company says it’s experiencing an increase in enquiries from transit agencies across all networks – bus, ferry, train – that are eager to deploy ITS to improve both fleet performance and customer service.

The company says a global trend towards on-demand and personalised mobility solutions is driving transit agencies to partner with Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) companies, like Connexionz, to develop solutions that can connect and integrate seamlessly with multimodal networks.

The opening of the new office in California follows HornBlower’s recent launch of its New York’s City ferry system which installed ITS technology developed and managed by Connexionz.

This installation includes laser-based passenger counting systems, a range of on-board real-time service displays, and passenger infotainment services.

Following a competitive international procurement process, Connexionz won a contract that commenced in February this year and runs until 2022.

Brian Garrett, sales director, Connexionz US, says, “With a large stronghold in California and surrounding States in the US, we are opening an office in Santa Clarita to be closer to our customers in a modern environment that gives us agility to meet their needs faster.”

“We are committed to delivering efficient internet-enabled technologies for transit that make use of the latest innovations in solar, laser, sensors and analytics.”

“Technology that enhances transit services, improves fleet performance with real-time reporting and analytical intelligence, reduces maintenance costs, and increases consumer demand,” says Garrett.

To read more about them click here.

Startups in Taranaki granted better access to investors

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

Launch Taranaki and NZVIF to invest in local startups
Media release: 24 August 2017

The New Zealand Venture Investment Fund and Launch Taranaki, the New Plymouth-based angel investment fund, have formed a partnership to invest into start-up companies, primarily in Taranaki.

Launch Taranaki was formed last year.  The angel group has over 20 members, and is chaired by Ian Frame, who previously ran Rangatira, a Wellington-based private equity fund, for over a decade.  The government-owned NZVIF partners with angel groups and investors through its Seed Fund to co-invest into young startups.

Mr Frame said the partnership with NZVIF’s Seed Co-Investment Fund – or SCIF as it is known – will bring more investment into innovative companies in the Taranaki region.

“The new investment partnership will increase the available capital for investment giving both investors and entrepreneurs confidence that the investment round will be successfully completed.

“Our focus will be on new companies emerging in Taranaki in the first instance.  Taranaki has a reputation for innovation and entrepreneurial activity, not only in our traditional strengths in the agri and oil and gas exploration, but also in sectors like software and tourism-related ventures.  These are the areas we expect to be investing into.

“The partnership recently saw Launch Taranaki and SCIF invest into a medical software company – First Check, a New Plymouth start-up which has developed an app which helps with early detection of skin cancer and melanoma.

“Launch Taranaki will also be investing in opportunities throughout New Zealand to ensure we have a broad portfolio of companies and spread the risk.”

New members are welcome, and will benefit from early access to local and national investment opportunities, have the ability to network with likeminded investors and experienced business leaders while giving back to the region by helping to grow the next wave of business talent, Mr Frame said.

This is the eighteenth SCIF partnership and the first in Taranaki.  To date, NZVIF and its angel partners have co-invested around $142 million into over 160 companies.

NZVIF investment director Bridget Unsworth said that the new partnership will help to keep up the momentum in the angel investment sector.

“The past year has seen record investment activity across New Zealand with $69 million invested by angel funds and groups.  Taranaki has been an area we have been very interested in engaging with – and we are confident Launch Taranaki will be an active investor in the local economy.

“Launch Taranaki will identify opportunities to invest into young companies.  NZVIF then makes its own assessments to determine whether to co-invest alongside.  When SCIF does co-invest, it increases the capital available to fund a company’s development.

“A few years ago, a group of Bay of Plenty investors formed a new angel fund – Enterprise Angels – and that has helped to fund a number of exciting young companies in that region.  We hope that Launch Taranaki will have a similar impact on the Taranaki economy.”

It is a buoyant time for the angel investment sector with funds investing a record $69 million into young New Zealand companies in 2016 – a 13 percent increase on the previous record set in 2015, Bridget Unsworth said.

The Smart Highway to success

Thursday, July 20th, 2017

The Smart Highway to success: the right information to the right businesses at the right time

The road to successfully starting out in business is about to become a smart highway, thanks to work business.govt.nz has been doing with Inland Revenue, ACC and MBIE.

For the last six months business.govt.nz has been working closely with these agencies and others across government to understand how to make it quicker and easier for new businesses to setup for success. This programme of work involved gathering small business research from across government, and then working with subject matter experts to identify where the major pain points for small businesses are, and how government can address them.

Read the full story here.

Monthly update from Memia Labs

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

This is the monthly update from Memia Labs; for more information about any of this, please contact them at labs@memia.com 

First And Foremost, AI
Lots going on as usual in the AI field this month.

Google announced their new PAIR – People + AI initiative to advance research and design of people-centric AI systems.

Deepmind taught its AI agent to do Parkour using reinforcement learning

The European Parliament debated Do Robots Have Rights?

Elon Musk reprised his doomsaying about AI Safety at a meeting of US State Governors. (In follow up I got interviewed on NZ’s TV3 news in my role at the AI Forum NZ).

While Musk’s central arguments are certainly valid (and – as previously noted – covered in much more detail in Nick Bostrom’s book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies), personally I can’t help thinking that any robotic superintelligence would be more preoccupied with getting away from this paper-thin envelope of breathable atmosphere on the 3rd rock from the Sun and going off to explore the galaxy than engaging in any kind of Terminator-style war of attrition with baseline humanity. My philosophical view is that it is far more likely to view us with the same casual disinterest with which we humans view, say, termites in a termite mound today. Reassuringly there are still plenty of termites left in the world today. And their understanding of humans is probably about the level that ours would be of any posthuman superintelligence. Rest easy. :-/

A First Look Into ConstructionTech
Living in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand where the economy has been going through a 5-year construction boom thanks to both the 2011 earthquake rebuild and NZ’s fast-growing national economy generally, I am constantly amazed at how primitive the construction industry appears to be in its use of information management and automation technologies. Building sites in 2017 still crawl with people in high-vis, banging steel bolts into place with hammers and manually operating diesel-powered machinery. Projects are still managed using 2D paper plans and printed gantt charts.

Compare this to a mid-future vision of construction where the client walks around in a high-resolution VR rendering of their future building, changing walls, pipes, fixtures and fittings at will and immediately being able to see the price / compliance implications. Once they’re happy with the building they’re commissioning, they effectively click “Buy Now” and this sends instructions to a network of 3D-printers and other manufacturers (possibly on the other side of the world) to make up the modular components of the building and place them into containers to be shipped to site. When they arrive, a fleet of autonomous robots promptly take the pieces out of the containers and clip the building together piece by piece. Building consent is automatically filed with the local authorities.  (And it goes without saying that when the building is looking a bit tired in 50+ years time, it can be “unclipped” and removed from site and recycled without the risks of micro dust particles filling the air or filling huge amounts of landfill with rubble.)

In our current overinflated house price bubble market of 2017,  a residential house or commercial property just doesn’t seem to deliver anything like value for money. Buildings and property are effectively being used as a “reserve currency” rather than for housing itself – and the value of these properties can go down as well as up. Seems to me that construction is one of those asset-heavy industries which is ripe for disruption. And it seems the VCs of the world agree with nearly $1Bn being invested into ConstructionTech over 2015-2017.

Here’s a market map from CBInsights with over 100 ConstructionTech businesses profiled, in spaces including AR/VR, Drones, Risk Management, Marketplaces and Supply Chain Management. There must be thousands more worldwide. Watch this space.

The guys at SpaceCraft who have designed an “open-source” Wikihouse built out of plywood have an alternative approach to transform the economics of the construction sector.

There are 3D-printed houses that take less than 24 hours to construct.

You can even potentially grow a house out of grafted trees or (ew) synthetic meat.

Wealth Inequality – Facts and Figures
This online resource from Inequality.org starkly illustrates the uneven (and getting more so) distribution of income and wealth around the world, particularly in the US. Facts are facts. An essential resource.

Meanwhile Finland is the latest country to do a Basic Income Experiment, this time for the unemployed. Incidentally this month I was introduced to the concept of a Universal Basic Dividend rather than Universal Basic Income: “…the National Dividend would vary depending on the performance of the economy…” because the existing financial system generates consumer prices at a faster rate than it distributes consumer incomes”. Intriguing. Local NZ progressive politician Raf Manji also makes The Case for Economic Rights this month. Something has to be done, right?

The Principles Of Scalability

Philosopher Sam Harris talks to Geoffrey West, author of the recently published Scale: The Universal Laws of Life and Death in Organisms, Cities and Companies ,  in this podcast “From Cells To Cities”. Massive wide-ranging 2-hour conversation on the similarities between how biological and social systems scale, the significance of fractals and emerging properties in complex “life-form”-like systems like cities. (Starts from around 8 minutes in). Fascinating. Can’t wait to read the book.

A Use For Blockchain?
The self-proclaimed “CryptoValley” Swiss town of Zug announces its implementation of citizen IDs using Ethereum-based Blockchain tech.

Cryptocorrection
Following on from last month’s reading list, the Crypto bubble has deflated a bit in the last few weeks.

Meanwhile this podcast from Tim Ferriss talking to Crypto guru Nick Szabo – the guy who originally coined the term “smart contract” and arguably conceived of Bitcoin itself – is hugely insightful, helps to understand the fundamental (non-speculative) value of cryptocurrencies going forward.

Adoption Chain Risk
I enjoyed this article from prolific blogger and SaaS VC Tom Tunguz, introducing the concept of Adoption Chain Risk: “the extent to which partners will need to adopt your innovation before end consumers have a chance to assess the full value proposition.” This is a problem I’ve seen time and time again for SaaS startups that need to engage with the whole value chain, not just their immediate customer. Adoption Chain Risk – The Importance Of Selling To Everyone In Your Startup’s Supply Chain

(This Week) Coffee Is GOOD For You
Drinking more coffee is associated with a longer life, according to new research. Just as well, eh?

Speaking of Addictions…
“In Silicon Valley, it’s a race to the bottom of your brainstem; where your fear, anxiety, and loneliness reside…” You vs Technology

Stressful
How stress works in the human body to make or break us. Long Aeon essay on how the “subtle flows and toxic hits of stress get under the skin, making and breaking the body and brain over a lifetime”.

The End Of Guessing?
Let’s leave off with this pearl which popped up on my LinkedIn feed last week (ignore the US-centric brandnames…):

The end of guessing:
We don’t guess the weather. We use the weather app.
We don’t guess for food delivery. We use Seamless.
We don’t guess for directions. We use Google maps.
We don’t guess to get a taxi. We use Uber.
We don’t guess for getting the best hotel or flight deal. We use Kayak.
We don’t guess for restaurants. We use Yelp.
We don’t guess for getting a contractor. We use Angie’s list.
We don’t guess for job salary. We use Glassdoor.
We don’t guess with our workout. We use Fitbit.
We don’t guess for getting the best rate. We use Bankrate.

We still guess for healthcare costs.
We still guess if we can pay off our student loans.
We still guess on TV advertising.

The more guessing is in an industry, the more likely it is to be disrupted.

ShareLet: the ‘Airbnb’ of storage

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Leo Adriano recently launched his new venture, ShareLet, at the EPIC Innovation Campus with support of the Ministry of Awesome, a facilitation group funded by the city council and grants.

“The self-storage industry is booming on a global basis but building or adapting premises come with high costs that are passed on.

I thought there would be many people or businesses and organisations New Zealand wide, that could benefit from ShareLet to optimise any available space and earn some money, or alternatively to reduce costs.”

Read more about the ShareLet launch here.

Government looking to make tax simpler for businesses

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

The Government has released the eight discussion document in its Making Tax Simpler series of consultations that aim to improve the tax system for business and individuals, and is asking for public feedback.

Take this opportunity to have your say on our tax system and voice the ways in which you think it can be made simpler for your organisation.

Click here to read the full updates and find the link to the discussion document. 

Monthly update from Memia Labs

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

This is the monthly update from Memia Labs; for more information about any of this, please contact them at labs@memia.com 

AI <=> Art
Fascinatingly esoteric presentation at a recent AI Meetup I attended from artist Ronan Whitteker of the newly launched Aftermath Gallery: Artificial Intelligence and the Digital Arts. Some provocative examples of AI being applied in the artistic space: from trippy Puppy Slugs built with DeepDream to a short film scripted by an AI brought up on hundreds of sci-fi screenplays. Watch the whole of Ronan’s presentation here.

AI <=> Politics
Wired magazine floats the idea of electing an AI as the next President. (Couldn’t be any worse, right?)

AI <=> Leadership
Attended an informative panel in Auckland –The 4th Industrial Revolution – Artificial Intelligence hosted by the Trans Tasman Business Circle and featuring New Zealand AI leaders Greg Cross from Soul Machines and Danny Tomsett from FaceMe. Key insights from the talk included the rapid onboarding of virtual “employees” – avatars who are designed and parameterized to improve interactions real people (customers, staff, citizens…). Soul Machines (based on visionary Mark Sagar’s BabyX technology) are the poster child of the New Zealand AI industry (raising a US$7.5M Series A round last year) and FaceMe are well on the road to commercialising their virtual employee technology with Nadia – an avatar designed to help people with disabilities in Australia.

The discussion raised a deeper question for me about what “leadership” looks like in the future when many (most) of a manager’s direct reports aren’t biologically human. The skills to manage virtual employees are likely to be entirely different to those of traditional people management. Are all the shelfloads of business books about leadership…now redundant? Will “leaders” be replaced instead by an avatar “fleet controller” poring over her analytics dashboard and tweaking the personalities of her digital peons in response to changes in customer satisfaction metrics…?

Will all companies of the future have no biological employees at all? (We know that CEOs can potentially be replaced by software…).

CAIO
Is a chief AI officer needed to drive an artificial intelligence strategy?

Cryptocurrency Reading Homework
It’s been a crazy month in the world of cryptocurrencies.

The total market capitalization of all Crypto$ broke through the US$100Bn barrier in the midst of a climb that has driven total values up more than 1,500% from just over $7bn on 1st January. At the time of writing there appears to be some sort of correction happening but it’s anyone’s guess as to where the valuations will go.

On the one hand this behaviour can easily be seen as a classic speculation bubble and prices will come back down to earth with a bump. But for an alternative viewpoint, given that the intrinsic value of a currency is subject to a network effect – eg the more users and use cases for exchange, the (exponentially) more its utility, it’s also possible to argue that the current values are still just a tiny percentage of their long term potential as users and use cases grow. It you look at the traditional bell curve of technology adoption, Crypto$ is still way to the left of the “innovators” segment:

So fair to say Crypto$ is likely to have an imminent major effect on our economy, banking and payments systems and needs to be more deeply understood. Here are some of the best articles I read in the last month:

Cryptoeconomics 101 – “If Satoshi is the Galileo of cryptoeconomics, Vitalik may be the Einstein.”

The Economist: A surge in the value of crypto-currencies provokes alarm

Thoughts on Tokens – “The most important takehome is that tokens are not equity, but are more similar to paid API keys. Nevertheless, they may represent a >1000X improvement in the time-to-liquidity and a >100X improvement in the size of the buyer base relative to traditional means for US technology financing — like a Kickstarter on steroids.”

I was wrong about Ethereum  – “Ethereum’s sole use case at the moment is ICOs and token creation. What’s driving the Ethereum price? Greed from speculators, investors and developers.”

Australia Will Recognize Bitcoin as Money and Protect Bitcoin Businesses, No Taxes – “Bitcoin will be treated as money in Australia by July 1, 2017, and will be exempt from goods and services tax (GST). Bitcoin traders and investors will not be taxed for purchasing and selling Bitcoin through regulated exchanges and trading platforms” …expect New Zealand to follow suit soon…

And this gem:

Blockchain isn’t just Crypto$ you know
And a few interesting developments in the more general Blockchain space too:

Russian group delivers the first unhackable quantum-safe blockchain. “Unhackable” yeah right.

Don’t use a blockchain unless you have to – “Your business doesn’t need to be decentralised… it doesn’t need a blockchain, it needs better branding, design, copywriting, and most importantly the ability to iterate their product quickly. They need to be able to throw features at the funnel and see what converts. You know, that thing where you build a business on the internet.”

The Mighty Amazon
Amazon is an amazing, ubiquitous and still growing company – and with its announcement this week that it is buying ailing US grocery chain Whole Foods is now entering a new phase in its US market dominance. Here are a couple of insightful pieces to help us understand Amazon’s strategy:

Why Amazon Is Eating The World :  “…the enduring benefit here is the improvement that comes from opening up Amazon’s internal [businesses] to outside users…” Think AWS, Amazon fulfilment… all services that they relentlessly put out into the market to ensure they are fit in the Darwinian sense…

Amazon strategy teardown from the remarkable @CBInsights

Still Trying To Get My Head Around…
The Human Brain Can Create Structures in Up to 11 Dimensions

Other interesting bits and pieces this month:
Mary Meeker hits peak (355!!!) slides in her annual Internet Trends address Lots of useful data in here.

Alphabet sell leading robotics firm Boston Dynamics to Japanese Softbank

It’s (NZ) election year! Voters’ judgement of a political candidate’s competence takes just 10 seconds.

Meet the frugal millenials planning for decades of retirement.

Not even wrong – ways to dismiss technology by @BenedictEvans – “I don’t think that anyone believes that if we had general AI, it would be a toy – indeed it’s more likely that it would think that we were a toy.”

Much more than a game, chess is an alternative history of humanity well worth reading for all chess players.

The Modern Tech Corporation Deconstructed
Came across this wonderful, playful article by Carlos Beuno on modern corporate strategy: A Priest, a Guru, and a Nerd-King Walk Into a Conference Room…

The New Planets Suite
Just can’t get enough space videos. 🙂

Here are two more gorgeous visualizations of our solar system that were released this month:

Flyby animation video of Jupiter made up from photos from NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it orbits from the giant gas planet’s north pole to and past its south pole. Those swirls of gas clouds are bigger than Earth!

A Fictive Flight Above A Real Mars – stitched together from images taken by the HiRISE (High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment), a powerful camera attached to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter which has been orbiting Mars since 2006.

NZTE launches new Export Essentials resources

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) has launched a new service designed to help early-stage exporters learn the fundamentals of becoming a successful export business.

NZTE’s new service, Export Essentials, consists of two parts. There are ten online guides that cover the basics of exporting that businesses can work through in their own time and pace.

There is also a hands-on, collaborative two-day workshop, where participants will learn proven methods for successful exporting and leave with practical tools that they can apply directly to their business.

To find out more about the resources and workshops, click here.

NZ needs to make manufacturing ‘sexy’

Monday, May 15th, 2017

A group made up of a dozen New Zealand manufacturers has been over in Germany attending the Hannover Messe trade show, thanks to Callaghan Innovation. While New Zealand technology isn’t too far behind that of German counterparts, there are still things that our businesses can do to make manufacturing “sexy” and ensure they aren’t left behind in the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Click here to read more about the companies who made the trip to Germany and what they were looking to get out of the stay.

New Zealand leaders have their sights set ahead

Friday, May 12th, 2017

The recent 2017 Gartner CIO Agenda Survey has shown the CIOs (and IT leaders) in Australia and New Zealand have a greater focus on digitisation than their global peers. ANZ CIOs are intensifying their efforts to strengthen digital leadership, organisation and technology capabilities this year.

This shows their understanding of the direction we are taking as a society and are open and welcome to change, focusing on what is coming next, as opposed to fighting it and focusing on keeping things ticking along as always.

To find out more about the survey and New Zealand CIOs perceptions, click here.