Corporates such as Intel and Cisco naturally want to promote us becoming more e-enabled because there’s a buck in it for them. But large multinationals are the natural born enemy of innovation, when you think about patent litigation costs and the detrimental effects of technology cartels. So I take it with a grain of salt when I hear that they have been filling conference halls on the topic of innovation.
Notwithstanding my cynicism, the idea of a national innovation blueprint is a good one. Improving broadband infrastructure would help, but even if we could open an electronic super-highway to the world tomorrow, it’s not a panacea on its own. The primary choke on opening up the commercialisation of technology in New Zealand is lack of capital, not lack of ideas or lack of broadband. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that geographical proximity has a lot to do with investment decisions in the tech sector and for that we suffer. Hence the plea for high growth ventures to get offshore quickly.
Kiwis also hate divesting control and this is an additional barrier to growth. In fact we’ve already had this debate amongst the founders of our new venture as we begin to develop a product suite with global reach. The antidote is better education, more mentorship and good role modelling by other entrepreneurs who made the leap and succeeded without selling their souls. You can build a great business whilst still enjoying the lifestyle New Zealand has to offer.
Lastly, the vast majority of businesses will not receive any venture funding and may never grow beyond 5 or 10 employees. Yet, they pay tax regularly and put bread on the table of families. There is no certainly no shame in this. Perhaps one focus of a national innovation blueprint is that we need to better identify the really hot opportunities from amongst those hard-working small businesses and provide intensive practical support to build their value proposition and connect to the real world out there.