I’ve been doing a lot of writing for other blogs lately to help promote the Wellington start-up and innovation scene. So I thought it was about time I posted something on GeniusNet for a change. It has been a crazy but exciting time.
We are about to have our first Wellington Startup Weekend, the Bright Ideas Challenge has just drawn to a close and it has been a busy year at Unlimited Potential. We are also working with a couple of young entrepreneurs through our pre-incubation initiative at ideegeo and of course there is the day-to-day operational side of iWantMyName to take care of.
Fortunately we take our community role very seriously at iWantMyName and are pleased that we are now in a position to contribute some time and resources to various tech and innovation events around town. It’s part of our business DNA, so to speak. I’m also involved with another initiative called 100Plus that aims to deliver an exciting regional technology innovation event in 2012. Early days, but we already have some good partners on board. Watch this space.
Part of the reason the start-up scene has so much energy at present is that our local economic development agency Grow Wellington have put in a huge effort over the last couple of years. There’s a growing understanding that community building and knowledge sharing are pivotal to developing (and maintaining) an entrepreneurial culture. As a society we also need to be prepared to take some risks and make investments in research, science and technology related businesses, full in the knowledge that only some will succeed.
Governmental agencies are sometimes criticised for spending public money on “picking winners”. That’s a little unfair. The alternative approach is not to celebrate our successes. All of us in business need a little inspiration and encouragement periodically, especially in these challenging economic times.
Unlimited Realities is living up to its name. Last year the company inked a deal to provide its gestural interface software for integration into Dell manufactured computers. Now the door has been opened by computer chip maker AMD. Fingertapps was showcased this week at the AMD Fusion Developer Summit in Seattle ahead of its rollout with AMD’s next generation of chips for Windows based PC and tablet devices.
The company, which has development offices in Wellington and Palmerston North recently appointed former Kiwibank CEO Sam Knowles as chairperson. It now seems to be on a rapid growth trajectory, having been one of the earliest providers of computer touch screen technology. We saw the “unlimited potential” of the product back in 2008 when we invited Unlimited Realities business development manager Ben Wilde to show off Fingertapps at Wellington to the World.
New Zealand companies are becoming increasingly adept at forging relationships offshore and the U.S. computing market is generally the most obvious first port of call. Fingertapps is yet another great example of high flying Kiwi technology going global from New Zealand.
To say that 2010 was a year full challenges and opportunities is somewhat of an understatement. For many people in business it was a case of hanging in there as a recessionary economy misfired and struggled to get up off its knees. But much worse than this, New Zealand (and in particular the south) was stricken by the triple tragedies of a huge investment business failure, a destructive earthquake and a terrible mine disaster. Whilst these events provided a much-needed distraction for the government, they were devastating for the people directly affected and shocked all of us.
When national morale takes a hit, I’ve noticed the economy tends to suffer as well. Good spirits lead to more spending which in turn leads to more optimism. It’s a virtuous circle. On the plus side, we have been sheltered a little from the storm by high global dairy prices and the fact that our banks are stable and government debt not completely out of control like elsewhere. But there’s still lots more work to be done on diversifying the economy and I don’t think we should rely entirely on the Thugby World Cup to reignite our passions in 2011. We can’t afford to sleepwalk through another year.
The government needs to be looking at providing a more aspirational science and innovation framework that goes well beyond moving the deck chairs around with yet another departmental restructuring. In the lead up to the election, we also need to start thinking about reforming our entire legal system. When a senior judge thinks it’s ok to preside over a court case involving a business partner and peeping toms get longer prison sentences than drunk drivers who kill and maim, we know we’ve got a serious problem.
On a personal level I had the immense satisfaction of working with two great teams. The first was the crew at ideegeo from whom I learn something new every day. We headed into our third year of domain renewals this month at iWantMyName and grew revenue at over 200% during the year. We also addressed some growing pains by improving our platform technology as well as our management systems as we position for the next chapter. The most exciting aspect of going global with the technology was that we secured a core following of early adopters amongst the developer community worldwide that may open some interesting doors for us in 2011. Watch this space.
My other team are the good folks at the Unlimited Potential committee who help bring the coolest events to the ICT community here in Wellington. We had a very busy year with a strong focus on promoting technology entrepreneurship through a number of well supported events. We also completed our wonderful new website. All of this was achieved in a very tough funding environment. Because of UP activities, teams got built, tech businesses were started and people found jobs. Real life social networking is important. Thanks to the supporters who made it happen and let us know if you’d like to get involved as an event partner or committee member in 2011.
Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season and a prosperous 2011.
Recently Unlimited Potential ran Wellington to the World (W2W), New Zealand’s leading showcase event for early stage web and software ventures. W2W is about building bridges, so we invite technology innovators, entrepreneurs and tech investors to network over beer and pizza and encourage young companies to share what they are working on through either talks or at the demo zone. This was the third year that we have run the event and I’m personally very proud of what has been achieved so far.
Much of the progress that is being made in promoting technology entrepreneurship in New Zealand is underpinned by communities of interest that are flourishing right now. I shared some remarks about this at the opening of W2W in my capacity as Chairperson at Unlimited Potential. We think it’s important to support developer communities and start-up groups because they nurture the seeds of future ventures and provide a deep pool of knowledge for new entrepreneurs.
If you didn’t make it to the event this year, check out the W2W entrepreneur videos. There is also some images and an event review available.
Thank-you once again Wellington City Council, Grow Wellington, Viclink and Summer of Tech for helping make this event possible.
Global Entrepreneurship Week has rolled around already and Unlimited Potential is once again doing it’s bit to promote technology entrepreneurship as a career option. I’ll be working hard this week on a few last minute details for our Wellington to the World (W2W) event on Thursday.
Wellington is alive with tech talent at present and there has been somewhat of a renaissance as geek-preneurs have got cracking launching some great products onto the world stage. In some cases these are second or third generation ventures where there has been an earlier exit. W2W is a showcase event that brings together technology innovators, entrepreneurs and investors to share ideas and celebrate emerging tech ventures from around the region.
We have a cool new venue this year, so have included a small demo zone adjacent to the bar area in the programme. There will be plenty of opportunity for hands on experience. Some of the companies in the demo zone will also be presenting during the entrepreneur flash talks. The event begins at 4pm on Thursday 18th November with talks by technology researchers from Victoria University. A number of these projects have commercial potential and will be seeking partnerships and investment in the future. Victoria University commercialisation arm Viclink is an event partner, so please support these speakers.
The event also encapsulates the Summer of Tech launch for 2010/11. Summer of Tech is a great initiative that matches software and engineering companies with students looking for work experience over the summer holidays. It’s an important plank in a strategy to build up capacity and grow employment in hi-tech around the region. This year we are very pleased to have Xero CTO Craig Walker to speak at the launch. There are a small number of places left at the event, so be quick, registration is essential.