Economist Brian Gaynor’s recent article on why we will never “catch up” to Australia was another sobering reminder of the hard road that New Zealand has ahead. Invoking a sporting analogy by beating Australia may be a popular rally to arms, but it focuses public attention on completely the wrong set of goalposts.
Another sobering occasion was when we sadly learned of the passing of Sir Paul Callaghan, one of New Zealand’s most passionate science communicators and technology entrepreneurs. Sir Paul lived every moment and notably even turned his cancer treatment regime into an experiment. More importantly he was one of the most ardent promoters of science and technology commercialisation as a means of growing New Zealand’s economy.
“Sir Paul was a true public intellectual who earned the respect of everyone, including those who disagreed with him”, stated the government’s sternly worded Ministerial press release reporting news of Sir Paul’s death. Curiously, outside of Cabinet, I can’t name a single (intelligent) person who actually disagreed with his thesis that New Zealand urgently needs to ramp up economic growth through more investment in research, science and technology commercialisation, rather than continuing with an over-reliance on flogging unprocessed, environmentally unsustainable dairy commodities to the world.
To its credit, the government has finally moved to increase research funding and there are more frequent mutterings along the lines of “doing something” about uncovering intellectual property locked up within our many publicly funded institutions. But those of us who looked on frustrated over the last decade as the “Knowledge Wave” withered on the vine, are becoming more and more concerned that the opportunity to fully promote science and technology as an economic driver is disappearing.
Beyond pumping more cash into research, we need a huge cultural shift involving both governmental agencies and the public mindset. As clean-tech entrepreneur Nick Gerritsen stated at a recent seminar, “we need more millionaire scientists and fewer millionaire sportsmen”. With the loss of Professor Callaghan, I’m left wondering who will be brave enough to pick up the mantle.
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What kind of attributes do you need to make a start-up dream team? When we think about high flying tech companies, a single high profile founder often springs to mind. But the reality is that start-ups with high growth potential need a mix of skills to build something long-lasting.
A lot depends on the type of business that you are thinking about starting. But for a definition of a basic start-up team I quite like the analogy of “finder, minder and grinder”. The Grinder is the person with domain knowledge. In a software start-up it’s obviously a skilled developer, at a micro-brewery it’s the brewer, in a restaurant it’s the chef. The Minder looks after the accounts, makes sure the money gets banked and the bills paid and later on, helps to raise capital. The Finder is your marketing guru who gets out there and makes the all important sales, without which there will be no business.
When we established ideegeo and started developing domain registrar iWantMyName, that was pretty much the roles we each took on. Being a web start-up we also had a designer at the outset, which was important for us. Now I don’t want to be too prescriptive because there are always exceptions to a rule and there is almost always some overlap in these early co-founder roles as well. But “finder, minder, grinder” is a good rule of thumb to get your team started.
On Thursday 9th September Unlimited Potential will be running the Co-founder Match-making Event in conjunction with the Bright Ideas Challenge and Grow Wellington. This event is specifically aimed at taking people with I.T. related bright ideas and matching them with others who have technology or business skills to take these projects forward. The event is NOT for consultants looking to sell services to companies; it’s for folks who actually want to put their time into a project in return for equity and a bigger potential return downstream.
If you are a developer, designer, web marketing expert or just have a great tech idea you want some help with – come along to this facilitated networking session and find your dream team! We will also be having inspiring Minimonos co-founder and serial tech entrepreneur Melissa Clark-Reynolds join us for the evening.
Please create a short profile on the new Unlimited Potential website and register for the event.