In New Zealand, while we’ve often led the world in terms of innovation and the use of new technologies, our inward facing approach isn’t doing us any favours. I think there is something in our geographic remoteness that has traditionally seen us develop businesses and ideas within an entirely local worldview; products designed for the domestic market, servicing the domestic market, launched and sold here.
But it looks like we’re changing! The last few years have bought an increasing focus on diversifying our exportable products to include high growth companies — alongside milk solids — seeing the the likes of Xero and Vend taking New Zealand crafted ideas to the world. At the same time we’ve seen an increasing focus on eco-systems where growth has skyrocketed which has led policy makers, local government representatives and business folk to explore the likes of San Fran and New York with an eye for exploiting and exporting knowledge. The questions are always the same — What are they doing? Why is it working? And how can we do that here in New Zealand?
The projects at BizDojo that we’ve been helping run, create and pitch into like GridAKL and Collider have in-fact been informed by this type of learning. We know that the feeling of community and chances for cross-collaboration which come from bringing businesses together have been successful in the USA and Germany. And we also know that investment in these spaces from a governmental level can both help attract skilled workers, and showcase businesses all-in-one if executed the way Boston and Spain has.
But in general, most of the learnings in this area have largely focused on two markets, the USA and increasingly — China. So what about other places? What can we learn from them?
Enter Israel. Shalom!
While Israel may not be front of mind when it comes to the world of startup, they’ve actually got one of the most vibrant technology communities outside Silicon Valley, with massive rates of private investment.
I was pretty stoked to be included as part of a 50-strong New Zealand delegation to visit Israel to see first hand this spectacular eco-system that has earned them the nickname the ‘Startup Nation’. Our brainy group has been led by Spark Chief Simon Moutter, and included the likes of Michelle Dickinson (Nanogirl / scientist and co-founder of OMG Tech) Chris Quin (CEO Foodstuffs North Island), Dr Rick Ede (CEO Unitec), Fraser Whineray (CEO Mighty River Power), Simon MacKenzie (CEO Vector) Wendy Kerr (Director, Centre of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at University of Auckland) and of course me and my lustrous beard.
I will of course have plenty more to share on learnings from the mission, but in the meantime check out some of the tweets from the delegates including myself below or on Storify. As always I am keen to chat about things so hit me up on twitter!