Well…. Day one held an interesting variety of speakers. The highlight was Andy Lark who gave an interesting (if, IMHO, slightly biased towards the IT viewpoint of things) presentation. To paraphrase he identified a number of paradoxes for NZ exporters;

  • We live on an island…..but have export conferences because we are exporting less
  • Distance is dead…..unless you live on an island at the end of the earth
  • KG’s are a big part of our export strategy…. but winning economies are weightless
  • What we regard as most valuable….is less important than we think
  • If brands do in fact matter….why are our B2B businesses not winning
  • We’re the most entrepreneurial nation in the world……we’re great at building SME’s but not at selling to them

Andy was very entertaining but I have a couple of issues wih some of what he said.

He stated that the NZ brand is not overly important to our export markets. Maybe this is a case in the IT sector but my own business, Cactus Climbing, leverages heavily off the NZ image. As do a number of others.  There was discussion about the new technologies that allow collaborative business, Wiki’s, LinkedIn, SaaS, Skype etc etc and, while I am a believer and utiliser of all of them, the fact of the matter is that these things are tools that may or may not be relevant to particular business people. Sure in the IT sector all of the above are no-brainers but my contention is that unless having a blog is relevant to a particular CEO, it is counter productive for them to do so. Something that I’ve already raised in a previous post.

Andy’s contention was that NZ needs to create exponential exporters, businesses that can scale quickly into world class in terms of offering and turnover. I kind of disagree, I think given NZ’s fundamentals that NZTE should be targeting getting 100 $5mill turnover companies to $10 or $20mill turnover in a short space of time. It seems a lower risk strategy and more in keeping with the Kiwi ethos. Also it may well allow us to scale businesses slightly under the competitive radar – something that a country in our position might very well need to do.

Other speakers were Jane Hunter, CEO of Hunter Wines, who talked about overcoming the hurdles of CO2 and the food miles debate for NZ businesses. While it was an interesting topic she isn’t unfortunately the most animated of speakers.

Final presentation was by Steve Tew, Deputy CEO of the NZRU, he talked about managing the brand that is NZ rugby and growing it’s sales as a net exporter. Of course much of the talk ended up being parochial rugby talk but in between all that there was some interesting stuff.

As always at these sorts of conferences the most interesting part was the in-between networking. I met some interesting individuals and listened to some interesting perspectives on economic development for New Zealand

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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