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NZTech CEO: 'We don't have enough big ICT companies'

Sathya Mithra Ashok | Feb. 4, 2014
Candace Kinser, CEO of NZ Technology Industry Association (NZTech), chats with ComputerWorld NZ on the important issues facing the country's ICT sector and how the association is working with both the government and the industry to enable faster, stronger growth in the future.

In the next 12 months we will definitely keep supporting high growth export companies through a digital health program with Callaghan and NZTE. We have got a whole stream of programs and $3 million of funding over the next five years to make that happen.

The main agenda that I want to focus on again is paying attention to the skills and talent framework for the country. So really diving deep into the future, which is about educating our kids, looking into how we can look at policy amendments, how can we look into taking advantage of N4L broadband rollout that is going on.

It's also upskilling our teachers and giving them incentives to use the digital education format in the classroom, right through to continuing the work in trying to onboard the kids into the computer science programs and making more seats available within universities — that has not been reviewed in more than 10 years.

We are also working with Immigration NZ in visa restructuring, and educating our independent participants about the fact that there are so many opportunities for them to work with immigration NZ to fast track people that they need into the country. And then through to career development for women, re-employment within the workforce, and then towards the end of the careers, getting more people with tech backgrounds on to boards.

That is what is in store for the next 12 months — getting that foundation going.

Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the industry in the next couple of years?

CK: The number one challenge has to do with the ability to scale for companies that are growing in this market and looking at expanding and exporting increasing, their capabilities in terms of their R&D and just becoming bigger companies.

Xero started with Rod and a couple of people in their living rooms, to becoming this company that is a juggernaut internationally. Can't we replicate that environment? One of the hardest things for Rod in the early days was finding the right people, the right team. Now they have got a brand, they can attract talent.

But we have also got hundreds of smaller high growth companies that have not become brands. They don't have the funding and they don't have the availability to actually scale rapidly in this market. If you look at that as a number one issue, there are a whole bunch of others that come off it such as seed funding, growth capital, governance, structure, export capability and skills and talents.

New Zealand is a very niche country. The products and the companies that we create are often in areas that are overlooked by other countries or companies because they perceive them as too small an opportunity. We don't build databases and mobile phones, for example. We build companies that do funky stuff with databases, and we build companies that do funky stuff with apps.


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