Ten* After Ten: Vaughan Rowsell on the last ten years and the next

We ask Idealog’s best to reflect on what’s changed in the last 10 years. And what still needs to.

"Where are we going to find the highly-skilled tech people to turn our ideas into businesses?"

Ingenuity is one of our greatest assets. It’s taken time, but a lot has changed since 2005. Ten years ago, Xero was yet to launch, and creatives and entrepreneurs were just testing the waters with new software and ideas. We didn’t really know what we were doing or where the opportunities were.

Now technology is New Zealand’s fastest growing export sector (up 40% in the past two years) and our third largest GDP export. We’ve come a long way, largely thanks to entrepreneurial Kiwis with big ideas and bigger visions who have paved the way for others. It’s an exciting time to be working in a creative industry like technology.

The next 10 years? We’re moving away from the traditional route of studying for a specific career path at university and then pursuing that career. We’ll see more teen entrepreneurs, self-taught coders, creatives, and people coming up with their own crazy business ideas and just making it happen.

I’ve got a vision to make Vend a global leader and, more so than in 2005, many other New Zealand businesses have that goal too.

Auckland and Wellington look a lot like San Francisco did 20 years ago. So we might have another 10 years to go.

What keeps me awake at night? The shortage of highly-skilled people to do the really valuable grunt-work is going to get worse. And without lots of these people we will lose out on the sort of great ideas being born and fostered in places with deeper talent pools. This problem isn’t confined to New Zealand, but will affect us more.

I’m constantly thinking of ways to get young people more involved in tech. We need inspirational stories to excite the next generation of kids, and then we must give them the tools and basic skills to invent. It’s about creating a pathway through the schooling system focused on innovation and technology so they can come out the other side ready to build their ideas into businesses.

Idealog’s first major feature on Vaughan Rowsell was in issue 30 (Nov/Dec 2010), a couple of years after he started point of sale software company Vend. Last year he co-founded kids tech education programme OMGTech with Nanogirl Michelle Dickinson.

*Dodgy counting alert: Initially, we actually we asked 11 people, because we were worried not everyone would want to contribute. But everyone did. But “11 after 10” didn’t sound right. And then we liked those 11 answers so much, we kept asking people. Stay tuned for more over the summer months.