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Reality Check: The Instillery’s Mike Jenkins

What’s your favourite…

Technology you can’t live without?

Amazon Alexa/Echo & Spotify. Voice-activated streaming of my favourite tunes, whether we’re in the office or at home.

Underrated or old technology?

The humble Viewmaster. I’ve got three young kids – the 6 and 2 year old are little gurus on their iPads but I loved seeing their minds blown when they cracked open a Viewmaster. Absolute gold – ’80’s VR!

New Zealand tech company or individual in that space that’s doing seriously cool things?

Knode. This collection of young down-to-earth no. 8-wire Kiwi farmers and their solution to an everyday issue for farmers is the epitome of exportable ag-tech. They’ve lived with real problem in their industry (checking water levels on the farm every day) and have solved it (as opposed to just talking about the 1,000,000s of ways it could be solved) by testing, iterating and creating an efficient service that I believe has the ability to transform farming here in NZ. They’re leveraged the power of loT and automated proactive water resource management in a user-friendly way.

Global tech company or individual in that space that’s doing seriously cool things?

Linc (founder) and the crew at 8i. If you don’t know them already check them out! Crazy cool human holograms for augmented and mixed reality. I love to see Kiwi founders getting it done on the global stage.

Tech project or product you’ve had a hand in?

Four years of helping enterprise and government clients accelerate their public cloud adoption led us to create an in-house app to help our own team deliver projects more efficiently. This project resulted in the Clearstate app which we officially launched at AWS re:invent in 2016. Clearstate is now helping AWS users across the globe gain visibility into their public cloud architecture, spend, trajectory and the location of their business data in real time – and saving them money (in the millions, for some).

Tech project or product that isn’t yours, but you’re envious of?

Cloudability. A very cool startup out of Portland Oregon. They’ve developed an app that enables enterprises to to use their data to automate policies and confidently make cloud-agnostic technology choices.

What first drew you to this industry?

After a career in IT himself, I asked my old man for career advice and he pretty directly told me that I’d be golden in a big property or finance business. So logically tech seemed like the only choice, ha!

What do you enjoy the most about working in tech?

Honestly, I love the people. From startups to the head honchos in the big businesses there are some classic characters. It’s also a dynamic industry that I believe is uniquely positioned to disrupt ALL other sectors.

How would you describe New Zealand’s tech culture?

Pockets of greatness and a few douchebags. If egos are checked at the door, we get better at sharing wins, losses and learnings – it will allow us to push fast-forward on progress to dominate together on the global stage.

Where does inspiration come from for you?

My inspiration starts at home, seeing the way my kids live and play. But I also get inspired from day to day life ‘admin’ and coming up with ways we can “bust queues” with technology – on a motorway, at the doctor’s office, clearing customs – wherever..   

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How has tech impacted on your work? How will it impact on it in the future?

Tech has enabled The Instillery to launch a tech business that now has clients in six countries around the world. We do business in London and New York from the comfort of Parnell and the Coromandel! In terms of the future, I think that we’ve only really scratched the surface on AI, machine learning in combination with the power of cloud. I think that this “new tech” will enable us to automate dangerous jobs with drones/cyborgs/robots and leveraging almost unlimited computer power/logic to support health professionals to tackle the most ruthless cancers and even take on problems like climate change.

What’s been the most concerning change that technology has made to human behaviour, in your experience?

Disengagement. It seems like a whole generation now actually prefer to send an email, WhatsApp, Slack or Facebook message as opposed to picking up the phone. These devices can be socially crippling… just look around the room you’re in right now.

How would you describe your relationship with technology? Do you think you’re addicted to any form of it?

Love the career and business that we’ve built for my family as a result of technology but hate to see tech invading social circles.

I’m a recovering mobile phone addict – haunted by the flashing blue notification light on my Samsung.  

Do you think social media is a blessing or a curse?

Depends whose social accounts you’re talking about. The Kardashian family – curse. Stephen Donald (Beaver) – blessing. I love that social media provides an avenue to connect and share with business leaders, innovators and punters across the globe that would otherwise be impossible.

Do you think technology needs more laws surrounding it, or a form of resource consent regulation?

Are you serious?! Like we need any more reasons to slow down hi-tech adoption, particularly in the areas that need it most: central and local government. The answer is NO. Despite this, though, I’m a big believer in individual privacy. The trade-off between sharing data to deliver better outcomes / experiences and protecting individuals privacy will always be a very delicate balance.

What needs to be done to tackle the diversity issue in tech?

This still kills me. So much talk and not enough action! My philosophy is that by not providing opportunities in tech to everyone – irrespective of sex, origin, age or experience – we’re simply reducing the pool of talent to attract and select from and doing the whole industry a disservice. To progress and accelerate we need fresh ideas, thinking and experiences that enable us to tackle problems with a new lens.

What worries you the most about technology?

That the people who would benefit most from it aren’t getting access to it because it’s cost prohibitive and they’re not being considered for new tech opportunities..

What’s your scariest prediction for the future? Will the robots kill us all?

A couple of random predictions; the ability to instantly share medical data between patients, local doctors and leading experts (i.e. doctors) across the world, spray on clothes and “digital drugs”. Each of these predictions bring new opportunities for cybercriminals to exploit and harm without the right protection from central govt agencies in partnership with the private sector. (I’m scared by the power of hackers in 2017 – they’ll only get better.) And no to robots taking over. I’d suggest that driverless cars are surely a less scary prospect that some of the recent examples of unlicensed drivers on Kiwi roads.

What will New Zealand look like as a country in 2037?

Hi-tech export revenue will have overtaken primary industry.

NZ will be globally recognised as a global innovation hub for Hi-tech – not just agtech.

Electric cars will be the only cars on the road – the trillionaires will be the only ones who can afford to fill up with gas.

Borderless travel between NZ and Australia/Pacific Islands.

Renewable energy will contribute 75 percent of all energy consumed. Power grids will be in the cloud and driven by a household-to-household economy.

The public sector will be able to attract and retain the top tech talent and crowdsource globally to take on New Zealand’s largest opportunities and threats head on.

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