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The upstart nation, part 5: New Zealand's new tech story

The upstart nation, part 5: New Zealand's new tech story

From drone technology to electric farm bikes and computer graphics, from space-age umbrellas to fitness trackers and the world's leading DJ software, New Zealand developers, entrepreneurs and companies are winning in areas where no one thought we could even compete. In this final extract from No. 8 Recharged, the follow-up to the successful No. 8 Rewired, David Downs & Dr. Michelle Dickinson show how the creative thinking that New Zealand has become renowned for is being expanded and improved.

Ma whero ma pango ka oti ai te mahi

With red and black the work will be completed

Our belief is that there is an opportunity in being identified as a technology company from New Zealand. There is an individual benefit, and in the long run there’s a collective benefit to be gained. It’s not enough to say ‘we’re innovative’, or ‘our products speak for themselves’. It is table stakes that any tech company is innovative, and that you have products to sell. The unfair advantage you can bring to the table is the power of a collective story.

International studies and benchmarks confirm that New Zealand has a justified reputation with some very positive national attributes. Hardly a week goes by when the newspapers aren’t reporting we are number one in the world for anti-corruption, number one for ease of doing business, number four for attractiveness for investment, with a simple tax system, a transparent and non-corrupt government sector, topping the indices for innovation and a steady economic path … the accolades accumulate. Perhaps not as obviously or dramatically as a release of a new Hobbit movie, or the latest 100% Pure New Zealand campaign highlighting our scenery; but slowly and surely over the past 10–20 years, with the same accretive impact, our reputation has emerged as a first-world nation that is taken seriously as a player in the international business scene. This is true in the food sector, particularly in dairying and primary produce, and it’s a growing dimension of competitiveness in the manufacturing and creative sectors. It’s a reputation that can have a positive impact broadly in the technology sector, too, if we collectively work on it.

Let’s take an international comparator – it seems illogical that Israel, ‘The Startup Nation’, should have such a global reputation for high-tech innovation. It’s counter-intuitive given Israel’s obvious challenges and constraints, but undeniably today it is seen as a hotbed of tech startups. There are a number of factors at play of course, and this is not a rallying cry to ‘be like Israel’. It’s simply meant to show that a country can change its image, through a mixture of intent and careful thought, underpinned by delivery against that reputation.

New Zealand is delivering on its reputation, but the reputation itself is now something that deserves more conscious thought. Pioneers of New Zealand technology have built a solid platform for the next generation to build on. We have a starting set of kōrero, of proof points, that justify our claims to be a technologically advanced and innovative nation. There is growing awareness of that reputation; there is a halo effect from other positive associations people make with New Zealand. We can now be bold and state with confidence, ‘I’m a technology company from New Zealand, a country that thinks differently, that innovates quickly, that uses its unique perspective on the world to solve problems in a different way.’

If we collectively do this in our messaging, our branding, our storytelling – and we continue to deliver high-quality products, services and ideas – the collective benefit over time will continue to grow, and we can claim the role of The Upstart Nation, with technology that has significant impact for the world.

Read part 1 here.

Read part 2 here.

Read part 3 here.

Read part 4 here.

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription, an Idealog t-shirt and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).