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Fingermark Group’s Luke Irving talks innovation and entrepreneurship ahead of the I&E2019

Taking place on November 8 in Napier, the Innovation and Entrepreneurship conference (I&E19) will be a masterclass with a top-drawer line-up of speakers and panelists spanning innovation leaders, serial entrepreneurs, and experts in their fields.

Fingermark is a digital solutions innovator enabling businesses to improve revenue, operational efficiency and customer experience.

From computer vision & AI software delivering real-time business analytics through to kiosks and data signage, Fingermark design fit-for-purpose, innovative solutions.

President and founder Luke Irving has an extensive background in entrepreneurship, with over 20 years of global experience in C-suite deals across Quick Service Restaurant (QSR), banking, air travel and public sectors.

Originally based in Auckland 12 years, Irving moved to the Hawke’s Bay three years ago.

The move was prompted by Irving feeling that his family needed a change.

“Both myself and Emma were from the provinces and wanted to move back. I initially listened to advice that the business was better in Auckland and that almost spurred me on to move even more,” Irving says.  

“It was a bit of trial and error at the start as you had to navigate new things but also make sure your team was doing o.k. Luckily Havelock North is not the hardest place to live in and we have been welcomed by the community.”

Irving says since he has moved Fingermark have forged critical partnerships with other businesses.

One example he gives is Metalform Ltd in Dannevirke, “who are pure geniuses in terms of what they do.”

“They were already building scale tech for international companies. We now outsource all our development of hardware IP and manufacturing to them. We are building thousands of outdoor screens and kiosks with them this year…plenty more of these stories can happen in the regions I can tell you that.” 

Fingermark have also recruited nearly 30 people locally.

“We love it in the regions, and we hope to inspire other companies to join us. We are on a mission to turn Hawke’s Bay into the number one tech region”.

When asked how the move was received by his team and clients, Irving says the team have loved the change.

“We had developers living in shoe boxes on Hobson Street [in Auckland’s CBD] and I thought that’s not right. We now have them living the quarter acre dream where we often share the BBQ hosting… also an abundance of great chardonnay for those stressful days.”

The move to Hawke’s Bay has also accelerated Fingermark’s innovation, Irving says, with the team able to have time to breath and think.

“Even though we are all on planes constantly, we have time for our families, we have time for each other. My saying to the team is ‘the further you can see, the bigger you think’. In the city we were surrounded by noise and distraction and most of it went nowhere.

“Down here we have space to think, meetings are more genuine, and you are connected, almost intertwined, with different industries which inspire new innovations and ideas.”

He says the Hawke’s Bay tech, innovation and entrepreneurship community is coming along nicely.

“The councils are still a bit in the headlights around it but that will change, we can see it happening.

“You have to remember Hawke’s Bay was the fruit bowl of New Zealand so it can be quite intimidating for a new industry to be catching up. What they need to understand is that tech can work for them too. You see stock X launch New Zealand’s first stock trading platform, so cool that’s happening in the village too, I call Havelock ‘Silicon Village’.”

The region absolutely has the potential to be a national tech hub, Irving says.

“We need more tech here, but I want other regions to be inspired by us as well. There are kids out there in the provinces reluctantly leaving home in search of jobs in tech, there’s no reason why these can’t be provided locally?.”

Alongside his work at Fingermark, Irving is planning a hi-tech campus in the Hawke’s Bay in conjunction with the Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) to teach the disciplines of tech in a semi commercial environment.

“I failed miserably at school, I was a practical learner, had plenty of problem-solving logic but was driven down an education road I didn’t understand. Computer vision and AI are technologies which embrace logic and practical skills.”

He says we should allow kids to see ideas through from concept to development through to commercialisation.

“Put them in our board room while we are nailing some big global deals and let them see how it’s done. We know as a company to be world class we need to have the talent and skills, we need the educators to be backing us and feeding us talent, but really we need to help the educators and invest in the process.

“We have traditionally gone overseas looking for these students but more recently we have gone local and found so many gems. We need to multiply these students and we need to do it fast.”

In terms of business support available in Hawke’s Bay for start-ups and new businesses, Irving says Business Hawke’s Bay is very active in the community.

“I think they are starting to hit their straps too as they can see their work come to fruition with all the new industries thriving. There are plenty of events, like the NZTE Investor showcases and I&E19 conference, which provide insight from outsiders and also stirs the ambition from within the region.”

Irving is looking forward to I&E19 where he says he’s honoured to be speaking alongside people such as “the legendary Kim Thorp who was one of the ad men of the 80s” and George Millar who “owns a company Mogul who developed one of New Zealand’s first software-as-a-service” (SaaS).

And the innovation theme doesn’t end with the conference programme; Bistronomy, one of Hawke’s Bay’s most innovative eating establishments; self-described as ‘one part local, one part global, and one part special sauce, infusing fresh Hawke’s Bay produce with far-flung ideas to create dishes which will often surprise and always delight’ is designing an amuse bouche especially for the event.

When asked what he’ll speak about, Irving explains he’s famous for rambling.

“So, probably just the start of the Fingermark story.”

To him, innovation and entrepreneurship is important because it keeps New Zealand in front and gets the country recognition.

“All companies start from one person and an idea, so if we don’t embrace this then where will our jobs be in the future? Innovation sets us aside from the rest. New Zealand are naturally good innovators…we just need to believe the rest of the world will think so too.”

And innovation and entrepreneurship are even more important for regional New Zealand in his opinion.

“With innovation and communication as it stands now the provinces probably have a slight advantage over larger centres. It’s cheaper to start in the provinces, easier to connect to partners to help you grow, it’s the perfect incubator. I think people just really need to believe that and the communities need to better prepare for this.”

You can catch Luke Irving speaking alongside many other inspirational speakers at I&E 2019.


What? Innovation & Entrepreneurship 2019
When? Friday 8 November, 8am – 5pm.
How much? General tickets are $299.
Where? The Napier Conference Centre, Napier.
Why? To get new ideas, inspiration and thinking at a conference that celebrates innovation and entrepreneurship.

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