Posts tagged ‘export’


When it comes to convention centres, it pays to think ahead

13.05.2013

The New Zealand International Convention Centre has been announced in Auckland. In 2010, my campaign team proposed a convention centre for Miramar Wharf, which would include a technology complex, in a format that could have been licensed to other countries, earning royalties for the Wellington business that came up with the idea. The location was to address concerns from the hospitality sector about taking business away from the centre city, and the proximity to the airport could have helped some of our visitors. (This is a matter of record and was briefly covered by The Dominion Post.)
   I felt that the project fitted in with our city’s image. I was drawn to the idea of royalty incomes for a New Zealand business, which would have showed that Kiwi ingenuity and intellectual property could be exported in a frictionless fashion. There was also a concern that we could not attract international conventions here, even in the late 2000s, and this complex could have solved it. I had been to enough conventions and conferences overseas to have seen first-hand the sort of numbers involved—and how we needed something ourselves. It was to preempt similar moves by other cities, long before the Sky City deal was announced.
   I know there are issues with this—including whether residents would want a complex there, and there would be a great need to consult with the public first. Nonetheless, it was worth raising it, and I’m grateful that it received a tiny bit of coverage, so you know I’m not engaging in revisionism today.
   With hindsight, it would have respected the memorandum issued by WCC in the 1990s that a casino was not desirable for our city. I note that at the mayoral debate for the hospitality sector in 2010, opinions on a casino were divided roughly 50–50.
   The Dominion Post is covering this topic today, and it highlights to me that this city has been caught on the back foot again.
   Wellington still strikes me as a more desirable location, with Auckland and Queenstown, for instance, a stone’s throw via an air link. It’s the same with our airport. We have an opportunity to put ourselves on the map in the next few years, while Christchurch is still rebuilding, because they will come to threaten Wellington’s position as an innovative hub within the next decade. More importantly, we need to be positioning ourselves to a global audience, something that 20th-century political thinking still prevents us from doing.

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Posted in branding, business, leadership, marketing, media, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | 2 Comments »


Small is beautiful, whether it’s a company or a country

07.04.2012

My friend Summer Rayne Oakes at Source4Style put me on to an article in The Guardian by Ilaria Pasquinelli, on how small firms drive innovation. If the fashion industry is to survive, she says, it must team up with the small players where innovation takes place, thanks to the visionaries who drive those firms.
   She’s right, of course:

The small scale allows companies to be flexible, this is crucial in order to adapt to very diverse market conditions and economic turbulence.
   In addition, small companies have no other option than to take risk in order to leave their mark, notably if they are start-ups. Small companies habitually lack financial resources though, and it is precisely here where larger organisations can decide to take on a calculated risk and allocate some of their funds, in order to outsource processes, products or development.

   Therefore, it’s important not just to foster the growth of small creative businesses, but entire networks where they can come into contact with the larger ones. And the successful cities of the 21st century are those that can do that through clusters, clever place branding, and a real understanding of what it takes to compete at a global level.
   We’re still largely hampered by politicians who cannot see past their own national boundaries or, at best, look at competing solely with a neighbouring nation, when that has not been the reality for at least 20 years.
   There are exceptions where companies themselves have done the environmental scanning and found organizations to collaborate with—such as the ones Ilaria mentions in her article. But there’s no practical reason other than a lack of vision that they are the exception rather than the rule.
   She gives three examples: Tesco collaborated with upcycle fashion brand, From Somewhere, to use textile waste, which has seen three collections produced; Levi’s is refitting vintage 501s with Reformation, so customers know their old jeans aren’t going to a landfill; and Worn Again, partnering with Virgin, Royal Mail and Eurostar, is making bags out of the likes of postal workers’ decommissioned storm jackets.
   The innovations, of course, need not be in fashion or even sustainability. Look back through the last generation of innovations and many have come from smaller companies that needed the right leg up. Google, too, was started in someone’s home.
   I’ve been pushing the “think global” aspect of my own businesses, as well as encouraging others, for a lot of the 25 years Jack Yan & Associates has existed. It’s why most of our ventures have looked outside our own borders for sales. When we went on to bulletin boards for the first time at the turn of the 1990s, it was like a godsend for a kid who marvelled at the telex machine at my Dad’s work. It’s second-nature for anyone my age and younger to see this planet as one that exists independently of national borders, whether for trade or for personal friendships.
   As this generation makes its mark, I am getting more excited—though I remain cautious of institutions that keep our thinking so locally focused because that is simply what the establishment is used to. Yet it’s having the courage to take the leap forward that will make this country great: small nations, like small companies, should be, and can be, hotbeds of innovation.
   Create those clusters, and create some wonderful champions—and the sort of independent thinking Kiwis are known for can go far beyond our borders.

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Posted in branding, business, leadership, media, New Zealand, politics, Wellington | 1 Comment »


A farewell to Sir Paul Callaghan, and the next step for our innovators

24.03.2012

When I attended Sir Paul Callaghan’s talk at the Wellington Town Hall last September, I felt vindicated. Here was a man who was much better qualified than me to talk about economic development, effectively endorsing the policies I ran on in 2010. But not being political, he was a great deal more persuasive. Since then, I’ve noticed more New Zealanders become convinced by Sir Paul’s passion—and wake us up to the potential that we have in this nation.
   This great communicator, this wonderful patriot, this sharpest of minds, passed away today after a battle with colon cancer.
   I wrote on Facebook when I heard the news that the best thing we can do to honour Sir Paul was to carry on his legacy, and to carry out the dream he had for making New Zealand a better, more innovative nation.
   Sir Paul wasn’t afraid of tall poppies. He knew Kiwis punched above their weight, and wanted to see more of that happen.
   All those tributes today saying his passing is a great loss to the nation are so very accurate—and I hope we’ll continue to see his dream realized.

Sir Paul Callaghan had a vision, but at the more micro level, it’s important to get a grasp on what the market will bear. There is a fine line, of course, between testing a market and relying too much on a rear-view mirror, and Jenny Douché’s new book, Fool Proof, addresses that, with case studies featuring some very successful New Zealand businesses, including No. 8 Ventures, Phil & Ted’s, Cultureflow and Xero. She stresses dialogue and engagement as useful tools in market validation, and she’s so passionate about the importance of her work that she’s donated copies to 200 organizations, including business incubators, economic development agencies, business schools and chambers of commerce nationally. Find out more at foolproofbook.com.

A Reuter story today talks about Sweden’s growing inequality in the last 15 years—something I’ve certainly noticed first-hand in the eight-year period between 2002 and 2010.
   We often aspire to be like Sweden, but much of that aspiration was based on a nation image of equality and social stability. Certainly since the mid-2000s, that hasn’t been true, as Sweden embarked on reforms that we had done in the 1980s, with selling state assets and cutting taxes.
   Inequality, according to the think-tank quoted in the article, has risen at a rate four times greater than that of the US.
   The other sobering statistic that came out earlier this year was that Sweden has the worst-performing economy in Scandinavia.
   None of this is particularly aspirational any more, and perhaps it brings me back to the opening of this blog entry: Sir Paul Callaghan.
   Given that we had the 1980s’ economic reforms, but we have scarcely seen the level playing-field promised us by the Labour government of that era, our best hope is to innovate in order to create high-value jobs. On that Sir Paul and I were in accord. Let’s play in those niches and beat the establishment with smart, clever New Zealand-owned businesses—and steadily achieve that that level playing field that we’re meant to have.
   It’s about cities creating environments that foster innovation and understand the climate needed for it to grow, which includes formally recognizing clusters, identifying and funding them, and having mechanisms that can ensure ideas don’t get lost beyond a mere discussion stage—including incubator and educational programmes. The best ideas need to be grown and taken to a global level.
   Ah, I hear, many of these agencies already exist—and that’s great. Now for the next step.
   It’s also about cities not letting politics get in their way and understanding that the growth of a region is healthy—which means cooperation between civic leaders and an ability to move rapidly, seizing innovation opportunities. It means a reduction in bureaucracy and the realization that much of the technology exists so that time spent on admin can be kept to a minimum (and plenty of case studies exist in states more advanced than us). Right-brained people thrive when they create, not when they are filling in forms. The streamlining of the Igovt websites by the New Zealand Government is move in the right direction.
   We know what has to be done—especially given how far down we are based on the following graph from the New Zealand Institute:

   As the Institute points out, many of the right moves are being made, and have been made, at the national level. But it is also aware that an internationalization strategy is part of the mix—the very sort of policy I have lived by in my own businesses. And this begs the question of why there have not been policies that help those who desire to go global and commercialize their ideas at a greater level. That’s the one area where we need to champion those Kiwis who have made it—Massey’s Hall of Fame dinners over the last two years celebrate such New Zealanders in a small way—and to let those who are at school now know that, when they get into the workforce, that it’s OK to think globally.
   If we’re wondering where the gap is, especially in a nation of very clever thinkers, it’s right there: we need to create a means for the best to go global, and make use of our million-strong diaspora, in very high positions, that Sir Paul pointed out in his address. Engagement with those who have made it, and having internationalization experts in our agencies who can call on their own entrepreneurial experiences, would be a perfect start.

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Posted in business, leadership, marketing, New Zealand, politics, publishing, Sweden, technology, Wellington | No Comments »


The guide for New Zealand businesses looking at China

03.01.2012

New Zealand China Trade Guide

I bumped into Chris Wilson, who edited NZT&E’s excellent periodical Bright some years ago, recently. Sadly, the government pulled the plug on Bright, though as I understand it, some colleagues at In Business wound up taking over the mailing list.
   But it’s wonderful to see the high standards of excellence that Chris was known for continue. He has served as managing editor of the New Zealand China Trade Guide, published by CommStrat. It’s a hefty 148 pp. bilingual guide with overviews, the usual well meaning quotes from government officials, and, importantly, case studies and sector-by-sector analyses.
   The publication, in full colour and retailing for under NZ$40, reads in an accessible style—forget those boring government documents that ape textbooks. It should help businesses explore opportunities in China—while also serving as a reminder that New Zealand is a very innovative nation and Kiwis set the bar very high. It has received an endorsement from the New Zealand–China Trade Association.
   Chris should be justifiably proud of his latest work and it’s a must for dealing with what has become New Zealand’s second biggest market.

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Posted in business, China, media, New Zealand, politics, publishing | No Comments »


Stutterheim marks the Swedish mood

21.11.2010

Stutterheim Raincoats

Sent to me by Stefan Engeseth, Stutterheim Raincoats‘ website conveys a very Swedish feel, touching on one of the emotions we don’t always associate with Sweden: melancholy during the winter. The copy on the site even says, ‘Let’s embrace Swedish melancholy.’
   With emotive photographs and a very Swedish soundtrack, it helps create an atmosphere as well as differentiation for the brand.
   The website also stresses the made-in-Sweden aspect of the Stutterheim range, as well as its home in the town of Borås, well known for fashion design, textiles, and fashion manufacture.
   The country-of-origin aspect is important not just to the export markets (to whom the site must partly be aimed, given its use of English—although 90 per cent of Swedes speak the language) but to the domestic one. With the reforms of Moderaterna (conservatives) over the last half-decade, there has inevitably been more imports into the country. I wouldn’t be surprised if an increasing number of Swedes will now, specifically, seek out locally manufactured goods today as a reaction to the market-driven theories of Fredrik Reinfeldt and co.

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Posted in branding, business, culture, marketing, politics, Sweden | 1 Comment »


Kiwi entrepreneurs launch Snapr to share mobile photos

30.07.2010

Sna.pr

My friend Edward Talbot, and his friend and business partner Rowan Wernham, launched their Snapr (sna.pr) service today. It’s the ideal way to share geotagged photographs in the 2010s, and I expect these guys to do some great things as Snapr takes off.
   Snapr was the only Kiwi (if not southern hemisphere) venture to show at SXSW’s Accelerator competition this year, and is a perfect example of how New Zealand talent can take on and change the world.
   I foresee Snapr having a big take-up by netizens, especially as we move more into greater smartphone usage, mobile snaps, and augmented reality.
   In their release, Ed and Rowan state: ‘Snapr is a big public channel for people to share what’s happening in their life. We love the idea of a map with crowdsourced photos, you can look in anywhere, discover new people, and find neat things going on.
   ‘Mobile snaps are less about aesthetics, they are an immediate way to show what is going on where you are.’
   The release goes on to describe the service. ‘Photos on Snapr are viewed via a map based interface. Snaps from the same place and time are naturally brought together.
   ‘An iPhone application [a free download] allows users to upload photos, send tweets, and view the map on the go.’
   The founders have their favourite images already grouped on the site, and you can begin to see how it works. Here are Rowan’s, and here are Ed’s.
   While founded in Auckland, this is the sort of business I see starting in Wellington under my mayoral policies: high-tech, creative, even game-changing. It’s where the level playing field allows Kiwis to reach punch well above our weight.

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Posted in business, internet, leadership, New Zealand, politics, publishing, technology | No Comments »


Let the Outrageous Fortune come

15.06.2010

Almost any New Zealander will recognize this image: a cast photograph from the long-running TV series Outrageous Fortune.

   When I first heard of this show from Antonia Prebble, before she started filming, I have to admit I didn’t think the premise would see it last five years (and counting). But for New Zealand television and the folks this show employs, I am glad it has.
   Like all good shows (Life on Mars, State of Play, Cracker)—and a few bad ones (Pop Idol)—it was eyed up for a remake.
   The British, who have never been that great at remaking shows usually (remember the Russ Abbot sitcom Married for Life, based on Married with Children? Or the remake of Who’s the Boss?, called The Upper Hand?), decided it would see how well West Auckland transplanted to London. Cue Amanda Redman instead of Robyn Malcolm, and a rebrand to Honest for ITV:

   No, it didn’t work. According to some expat Kiwis whose comments I read, the pilot was virtually a shot-by-shot remake that added nothing to the original. I do not know about the remainder of the series, but the fact that it was not renewed by ITV says something.
   The Americans, who have never been that great at remaking shows usually (Sanford & Son, Life on Mars, Coupling, Cosby, Ugly Betty, Three’s a Crowd, Eleventh Hour, Too Close for Comfort, The Office, Viva Laughlin, Kath & Kim, Payne, Amanda’s, The Prisoner, In Treatment, Worst Week, All in the Family, State of Play, etc.; Shameless and Gavin & Stacey are on the cards), decided to give this a shot. Getting in the chap who made Veronica Mars and Catherine O’Hara (the Home Alone Mum, after Rene Russo turned it down), Cheryl West became Jackie West and the show was renamed Good Behavior.

Only the pilot was made. I never saw it, but indications were that it was not good.
   Still, you have to admire the Americans for not giving up. The show’s been retooled, Virginia Madsen and David James Elliott (whom I know you ladies like) have been hired, and, as Scoundrels, it débuts on ABC on June 20. A series has been commissioned.

   The publicity touts this as an ‘original’ ABC series (yeah, right), but I actually hope it goes well for them. Why? Because the Kiwis who created Outrageous Fortune, I believe, will earn royalties on each episode. We might pooh-pooh it because we are purists, but I’d rather the money flowed inwards. While we haven’t exactly exported Kiwi culture in a Flight of the Conchords way—because the show has been Americanized—I’d still rather a decent Kiwi concept got there and, in its small way, reverse the tide of the reality TV junk that so often comes westward across the Pacific.
   Like Scorsese’s The Departed, a remake that sparked interest in the original Infernal Affairs (無間道), we might see Americans track down the original Outrageous Fortune on DVD. That, too, can only be a good thing.

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Posted in business, culture, humour, New Zealand, TV, UK, USA | 1 Comment »