Posts tagged ‘Massey University’


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 »


Retrograde steps for our cellphones

07.11.2010

Nokia 2730 ClassicLast week, our company’s Nokia 2730 Classics arrived as part of a contract with Telstra Clear, of whom we’ve been a customer since the 1980s. They are a reminder of how technology is regressing.
   Remember that scene in Life on Mars, where Sam Tyler, or Samuel Santos in La chica de ayer, tells Annie Cartwright, Annie Norris or Ana Valverde (depending on which version you saw) how LPs had been replaced by MP3s and digital music, and that the sound is ‘much, much worse’? That’s sort of how I feel with these new gadgets.

Left Not quite the same as ours—the display is different—but this is a publicity shot of the Nokia 2730 Classic. Below Life on Mars’s record shop scene in its various incarnations (from left to right, top to bottom): the UK original in Manchester; the unaired US pilot, set in Los Angeles; the US remake, set in New York; and the Spanish remake, set in Madrid.
Life on Mars music store scenes

   On the surface, the new phones aren’t much to look at. Compared with the 6275i phones that the 2730s are replacing, it’s clear that they are built to a price, cost-cutting for easy manufacture in China rather than Korea. There’s not much of an excuse here for design simplification: this is manufacturing simplification.
   I have reason to be cynical. I’m sure it’s part of a conspiracy to force us to get a nicer model. I remember buying a Microtek scanner for around $600 in the 1990s—probably around 1996—and it lasted me for years, till around 2002 when I ordered an upgrade. I looked at the specs for the latest scanners and thought, ‘Wow, here’s one with a higher resolution going for half the price.’ I brought it back and the scanning quality was total crap.
   I wrote to the distributor in Auckland and they informed me: the equivalent model to my old one is this other machine costing $600. The difference is that the half-price one has a plastic lens and my old one had a glass lens. So if I wanted one with comparable quality, I would need to pay twice as much for one with a glass lens. In other words, it would still cost me $600.
   I bought the glass one and they were as good as their word, although I had to put up with a smaller scanning area (but I got a faster speed). The resolution figure, it turned out, was meaningless, because the actual quality of the product was so poor.
   Technology didn’t really advance in six years. I still had to pay the same price for a machine with actually less capability on the primary function, which was scanning an area of x cm².
   This seems like a repeat. I have yet to try what it’s like as a phone, because the switchover’s not till the 8th, but for many features, it’s poorer. It has a better media player. The speaker for playing music and movies is better. The graphics move more nicely. Nokia supplies some free maps (which, incidentally, get deleted when you eject the memory card, though you can re-download them for free from its website).
   But (and there must be a but given the headline): the camera is worse (judge for yourself below) and the battery life is shorter. I might not be an initié when it comes to cellphones, but I know that people have been using them for telephony and photography for a lot longer than as MP3 and 3GP players. On at least two of the three major criteria on which a cellphone can be judged, the 2730 is worse than the mid-decade 6275i.
   Judge for yourself below. These are photographs (reduced) taken at Massey University’s Blow festival exhibition, currently on at its Wellington campus.

Nokia 6275i
Massey University Blow Festival 2010

Nokia 2730 Classic
Massey University Blow Festival 2010

Nokia 6275i
Massey University Blow Festival 2010

Nokia 2730 Classic
Massey University Blow Festival 2010

   And what is the point of that? Unless Nokia now tells me: if you want the quality of the old one, it’s this other model, which will cost you an extra $300.
   I know there are many exceptions to what I’ve just written. The Asus laptop I type this on is way fancier than one that cost twice as much with a fraction of the power in the mid-2000s. But just because one area of technology marches so rapidly doesn’t mean every area follows suit.

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Posted in business, design, general, New Zealand, technology | 2 Comments »


Happy birthday, Lucire

21.10.2010

Lucire home page, October 20, 1997
Above The first issue of Lucire in 1997. Below right Lucire’s first iPad cover.

[Cross-posted at Lucire] An hour ago, we turned 13. Normally this wouldn’t have merited much of a mention, since 13’s not the sort of number people tend to celebrate. But I happened to be up, after a long day catching up on emails post-election, while head designer Tanya Sooksombatisatian sorted through our New York Fashion Week images.
   Earlier this evening, fashion editor Sopheak Seng and I attended a fashion show for La’ Shika Bridal, held at the Museum Hotel in Wellington, and had good chats to the bridal designers and jewellery designer Victoria Taylor, sister of Rebecca.
   I sat at a similar desk in 1997 when we started Lucire and uploaded the new home page, replacing a placeholder, at precisely midnight NZDT on October 21. (I even timed it.) That translated to October 20 at 6 a.m. in New York. At the time, the US market was the primary one online, so I tended to notice what the time was over on their east coast.
   It was a 386 running Netscape 1-point-something that displayed Lucire’s first edition here. The monitor had a resolution of 1,024 by 768 pixels. We developed it on Windows 3·1, but tested it on various Power Macs. I coded the home page by hand and did the first graphics.
   We’ve gone through a lot—a print edition from 2004, a short-lived venture in Romania in 2005–6, and we now face 2011 with print in four countries and an iPad app that will go live any day. A cellphone edition has been around for a little while, though it never took off. I was in it for the long haul, but I really didn’t think specifics. We had a general direction, and we seized the opportunities as they came.
   There have been many times when I have publicly thanked the people who got us here, and many of those who I named in December 2008, when I celebrated 21 years in business, were responsible for getting Lucire to where it is. Since then, Andrew Matusik, Victoria Jones, Sopheak Seng, Rola Saab, Jon Moe, Seka Ojdrović-Phillips, Samantha Hannah, Joseph Ungoco, Leyla Messian, Ashleigh Berry and Sylvia Giles must be added to the list. The many Massey University graduates who have tirelessly helped—Roanna Bell, Uma Lele and Brigitte Unger come to mind—as well as Gemma Conn from Waikato Institute of Technology.
   I won’t say the journey has been easy: in fact, it’s been very tough. But I’m very glad that Lucire has been a medium through which many people have been brought together to do something we all love. We have been a change agent in the past, and that’s something I’m conscious we need to continue, through being on the forefront of new media. And we’ve introduced our fair share of labels, many of which have become big names. We’ve provided many people with coverage when others ignored them—discovering then that all they needed was that leg up to get to the next stage.
Lucire Ipad edition cover, photographed by Andrew Matusik   I still remember the fact that we were one of the first to interview Zac Posen and Kathryn Wilson as she graduated from university, and covered Rebecca Taylor at Gen Art. Lucire published the first series of sustainable style editorials in an international fashion magazine with Summer Rayne Oakes in the earlier part of the century.
   To all our readers, thank you for being with us on this journey. I am mindful that we are merely stewards of the Lucire brand, and that it belongs to us not in law, but in spirit. We’re going to keep engaging and we plan to be with you for many more anniversaries to come.

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Posted in business, design, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology, USA, Wellington | 2 Comments »