12 November 2014 · Absolute IT

IT executives have their say

Absolute IT was proud to co-host last week’s IT Breakfast event with Kevin Lavery, CEO of Wellington City Council (WCC). The aim of the tech breakfast was to connect Kevin with a small group of Wellington IT executives and for the WCC to gain some tech sector insights, to help shape and support their 10 year plan.

It was a great success with insightful conversation regarding IT’s role, the Wellington tech talent shortage, and implementing strategies to attract offshore talent and support current tech businesses.

Wellington’s investment history

Since the 90’s when Wellington reinvented itself as more than just a city for government, we haven’t had much game changing investment. In the 90’s for example we had TePapa, the waterfront development and Westpac Stadium. Since then, what? We inherited WOW – but that’s not something Wellington can really take full credit for.

Marketing for Wellington City was successful in the 90’s because it was authentic; we had tangible investment and enhancements to promote and get people excited about moving to Wellington.

Wellington’s focus looking forward

The WCC is focusing on five key areas for some gaming changing investment moving forward:

  1. Tech sector (Wellington is after all the High Tech Capital)
  2. Film and creative
  3. University
  4. Tourism
  5. Infrastructure

Some of the key potential projects within these areas are:

  1. The Wellington Tech Hub.
  2. Trying to attract more TV film and creative business, so we can avoid the feast and famine business and employment opportunities block buster films bring the region.
  3. A Military and/or Film Museum in partnership with Peter Jackson
  4. A new large scale Conference Centre
  5. Roading upgrades – alternative to the basin fly over and transmission gully

Selling Wellington

It’s easy enough selling Wellington to attract tech talent and businesses to create and fill IT jobs, as the High Tech Capital, it would seem our city has it all. We have the tech giants like Xero and Datacom, the city is close to the airport, easily walkable, housing is relatively affordable and our council is in a great financial position. It’s even cheaper to fly to Wellington from Auckland, than it is to catch a cab from Auckland airport to the CBD!

Tech Landing Pad

Kiwi Landing Pad (KLP) was established in 2011 to help selected high growth New Zealand technology companies establish and grow their business in the USA. Supported by prominent New Zealand technology investors and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, KLP offers New Zealand technology companies residence at their office in San Francisco. Tenants gain access to a wealth of experience and are able to create invaluable networks in the US technology, business and investment community. Located amongst the San Francisco startup scene, KLP puts New Zealand technology in good company.

A great initiative that came out of the meeting was the idea to replicate a Global Landing Pad in Wellington, similar to KLP, to cater to overseas companies and investors. As Wellington grows it’s tech economy, it is becoming an attractive city for offshore businesses who are ready for global expansion. As a creative hub, Wellington has a great cultural, technological and economic networks which could used as a pooled resource for overseas investors.

Business and Education – a match made in tech heaven

In June this year, Victoria University conducted a report on Wellington’s knowledge economy – ‘Coming to grips with technology change’. Absolute IT was surveyed for the report which proved to be insightful reading around Wellington’s employment opportunities, and the regions economy.

“The current challenges for Wellington are very different from the early 1990s, when the Absolutely Positively Wellington slogan was first adopted to counter the unrelenting bad news of a period of government cutbacks, corporate office departures and manufacturing closures. As Wellington City Council’s Smart Capital strategy puts it, “from the quiet government town of the 1980s, Wellington has become New Zealand’s ‘Creative Capital’, transforming the entertainment, arts, culture and economic base of the city.”

With Wellington having the highest concentration of web and digital-based companies per capita in New Zealand, it’s clear the city needs to embrace the High Tech Capital reputation and use it as a focal point moving forward. Kevin Lavery thinks there is an opportunity to learn from Waterloo University in Canada – where businesses and tertiary providers work closely together. The University is a recognised leader in entrepreneurship and innovation, attracting tech talent to the region and filling a talent shortage.

Waterloo has the highest number of tech companies in North America after Silicon Valley, and there are many actionable parallels which can be drawn Waterloo’s successful initiatives. In 1997 they had 50 tech companies, and today they have over 1000. For every dollar the local Government invests in the University of Waterloo, the University returns nearly nine times in economic return to the area. Waterloo supports a strong eco system that nurtures tech start-ups, which Wellington can certainly implement, creating a network between start ups and established companies.

Next tech breakfast

The next breakfast will be held on 18th November, and another blog will follow.

Those in attendance were:

Cobus Nel, GM IST, Transpower
David Murray, COO, Matakina
Janice Feutz, Corporate Manager, Aviarc
Leanne Gibson, CIO, Wellington Airport
Marcel van den Assum, Director, Varigate / Voco
Rose Ruane, General Manager, Datacom
Sue Brazil, Head of Development and Testing, NZ Racing Board
Kevin Lavery, CEO, WCC
Philippa Bowron, Senior Strategy Advisor, WCC
Grant Burley, Director, Absolute IT
Tina Ng, Director, Absolute IT