The "squiggly" path to tech success

Businesswoman Claudia Batten talks with 250 budding entrepreneurs at the 2015 Christchurch Mashup.
John Kirk-Anderson/ Fairfax NZ

Businesswoman Claudia Batten talks with 250 budding entrepreneurs at the 2015 Christchurch Mashup.

Canterbury school pupils have given technology entrepreneur Claudia Batten a taste of the "squiggly" creative thinking she most admires.

Batten, a New Zealander who made her name in the United States, is about to become New Zealand Trade and Enterprise's director for North America.

Her LinkedIn profile describes her as entrepreneur, speaker and change-agent.

She was visiting Christchurch on Friday as star guest for a creativity brainstorm run by not-for-profit computing group, Code Club Aotearoa.

Schoolchildren swamped the atrium at Selwyn House in Merivale, furiously scribbling on sticky notes as their minds whirled with ideas.

Among them were kids from Kaiapoi North School, who dreamed up 21 "problems", then whittled their choices to a single concept: a device to reward people for using rubbish bins, in the form of a sensor and MP3 player combinging to give a complimentary message to bin-users. They pitched their plan to Batten and two other judges, suggesting they price the product at $50 and sell it to the city council.

Batten seemed in her element. Earlier she advised the 250 children in front of her to let ideas grow and evolve in a natural kind of way.

Or, to put it another way, "allow cool things to happen".

Her advice was that risks are part of life.

"The whole point about failure is that you never need to fail unless you stop. If you stop, you fail."

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Batten, in her early 40s, made her name in the United States as a founding member of video-game advertising platform Massive, sold to Microsoft in 2006 for a reputed US$400 million.

In 2009, she co-founded Colorado-based Victors & Spoils, the first advertising agency built on crowdsourcing principles.

She is a director of New Zealand-based incubator group Icehouse and last year helped set up contact sorting app BroadLi.

Batten said her best advice to business leaders would be to hire world-class, international talent.

"And deploy leading-edge marketing, whether they are business customers or consumers."

Success came from being prepared to test multiple ideas at once, on the chance that some could morph into winning products.

"My mindset has been that you don't get from A to 'exit' through a path that is conservative and pre-plotted. You get it from going from A to B as a first step, and then calibrating [your next move] based on what B looks like."

The path to success was often "squiggly", rather than safe and linear. "Squiggly [means] we go backwards more than we go forwards."

Lack of cash needn't be the sticking point for a winning idea.

"If your business is great and your model is great and your expansion plan is great; you'll find money."

 - The Press

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