Meet NZ's next generation business leaders and their tech-fuelled, game-changing ways

Shay Wright was the head of Maori development at business incubator The Icehouse before he set up his own business.
LAWRENCE SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

Shay Wright was the head of Maori development at business incubator The Icehouse before he set up his own business.

In 2004, a Havard University student named Mark Zuckerberg​ changed our lives forever with what would become the world's largest social network.

Now Facebook and other technology game-changers are helping New Zealand's next generation business superstars succeed in today's competitive environment.

Facebook's 1.65 billion monthly active users and its cheaper advertising rates mean entrepreneurs have the ability to reach and interact with audiences like never before and at a far lower cost than traditional marketing avenues.

Another pioneering trend is that of the on-demand economy, led by the likes of Uber and Airbnb, created to immediately satisfy consumer desires.

READ MORE:
Young, ignorant and starting a business
Young Nelson entrepreneur shares views on business, life
Sir Richard Branson talks to young NZ entrepreneur Jake Millar
Can New Zealand make the most of disruptive technologies?

Technology is all about making people's lives easier and when it comes to small business owners, few can go past Xero as a complete life-changer.

New Zealand's own claim to tech fame helps more than 700,000 customers around the world manage one of the least-liked parts of running a business: figuring out the numbers.

Changing the status quo is what these technology companies excel in and for the following young Kiwi business leaders, revolutionary technology has become part and parcel to their own missions of changing the world.

Shay Wright

Named in this year's Forbes' 30 Under 30 Asia list for social entrepreneurship, this 26-year-old has social change for indigenous people at his heart.

Wright started Te Whare Hukahuka 18 months ago to improve the lives and skills of indigenous business people through education, leadership and innovation.

The ultimate goal is to positively impact 10 million indigenous people worldwide, starting by reaching 200,000 Maori by 2017.

"All people are searching for meaning and purpose. People are looking for how they can contribute in a meaningful way," he says. Wright says in order to effect change, he has to challenge his own thinking and technology is very much a part of that.

Innovators like Facebook and Uber have demonstrated how technology can create immense global impact, Wright says. "Disrupters like Xero, 90 Seconds (cloud video production platform) and Vend (cloud retail point of sales system) show us that it is possible to grow a world-class technology business from here in New Zealand.

Shay Wright runs a Maori social enterprise that provides education and training for Maori community leaders to help them ...
Lawrence Smith

Shay Wright runs a Maori social enterprise that provides education and training for Maori community leaders to help them rebuild their own economies.

And because technology is so specialised, it helps build a pool of talent at home that we can learn from." He says Uber and Airbnb have shown that by thinking differently about a problem and using technology, they could monumentally change entire industries.

"Going back to achieving our social vision, we are using the learnings from these technological disrupters to do the same thing in our industry," Wright says.

Deanna Yang

On the morning that Deanna Yang opened her milk and cookie shop, Moustache, there were already people lined up outside in sleeping bags.

She sold out of cookies eight hours before closing and no money had been spent on marketing; all the hype had come from Moustache's Facebook page, which had gathered more than 7000 followers in its first week.

Four years down the track, the original Auckland shop is gone but a new one is open at the University of Auckland campus (which also had lines out the door on opening day) and a flagship store is being developed this year on Auckland's Karangahape Rd.

Deanna Yang started her popular cookie business Moustache with $50 in her bank account and no knowledge of how to run a ...
ROBERT KITCHIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Deanna Yang started her popular cookie business Moustache with $50 in her bank account and no knowledge of how to run a business.

Thanks to a wildly popular crowdfunding campaign last year that raised $91,000, Yang was able to refurbish and fit out a 1978 Bedford bus that she drove down the North Island and parked up to sell milk and cookies in central Wellington.

Moustache now has more than 31,000 Facebook followers and 8000 followers on Instagram.

And the company's marketing budget? Still zero.

This was the power of social media and Yang says without Facebook, Moustache wouldn't be half the company it is today.

She aims to be as true to Moustache's fans as she can, offering mouth-watering photos of sweet, chewy cookies, posting fan photos and interacting with followers.

A huge part of this has been about sharing the struggles she's faced; something few business owners do with much openness.

Through Facebook and her blog, she's shared how she worked multiple jobs to try and save enough money to start Moustache, how she slept on the floor of her first shop just to get it finished on time, how she was forced out of that shop by exorbitant rent and all the criticism she received along the way, telling her Moustache would never succeed.

Through that, Yang has managed to keep up a tirelessly upbeat attitude and a brand of transparency where everyone from her fans to her staff are treated with respect and honesty.

"My dream is to go overseas and to bring that special unique brand elsewhere. That's where technology will have to always come first for us because we rely on social media 100 per cent to kickstart everything."

Dan Radcliffe

Before winning EY's Entrepreneur of the Year in 2014, Dan Radcliffe and his company, International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ), mostly flew under the radar.

He set up the company in 2007 after returning from a volunteering trip in Africa and quitting a corporate job just three days after his first day.

Using money from the bank that was secured against his parent's farm, he launched IVHQ in July 2007 with the aim of offering responsible volunteer travel that was affordable.

The company has grown to more than 30 countries around the world and it is now trying to change the idea that volunteer travel only happens in developing countries, with new programmes now available in New Zealand, Portugal and Spain.

Radcliffe says technology has been critical to IVHQ's success.

"In 2015 we sent 15,000 foreigners to 36 different countries around the world, but facilitated the whole thing out of New Plymouth. Fifteen years ago, we wouldn't have existed." 

Radcliffe used Facebook Groups early on to help volunteer travellers in the early days connect and IVHQ now has more than 130,000 Facebook followers.

Along with the social media giant, Xero, Airbnb and Uber have all inspired Radcliffe.

"In a general sense, you try to mimic what they do through the design of the user experience of their websites because you can see how successful they've been," he says.

Quitting corporate life just three days in, Dan Radcliffe chose instead to create a way for people to travel and help ...
SUPPLIED

Quitting corporate life just three days in, Dan Radcliffe chose instead to create a way for people to travel and help others, without breaking the bank.

The mindset shift created by Uber and Airbnb has been phenomenal: neither company owns any cars or property and have normalised behaviour where people jump into cars with strangers, or share their homes with people they don't know.

Ad Feedback

"At IVHQ, we're asking people to travel to a foreign country, stay in a house with local strangers and volunteer to help people they don't know. Uber and Airbnb's immense success has only helped to normalise volunteer travel and what we do at IVHQ," Radcliffe says.

Sian Simpson

Community and technology are everything for Kiwi Landing Pad's sole employee and 2015 Women of Influence finalist Sian Simpson.

Based in the heart of San Francisco, Kiwi Landing Pad (KLP) offers a place for Kiwi technology business owners to gather and stay while setting up their companies in the United States.

A huge part of Simpson's job is to meet those business owners, connect them with local networks and facilitate events throughout the year.

So far she has introduced hundreds of New Zealand businesses to the area; Xero being one of KLP's first residents. 

With Trade Me founder Sam Morgan on the board of KLP and KLP's close proximity to the headquarters of Twitter, Instagram and a vast number of other technology startups, it's no surprise technology is a huge part of Simpson's life.

She says Facebook has been one of her most powerful tools, enabling her to reach the right people, organise KLP events and crowdsource information and contacts.

Uber and Airbnb have changed the way she travels: she was recently in Africa where she rode 644 kilometres in one week to raise money for HIV and aids awareness and both Uber and Airbnb helped her get around safely as a lone female traveller.

Simpson says both companies are helping startups in San Francisco by offering company founders alternative ways of earning money while they work on their business ideas.
 

Business owners who head to the States have the option of checking in at the Kiwi Landing Pad, where community manager ...
SUPPLIED

Business owners who head to the States have the option of checking in at the Kiwi Landing Pad, where community manager Sian Simpson helps Kiwis connect with the local community.

Beyond KLP, Simpson is looking at how to bring together different groups (universities, banks, the public sector) so they can create a cohesive business community.

"How do you get more talent down to New Zealand? How do you make technology the number one export so we don't have to keep having conversations about dairy? How do we all group together and actually help businesses more?

"We can do it, it's entirely possible. At the end of the day, we all have the same mission."

Jake Millar

Going to university is what a vast number of young people do after leaving high school, but Jake Millar was not one of them.

Swapping formal education with entrepreneurship, Millar set up his first company, Oompher, in 2014.

A year later he sold it to the government and started working on Unfiltered, an education platform that offers video content to help people learn how to succeed in business.

Since launching Unfiltered in November 2015, Millar has interviewed Prime Minister John Key, The Warehouse founder Sir Stephen Tindall and most recently, Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson. 

The Christchurch local is now living in San Francisco and plans to tackle the American market.

He says without Facebook, which accounts for half of Unfiltered's visitor numbers, the current rate of growth of his company would have been near impossible.

"It's fantastic for connecting with our audience. The page has only got 10,000 followers at the moment but they are very engaged. With Oompher, we had 150,000 views in 10 months; that probably wouldn't have happened without Facebook."

​Another game-changer for Millar has been Uber: in one year, he racked up $5000 on Uber fares.

He even thought about launching a startup based on Uber's on-demand model, but realised it would never compete.

Jake Millar recently added meeting business heavyweight Sir Richard Branson to his list of achievements since he started ...
SUPPLIED

Jake Millar recently added meeting business heavyweight Sir Richard Branson to his list of achievements since he started his business, Unfiltered.

So, he decided to challenge one of society's longest-standing institutions. Education is changing rapidly and universities aren't keeping up, he says.

"You've got to ask yourself: if you're sitting in a classroom listening to a professor talk about how to build a valuable business, who's been lecturing all their life, is that more valuable than listening to Richard Branson talk in a lot of detail about how he built the Virgin Group?"

Anna Guenther​ 

PledgeMe founder Anna Guenther wants to see $100 million pledged to local businesses in the next five years.
SUPPLIED

PledgeMe founder Anna Guenther wants to see $100 million pledged to local businesses in the next five years.

Four years ago, Anna Guenther publicly declared that crowdfunding was going to change the world.

As the founder of New Zealand's first crowdfunding platform, PledgeMe, the Boston native may have been a bit biased, but the effect so far has been life-changing for several small Kiwi businesses.

Last year, PledgeMe helped social enterprise Eat My Lunch, which gives one free lunch to a child in need for every lunch that's bought, raise almost $130,000.

That money helped founder Lisa King move the production line based in her home out to a commercial kitchen.

It was also through PledgeMe that Moustache founder Yang transformed her business by raising money for her milk and cookie bus. 

So far, more than 1000 campaigns have been funded and about $9m in total pledged.

But it's so much more than just the money because crowds can offer advice and they build supportive communities, Guenther says.

"We think it's more powerful to strengthen existing relationships around campaigns and having crowds involved changes dynamics, for the better."

Being an online platform, PledgeMe relies heavily on technology, particularly Facebook, which is used to share campaigns and build communities.

Guenther says that's not going to change anytime soon, especially with her goal of supporting more local crowdfunding campaigns and for PledgeMe to become an established part of New Zealand's funding fabric.

"Technology is going to underlie everything we do and just make it easier, more transparent and more connected."

 - Stuff

Comments

Ad Feedback
special offers
Ad Feedback