People must be held accountable

01:37, Oct 30 2012

Eight years ago Greg Shanahan had a bright idea. Due to the dearth of quantitative research about the high-growth technology and manufacturing sector, he thought he'd fill the gap.

He produced the first TIN100, a benchmarking report that ranks and showcases the largest privately-owned and public companies that are, and will increasingly, make a difference to New Zealand's economic success.

He didn't sell that many reports - boxes of them are still lying around. But the first one was sufficiently well received and he enjoyed doing it so much that he kept on going, and last night launched the eighth TIN100.

It ranks the top 100 high growth companies based on their revenue and compares growth in sales, profitability and exports year-on-year. The latest report showed total TIN100 revenue was up 2.2 per cent to $7.28 billion. That was down on last year's 5.9 per cent growth but up on the rare fall in revenues in 2010 when companies struggled with the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

Some 34 companies are now making over $50 million annually in revenue and the biggest growth this year has come in the under $20 million category. On the export side TIN100 companies lifted sales by 2.3 per cent despite a mix of high currency and tough international markets. Those exporting across the ditch fared best.

Topping the list is Fisher & Paykel Appliances, the current target of a takeover by Chinese cornerstone shareholder Haier. It's a company dear to Shanahan's heart given he worked for it for 10 years in various marketing and management positions here and in the US. IT services company Datacom is second on the list followed by medical device manufacturer Fisher & Paykel Healthcare.

For those who bemoan the death of New Zealand manufacturing, some 65 per cent - or 72 per cent by revenue - of those on the TIN100 are high tech manufacturers.

By tweaking his business model, Shanahan now makes money off producing the report through a mix of sponsorship and selling the product to corporates and government bodies. He's hired a full-time employee and no longer writes the report.

After all he does have a day job. He's managing director and one of the founders of 10-year-old medical device startup Klein Medical, which is commercialising technology that verifies drugs at the point of administration to avoid error - making sure intravenous drugs handed out by nurses and doctors are the right ones. Scarily he reels off the numbers - 400,000 injured every year from wrongful administering of drugs in the US and 7,000 killed in hospitals. It doesn't pay to get sick.

He's one of 13 shareholders in Klein which hopes to complete a licensing agreement with an international partner in the next year. It's yet to make the TIN100 but he's working on it.

Like any good entrepreneur, he has more than one thing on the go. He's the founder of Technology Investment Network, a technology investor and funding facilitator that produces the TIN100 report.

Shanahan has expansion plans. He's just launched TIN Tracker, customised reports for corporates that will compare their metrics against competitors in the same sector and he's also planning to move across the Tasman and produce a TIN100 Ocker version. This year and last Shanahan tipped a toe in the Tasman waters by producing an Australia TIN50 in order to provide a benchmarking base for the move.

He's now putting out feelers on potential demand from Australian government officials and corporates. One of the good things about the Australian market, he says, is that most of the states have particular targets attached to the growth of their innovation sector and the TIN100 is a good means of measuring whether those goals are being met.

Now there's another bright idea - targets people are held accountable for instead of rhetoric. Our own government should be doing the same.