The top 25 Influencers of 2012

17:00, Aug 17 2012

Jason Armishaw

Since 2007, Startup Weekends around the globe have transformed ideas into ventures in 54 hours. Uber-connected Auckland entrepreneur Jason Armishaw brought the movement to New Zealand early last year and has passed the baton to a national network of judges, co-ordinators and mentors to foster a new generation of startups.

Philip Boyd

Boyd led a National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA)/University of Otago team whose work put New Zealand at the forefront of a new climate change debate. The team spent weeks in the stormy Southern Ocean, fertilising phytoplankton with iron to see if the plants would absorb more carbon dioxide and mitigate the effects of climate change. The research claimed the 2011 Prime Minister's Science Prize and has featured at international conferences about geo-engineering - large-scale manipulation of the natural environment - and government decision making.

John Brakenridge

Brakenridge set an example for primary sector producers when he gave merino wool suppliers new, high value outlets for their product and revolutionalised their supply chain. Now the New Zealand Merino Company CEO is giving agriculture another shakeup. He's pulling execs from the fishery, dairy, meat and wool sectors into a US-based boot camp aimed at sparking smart, collaborative marketing efforts to drive up the value of commodity exports.


Shaun Coffey

Since he took the helm of Industrial Research in 2006, Coffey has spearheaded several creative initiatives designed to increase public and private R&D spend. Now the government's acted on Coffey's call to transform his crown research institute into the Advanced Technology Institute, which will gain more than $100 million in new funding to advance our hi-tech sector and bridge the gap between science and business. Coffey was made a fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 2009 for his science leadership.

Vaughn Davis

Earlier this decade, when Kiwi businesses were wondering what social media was all about, Davis was in the thick of it. The former ad agency creative director now owns a creative practice focused heavily on social media and is a sought-after speaker in New Zealand and abroad. An active tweeter and blogger, he wrote the first local book on the subject in 2010, Tweet this Book! It told the stories of New Zealand companies getting social - ice cream makers Giapo, Air New Zealand, Vodafone, The Wine Vault, ASB's Facebook branch and the Warehouse's use of Twitter to communicate in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake. Buyers paid for the digital book in Tweets and posts. Davis now has a lofty 5000 Twitter followers.

Andy Hamilton

Hamilton was first aboard when the Icehouse sailed out of the Knowledge Wave more than a decade ago. Under his leadership 3500 owner managers have been educated and $50 million in startup capital raised. Hamilton also helps drive some of our most powerful growth vehicles, including Incubators New Zealand, the Angel Association and the Ice Angels investment group.

John Holt

The co-founder of HR software provider Sonar6 found it tough going when he set up the company's first US office six years ago. His latest venture aims to make it easier for other Kiwi tech firms to follow Sonar6's flight path and boost export dollars. He's the director of the Kiwi Landing Pad, a San Francisco hub that's brought together 12 resident ventures and won backing from the government and several high profile investment companies.

Vinny Lohan

Lohan is an example for young New Zealand entrepreneurs to follow. With a sharp tech mind and a bent for global problem solving, he's been part of two teams that starred in Microsoft's international Imagine Cup contest. In 2010 it was OneBeep, a group of four whose software made information more accessible in developing countries using radio frequencies and digital conversion. The following year it was OneBuzz, helping track and control the incidence of malaria. At 23 Lohan was named one of three 2012 General Electric Alva Emerging Fellows, a title awarded to entrepreneurs under 30 using innovative technology to impact the world.

Phil McCaw

Where Kiwis have ideas for high growth ventures, McCaw's got the money to back them. He was part of the group that set up investment company Movac in 1998, quickly followed by savvy early investment in Trade Me. McCaw has backed more than 20 companies and Movac has bankrolled 14 ventures in its first two funds.

With other angel groups now backing Kiwi startups, McCaw's focus - and that of Movac's third fund - shifted to financing early stage expansion. The latest fund raised $42 million. He's also passionate about getting new angels into funds, showcasing success stories that prove return on angel investment and attracting wealthy migrants to invest here.

Ian McCrae

McCrae put Kiwi health tech on the map. The company he founded in 1993, Orion Health, sells its clinical workflow and information software in more than 20 countries and earns nearly all its revenue offshore. McCrae's an industry champion, spearheading the formation of our health IT cluster. His audacious goal for Orion is to reach $1 billion revenue by 2018.

Richard MacManus

MacManus' website - routinely listed among the most globally popular tech blogs - is undeniably influential, but his work has never been about being Kiwi. The sought-after commentator started ReadWriteWeb in 2003 from Lower Hutt, but his outlook and the site's subject matter are inherently global. He started blogging about internet trends when the web was the domain of geeks; now the net is on everyone's mobile phone. The blog employs close to 20 US-based employees, attracts 5 million page views a month and was recently bought by a US media company for reportedly almost $7 million.

Sam Morgan

Morgan has put the $200 million-plus cheque he gained from the 2006 sale of Trade Me to Fairfax to good work. He backs entrepreneurs creating social and environmental change internationally through his investment vehicle

Jasmine. He's also put funds and expertise into Kiwi tech companies with global ambition, like Sonar6, Xero, Visfleet, SMX and Small Worlds. As co-founder of Pacific Fibre, he was part of a group trying to give our companies the cheap, fast broadband they need to do business with the US and bring our internet connectivity in line with world standards.

Rob Morrison

Global experience has made Morrison supremely qualified for two chairmanships of national significance: government-owned Kiwibank and Pure Advantage, the group of Kiwi millionaires pushing green growth. Morrison had a lengthy investment banking career, with a decade leading finance and private equity group CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets. Pure Advantage benefits from Morrison's time on the Asian Advisory Board of the Nature Conservancy and Copenhagen Climate Council - a global collaboration of scientists, businesspeople and policy makers. Morrison also led the Welnix consortium that recently took ownership of Wellington's Phoenix football team, of which his brother, the late Infratil founder Lloyd Morrison, was co-owner.

Rahera Ohia

A former public servant, Ohia is a member of the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic council and the CEO/lead negotiator for Te Au Maro o Ngati Pukenga, the Tauranga-based Ngati Pukenga iwi's Treaty of Waitangi settlement entity. Ohia is on a mission to make entrepreneurship and innovation an integral part of the tribe's culture and the first step for Ngati Pukenga is a partnership with the Auckland-based Icehouse busines development centre. If the initiative gets innovative ideas off the ground, it could be the forerunner to collaborations between the two organisations and other iwi - and the establishment of a national Maori Innovation Network.

Tenby Powell

Powell and wife Sharon Hunter, his partner at Hunter Powell Investments, have championed the cause for small business growth since forming the New Zealand SME Business Network late last year. The network expects 2500 members by year's end. Hunter Powell's portfolio has included a number of entrepreneurial ventures from PC Direct and PowerPlant Supplies to Hirepool and New Zealand Rental Group. In 2009 Powell co-chaired the Entrepreneurial Summit designed to kickstart post-recessionary growth. He's also chair of WaikatoLink and a director of national investment network Angel Link.

Victoria Ransom

Ransom's story is an entrepreneurship fairytale. From a rural North Island school of about 25 students to business studies at Harvard, Ransom and her Wildfire Interactive co-founder hatched plans for the social media marketing company back in 2007. Aged just 36 she's now CEO of the company, which was profitable within a year, counts brands like Facebook and Pepsi among its tens of thousands of customers and is approaching US$100 million in revenue. She's spoken at big global technology events and was named 2011 New Zealand Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Recently Wildfire was acquired by Google for a reported sum of US$250 million.

Ruth Richardson

Since her sweeping free market reforms in the 1990s as finance minister, Ruth Richardson has held directorships too numerous to name and consulted widely on governance and public policy. Now she's heading a group on a mission to advance New Zealand's level of commercialisation. The KiwiNet consortium of universities and crown research institutes aims to forge better links between good ideas and the commercial organisations that can make them viable business ventures. Richardson is also a member of Global Women.

Jenny Shipley

It's not surprising our first female prime minister turned her focus to issues affecting women in leadership after quitting politics in 2002. Chair of Global Women New Zealand, a network of 120 of our most powerful and connected women leaders, Shipley mentors promising female executives and is an outspoken advocate for promoting women to boards and executive management roles. She also urges Kiwi companies to maximise trade opportunities in China, where she's an independent director at China Construction Bank.

Sean Simpson

Simpson is one of two science brains behind Lanzatech, the Kiwi biotech rockstar helping meet a global need for low-cost, clean fuels and chemicals. Simpson and colleague Richard Forster identified and protected a fermentation process to turn waste gases produced by big industry into sustainable fuel. Global partnerships with universities, aviation firms, steel, coal and chemical producers are stacking up and Lanzatech has won backing from powerful local and international cleantech investors.

Mark Solomon

Since its $170 million Treaty of Waitangi settlement in 1998, the year Solomon became chair/kaiwhakahaere of Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu, the tribe's asset base has grown to about $750 million. Solomon is leading a charge to unite and promote iwi as strong partners in the government's mixed ownership model for state assets. He's also thrown his weight behind the green growth lobby group Pure Advantage and is a member of the Hillary Summit - a board of strategic leaders representing five continents.

Theo Spierings

Whoever occupies the boss' chair at our biggest company, Fonterra, wields an influence on our economy. Dutchman Spierings, a 25-year veteran of the global industry, was recruited as CEO of the dairy exporting giant late last year and has since implemented bold strategies. He introduced a flatter management structure, installing executives from within its ranks; and announced a strategic focus on emerging markets such as China, supplying more consumer branded nutritional products and a cooperative approach to offshore expansion. Fonterra has also reintroduced a scheme offering free milk to New Zealand schools, 40 years after the first iteration ended.

Roger Sutton

For the first time in the six years of Unlimited's Influencers list we've ventured to name one individual as the most influential on our economy. In 2012, that person is Roger Sutton. Sutton emerged as one of Christchurch's most visible leaders following the September 2010 and February 2011 Christchurch earthquakes fronting in his role as chief executive of lines company Orion. That leadership made him a hugely popular choice when he was named chief executive of the newly formed Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority last year. As head of the government agency charged with spearheading recovery efforts - deemed by far the country's biggest and most complex economic project - we reckon he's got the biggest job in the country.

Stephen Tindall

You name it, Tindall's done it. After floating the Warehouse in 1994 he's channelled investment into Kiwi families, communities and environmental projects through the Tindall Foundation. He's become a prolific angel investor and life member of the Angel Association, funding Kiwi bioscience, software, cleantech and other ventures to the tune of $250 million. Tindall's also a founding member of the New Zealand Institute think tank, the Kiwi Expatriate Association and Pure Advantage. His awards include the New Zealand Order of Merit and a leadership award from the Sir Peter Blake Trust.

Mike Usmar

Usmar began bridging New Zealand's digital divide - the gap between our technology 'haves and have nots' - when he helped set up New Zealand's first computer clubhouse, Club 274, in Auckland in 1998. Joining the concept to the global Computer Clubhouse movement in the mid 2000s, the New Zealand and Pacific arm of the network he now heads aims to have 12 clubhouses by year's end. The clubhouses offer 10 to 18-year-olds from low-income communities technology, including an online portal, laptops, wi-fi, an animation studio and equipment for robotic construction, to make them confident tech users and offer paths to higher learning. A 2009 evaluation showed clubhouse members had higher rates of NCEA level attainment and progression to tertiary training.

Joan Withers

Expect to see Withers hog headlines this year as Mighty River Power, of which she's board chair, gears up to be the first state owned enterprise partially sold. It's just as well she's used to being in the  director spotlight, holding high profile posts at TVNZ, Auckland Airport and the Treasury Advisory Board. Withers is also on the Global Women board, is a trustee of the Tindall Foundation, Pure Advantage and the Grow Our Own Workforce project designed to grow the number of Maori and Pacific peoples joining the Counties Manukau District Health Board workforce.