Tauranga Tech founder and internet entrepreneur Ben Rickard explains why a vote for him is a vote to invest in the Bay’s tech sector.

This year residents of the Bay of Plenty’s growing technology community will have the opportunity to vote for one of their own.  Ben Rickard, internet entrepreneur and founder of the www.taurangatech.co.nz website has been nominated as the UnitedFuture party’s candidate for Bay of Plenty.  He has also been ranked 5th on their list.
“One of the reasons I decided to stand for parliament is so that I can help to support and accelerate the growth this region’s tech sector is experiencing.  I’m passionate about the Bay, I grew up here and am now raising my own family here.”  
A successful tech sector will bring further investment and high paying jobs to the region.  Perhaps even more importantly for the longer term, it will encourage entrepreneurs, innovators and forward thinkers to relocate here, bringing their ideas and dynamism to reinvigorate our economy and our communities.
“The Bay has some fantastic selling points for high tech business owners looking for somewhere to base their operations, including our wonderful outdoor lifestyle and climate.  We’ll also soon have our own university campus, supplementing our existing pool of high quality IT graduates.  Additionally, there is good access to venture capital here, through established groups such as Enterprise Angels, as well as through the Silicon Valley connections of Wharf42. Initiatives such as Wharf42’s Plug & Play Technology Incubator and VentureCentre’s Instigator programme show the investment that is going in to encourage tech entrepreneurs here."
“Personally, I’m involved in helping organise this year’s Tauranga Startup Weekend, during which participants take an idea, then build the team and the plan to launch it into the market, all in just 54 hours. I believe that investment at this level will return real economic benefits to the Bay and I want to bring this message to parliament. This is why I am running for election in the Bay of Plenty electorate."
Startup Weekend is a great way for aspiring entrepreneurs to find out if their startup ideas are viable, build scalable companies to solve real world problems.   Tauranga Startup Weekend is being held on 7-9thNovember at the new basestation co-working space.  Visit www.tauranga.startupweekend.org to find out more about how you can participate.

Floods and powerful gusts have swept across New Zealand this winter, conditions which have caused many kiwis to retreat indoors, hibernate or seek high dry ground.

Yet since winter started in the Central North Island, we’ve been extremely fortunate to experience a flood of new opportunities which have set a powerful wind at our backs to create a very bright, prosperous future.

In just over a month we’ve seen the launch of:

– Waikato Uni’s Agritech fund alongside a new Waikato Agricultural Hub, a co-operation between nine institutions;

– SODA's founder-focused incubator model in Hamilton, funded by Callaghan Innovation to support entrepreneurs behind early-stage, high growth potential ventures; and,

– WNT Ventures winning Callaghan support for a high-tech incubator based in Tauranga to commercialise problem-solving research with global potential.

Taken together these three initiatives put the Central North Island 'on the map' as a centre for ventures in New Zealand. All three exemplify the collaborative approach the region is well known for.

The University of Waikato's agri-tech innovation initiatives support the institutions strategy for a 'connected University' focused on adding value to key sectors. Prof. Alister Jones announced their model for engagement will "make it easier for industry to engage with the University”.  And to prove the point ,Vice-Chancellor Professor Roy Crawford made the announcement to a crowd of over 200 key agribusiness stakeholders.

The University’s new fund and hub will make best use one of the largest concentrations of agribusiness, agritechnology and agriservice companies in the country according to Professor Jones and is based on co-operation between nine institutions. Together they will make the most of Waikato’s formidable mix of educational and research resource and expertise.

Over in Hamilton, consistent conditions are predicted with the continuation of Callaghan Innovation's support of SODA's founder focused entrepreneurship services. “We are in the business of supporting people who start and build high-growth early-stage businesses and who have the vision and courage to take an idea and invest into making it a business reality," said Vanessa Clark, SODA’s acting CEO.

"Whether the people are recent graduates, scientists, employees or founders of existing businesses, SODA is here to offer them a variety of support services from entry level workshops and events to intensive incubation and growth programmes” says Clark. SODA will continue to build key partnerships with people and organisations in the Waikato, New Zealand and around the world that are on a mission to grow NZ Inc.

And the outlook for the Bay of Plenty brightened significantly with the third entrepreneurial front to sweep through. The announcement of WNT Ventures’ technology-focused incubator, a new entity operating with a market-based, profit-driven focus to establish and nurture businesses based particularly on complex technologies derived from research and development.

WNT Ventures incubator, a collaboration between four future focused organisations based in Tauranga will identify suitable intellectual property (IP) protected idea or technology that may not have an associated entrepreneur. It will then work to build a team around the intellectual property, building up a venture to the stage where it is attractive to angel or venture capital investors.

A fund, a hub, founder focused services, pathways to commercialisation including education, industry and entrepreneurial collaboration, plus capital and resources – right now the forecast is good for venture-growing activities in the Central North Island.


Build your business team

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As business owners, of all sizes, we’re often compelled to go it alone, stick with what we know, keep to our immediate network.

Often we see it as part of being a ‘real’ New Zealander, after all, we’re original and unique, “self-made” men and women, are we not? We’ve done what it takes to get where we are, made the necessary sacrifices.

For many of us, business has become a carefully-orchestrated game of stretching immediately available resources and sticking with the tried and true methods we’ve used for years.

Calling in extra help would be like cheating or failing… right?

People might think we’re not capable?

Not so.

In fact, growing your network, connecting with new resources that can help you launch, improve, change, is not only one of the easiest ways to prevent burnout yourself, it’s also one of the best ways to grow your business as a whole.

If running a business is a game, then consider it a team sport – and the skills of networking and delegation are the best power-ups available.

In fact, it would be a mistake not connect, bring new people, from businesses and organisation’s with skills, resources and services to help you win, on to your team....

This Tuesday Tauranga Maori Business Association are hosting an evening to introduce you and make a connections with some valuable team players here in Tauranga.

You will get an introduction to what they do, specifically what to look for, what services you either can’t or don’t want to do that they can help you with.

Finding and making new connections can be a nerve-wracking process. TMBA’s event this Tuesday 22nd will make the process less anxiety-inducing – you’ll know what and who to look for.

The main presenter, Tina Jennen, from Enterprise Angels will give you an overview of the services, products, resources, and partners they work with to help you answer questions like;

* Is my idea worth turning into a business?
* What do I need to do to turn my idea into a business?
* How do I get investment for growing my business?
* Who can I connect with help me with all this?

In addition TMBA member Carla Beazley (Rythmz Dance Co) and Andrew Coker (Priority One) will also present.

You don’t have to be a member of Tauranga Maori Business Association to come to the evening but numbers are strictly limited so please RSVP to info@tmba.org.nz

The evening begins at 5.30pm, Ignition Co-Working Space, Ground Floor, 29 Grey Street, Tauranga.

It was an honor and pleasure for several coworkers and I to be involved in hosting a Chamber of Commerce BA5 event at one of Tauranga’s coworking spaces, Ignition, last year.

We planned the evening to be a lot like our coworking day-to-day, make it an event that would create real connections, and viewed it as an opportunity to add value to all the professional people in the room.

Coworking is a style of work. It involves a shared working environment and independent, yet often complimentary, activities of the people working in it. Unlike in a typical office environment, co-workers are usually not employed or contracted by the same organisation or clients.

Typically coworking is an attractive option to work-at-home professionals, freelancers, independent contractors, or people who travel frequently and connect to their HQ via the internet. But it’s not just about businesses starting up and young people working in a ‘funky’ space.

Coworking is a social gathering of a group of people with diverse skills and resources who although working independently, share values, and who are interested in the synergy that can happens from working with like-minded talented people in the same space.

It is not only about the physical space, but about establishing the co-working community, no matter the age or stage of the people working inside them. There are coworking spaces springing up all over Tauranga. Over the coming weeks Venture Centre will bring you the stories of some of the people who are working in them.

Look out for those stories, and in the interim take the opportunity to follow this link and come and find out about the spaces and people working together inside them for yourself.


Sitting next to talent

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How does it feel sitting where you are right now? Are you comfortable? Is it an inspiring space? Do you have all the resources you need? Are you set for success?

If you are, well done! You are one of the lucky ones.

For the rest of us its time to move, to take a step outside our comfort zone and find a new place to sit, to work, to succeed.

But where? How do you choose where to sit next?

Here’s a suggestion – choose the seat right next to someone really talented. Someone who demonstrates their expertise, who loves what they do and shows the signs of success. Position yourself next to bright young things and successful established professionals who actively pursue sustainable success.

Sit next to talent. Do it regularly, listen and learn – there is no better seat to sit in.

Months of intense collaborative work by local entrepreneurial leaders has paid off as Minister Steven Joyce announced today the launch of New Zealand Central North Island first technology incubator.

After a rigorous assessment process and final recommendations from an independent panel, the Callaghan Innovation Board approved the application from WNT Ventures, a Tauranga, Bay of Plenty based organisation, formed specifically to respond to the opportunity.

WNT Ventures combines the talents, skills, knowledge and considerable resources of four of Tauranga’s most innovative organisations. Wharf 42, Newnham Park, Titanium Industry Development Association (TiDA), and Quayside Holdings, the investment arm of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. They came together to put their combined capabilities – commercialising ICT, primary sector, manufacturing from metal powders – into one winning combination.

Minister Joyce said today the “collaboration bodes well for developing and growing new companies in our high tech sector, which is crucial to growing our economy. If we can work smarter across industries and improve our access to innovation we will have a competitive edge in this dynamic and challenging sector.”

The Incubator Support Programme from Callaghan Innovation will deliver support and funding to WNT Ventures’ technology-focused incubator, a privately owned business focusing on commercialising complex intellectual property.

WNT’s bid is a huge win for the three-quarters of million New Zealanders in the Central North Island and it will benefit New Zealand as a whole. The bid has received immense support from the entrepreneurial community, particularly in Tauranga, Hamilton and Waikato, and is key to the long-term vision of success co-created by the people who live and work here.

“We’ve got to drive and get young people in here, we’ve got to drive innovation in here, we’ve got to really drive this community to be successful,” said Steven Saunders, CEO of Newnham Park in recent interview about his own work as an Angel Investor. The WNT incubator is a very real demonstration of this drive which Peter Wren-Hilton of Wharf 42, and Ian McCrae of TiDA share.

With this degree of focused energy, investment of capital, hard-won knowledge gained through experience from mature entrepreneurs, and support from Callaghan Innovation, the opportunity to grow globally successful ventures from the enterprising community in the centre of New Zealand has today become considerably greater.

The following post from Sharronn Harris, of Matua, is taken from her presentation to the local Toastmasters group, of which she is a member. Toastmasters Tauranga meets on Thursday mornings at 7am at Alimento Cafe, 2nd Avenue, Tauranga, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.

What’s happening in my city – Tauranga Moana?

Having had opportunity to spend some real time in Tauranga in the last few months, I’ve found I have fresh eyes on a well-known place.

There are many things happening in our city and I decided it’s time to take a look and attend, or explore, some of the events happening here.

This exploration has had mixed results. I have found myself entertained, amongst hundreds of bantering women, at a fashion fundraiser. At a business womens network event, I found some inspiration and connection with ladies evaluating (critiquing?) some well-respected visiting speakers.

I also attended a presentation at our Toi Toi Tauranga Art Gallery last month which challenged me to think about the future, my own, Tauranga’s and New Zealand’s.

"Get off the Grass - Kickstarting our Innovation Economy” was a free event which bought Professor Shaun Hendy to Tauranga to deliver, in person, the results of his research.

Over 100 people attended which seemed a reasonable crowd for a Friday evening and a serious, academic-sounding subject matter.

The fact the event promoted its aim as an opportunity to get an answer to the conundrum "Why do New Zealanders work harder, yet earn less”, was undoubtedly a draw card.

Professor Shaun Hendy has many titles after his name and in 2012 was the winner of the Prime Ministers Science Media Communication Prize. I’d previously not known of the existence of this prize, but will watch out for future winners.

The Professor certainly captured my attention early on in the evening with the statement: “New Zealanders work harder and earn less than most other people in the developed world.”

It was a statement that bore repeating, and I will repeat it here too!  “NZ'ers work harder and earn less than most other people in the developed world.”

The evenings presentation was based on the book Get Off The Grass, in which Hendy and Sir Paul Callaghan advocate building nationwide communities of innovators, entrepreneurs and businesses to allow New Zealand to grow its economy more rapidly.

Both the book and the presentation were based on research which shows while New Zealand was comparable with Scandinavian countries (such as Denmark and Finland) in the 70’s it has lost parity over ensuing years. By continuing to foster priorities around primary industries – milk being our biggest earner our country is at risk from a critical issue – decades in which New Zealand has underinvested in both public and private sector technological research and innovation.

Take aways I noted down from the event were;

- We need to start capitalising on our smarts, not just our sheep
- We need to start harnessing communications technology, science and innovation
- We need to figure out how to export knowledge
- How connectivity and collaboration play a key role in determining rates of innovation and economic growth
- If New Zealand is to grow its economy more rapidly, it must overcome its small size and low population density to build a nationwide community of innovators, entrepreneurs and businesses.

Most important to me were the messages aimed at catching New Zealand up with the countries that lure our young people away:

- we need to learn to operate and innovate as if we were a city of four million people
- we need to start taking technology and science seriously
- we need to start seeing ourselves as people of learning, not just of the land
- we need to put our money where our mouths are and learn to live off knowledge, rather than nature.

This lecture left me believing that New Zealand needs us all – everyone single one of us – to contribute if we are going to secure a prosperous future. Also, potentially, retirement will go out the window if we can find a way to collaborate in a way that uses the wisdom and knowledge of our ageing population too.

It seems we need to work with what we have, develop and then export the smarts – the very same stuff that this nation was founded on.

What made the evenings presentation more poignant was the launch of “Venture Centre”. A local initiative which has an aim of being a place online for “people finding people, and idea’s finding ideas”.

The team behind the initiative are committed to the kind of collaboration and investment that Professor Hendy suggests. They believe passionate, talented people who love what they do, create great families, jobs, companies and solutions to the world’s problems and can increase our city's, in fact our countries, prosperity, together.

Professor Hendy is an active participant in this critical national debate on how we are to become a more wealthy and healthy country and made a welcome and timely contribution on a local level here in Tauranga. The people who have launched Venture Centre are applying Hendy’s research  for our ongoing benefit.

My fresh eyes see many new opportunities opening up for young and old(er) here in Tauranga. It’s an exciting time to be exploring!

Co-working is a powerful movement.

It sits alongside many new trends.

The trend towards a collaborative economy where solutions are sourced from a collaboration of individuals with particular specialties, making their unique contribution to projects as and when they are required.

The trend towards working ‘in the cloud’, on information, applications and using systems and communication platforms accessed via the internet.

And the trend towards specialisation, where so called ’T’ shaped people work to develop a unique depth of expertise in one particular area or skills with a particular set of tools, and just enough ‘general knowledge’ to know where their specialty can add maximum value.

While this is not dissimilar to the way small businesses and sole-agents (who used to be called sole-traders) or freelancers have always operated, the addition of co-working and collaboration spaces to the working lives of these individuals and small groups has brought significant advantage.

They bring the dual benefits of network effects and synergy. They have the potential to make the people who chose to make co-working spaces the centre of their operations out perform those who chose to work from home, alone.

The network effect that one user of a product or service has on the value of that product to other people is obvious when talent co-locates. Synergy – the ability of a group of people to outperform even its best individual member – can make sense and a big difference in terms of outcomes, increasing the prosperity and impact of small businesses and sole agents on the customers they service.

Want to know more about coworking in Tauranga? Contact these local innovative inspirational places.

Launching a business enterprise isn’t a simple thing. To start you need the desire and the drive. Guts and determination are next, along with a willingness to do the work. Ideally before, but if not, very soon after you launch your venture you realise it, and you, require support too.

You might need a helping hand to do the bits you don’t do well. The services of an accountant or designer for instance. And you’ll definitely need support from customers to buy what you sell.

Less obvious, in the early stages, is harnessing the collective intelligence of the people around you who are already in the process of building enterprises. Taking time to learn from their experiences – successes and failures – hear about the tools they use to make decisions, choose strategies, plan tactics, and how to use them.

It sounds complicated and time consuming, particularly when you’re knee deep in work which must be done right away. But it could be one of the most valuable supports you can acquire for your enterprise, and have a long-term effect on your success.

Paul Slatin, CEO of Speech Council, based in Tauranga, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand – a business conceived and launched at Tauranga’s Startup Weekend in 2013 – had an opportunity to harness local knowledge through prizes he won at the event.

Paul took advantage of fee-free time from local accountancy and legal services. He also took a place on bootcamp the first iteration of what is now known as the Instigator programme.

"I attended bootcamp in Tauranga, starting in October 2013. Tina Jennen, Venture Manager of 'Plenty of Innovation’ for Enterprise Angels led the initial sessions” says Paul.

"It consolidated a lot of the learning I received during the market validation and prototype development phases we went through at Startup Weekend and it gave me some clear concise templates for the work we needed to do next.”

"The Road Map approach, and practical application of a very broad variety of planning and testing tools have bought me to a confident position from which I can talk to investors and stakeholders on the “why”, the “what” and the “how” of the online business model we are pursuing."

"The programme also opened the opportunity for me to have regular and focused interaction with entrepreneurs and mentors from around the region. It helped me to more fully appreciate that no matter the technological or human nature of a business, solutions to the core challenges will only be found through a disciplined approach to my commercialisation efforts."

"I benefited from the important focus on physical resources and tools but the connections, the learnings, and commitments to self, and the business journey, were as valuable if not more so."

Paul lists the following top five things he got out of his Instigator experience:

- An initial positioning statement and value proposition
- A strategy to succeed at commercialisation
- Priorities identified and training on how to find and sell to early adopter customers
- Actionable tools and templates
- Access to contacts and resources

Instigator, the new name for bootcamp, is powered by the Central North Island’s largest Investor Group, Enterprise Angels along with Wharf42, New Zealand’s first Incubator in partnership with Silicon Valley's Plug and Play.

To apply for a place for yourself and take advantage of local knowledge, or just find out more, here’s your link.

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