Business Is Boring

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What the tech sector can learn from pop culture fandoms

What exactly could loving One Direction have to do with fixing the diversity pipeline problem in tech? Well if you hear ‘One Direction’ and go into dismissal mode, that might just be the root of the problem. A few years ago a tech industry leader in law gave a presentation at a serious Berlin tech conference about how perhaps the diversity pipeline problem could be traced back to the way that traditionally female spaces of fandom have been minimised online.

It was based around fan fiction, One Direction secret love affair conspiracies and honouring how people’s enthusiasms can lead them to learn about making things online. If you love something and build a fanpage, that is a very real way in to website building.

The talk has led to more talks, years, and time spent on One Direction than Sacha Judd had ever anticipated. Sacha, a former partner at top law firm Buddle Findlay, has been an influential figure in tech – being very early on the journey of big firms like Vend, where I know her from, and now running the family office for Rowan Simpson, a recent pod guest, at Hoku. As well as identifying and funding the next wave of great companies. Her back of a napkin service for tech founders has helped get many companies off to a great start, and she joined me to discuss what we term serious and how that seriously affects who feels welcome.


She’s flying with NASA and fighting Gwyneth Paltrow’s fake science at 18

At 16 Alexia Hilbertidou looked around and saw that she was the only girl in her IT and physics class, then the next year the only young women in advanced physics.

What was going on? How did women go from the forefront of coding to underrepresentation at a time when it is meant to be more accessible than ever? Well, to change the ratio you have to change the structure. So Alexia decided to take the message to young women while still choosing what subjects they would take, and so founded GirlBoss NZ, an organisation which encourages young women to embrace STEM, Entrepreneurship and higher leadership.

In just 18 months, GirlBoss NZ is New Zealand’s second largest network of women with nearly 8000 members.
At 18-years-old, just finished high-school, Alexia has spoken to nearly 20,000 young people, teachers and business professionals about gender equity, STEM, and the future of work.

This passion for future-focussed education has seen her named a Top 30 Global Teen Leader, a Top 5 Young Leader by the Ministry of Youth Development, and the most influential New Zealand woman under the age of 25 at the 2016 Westpac Women of Influence Awards. A serial entrepreneur Alexia also was the National Winner of the Unitec Coding App Competition, at 16, receiving a $30,000 prize for KaiShare - an online food redistribution platform. …To talk changing the ratio, and her work, Alexia joins us now.


The Rowan Simpson founder-centric approach to being a company director

Rowan Simpson has made his name about ten times and he’s not done yet. He’s had a large hand in the product and growth in some of New Zealand’s greatest tech exports, he was head of product for Trademe and that worked out pretty well. He did a similar role in the early days for Xero and that has worked out amazingly, it’s a global leader in software as a service.

He was an early investor and board chair for Vend, where I first got to know him and work with him and see how much he did to help us grow.

Then there’s Timely, where he’s an investor and director, and that company just announced a seven million dollar funding round to take their profitable company in scale. And those are just some of the greatest hits - we haven’t mentioned his latest work, Ron is one of those people who could’ve stopped long ago, but uses his social and financial capital to bolster the next wave of tech companies. And through his charitable foundation is also giving back in more traditional ways. This might make him seem finished up and out of the game, but he’s not. His blog is required reading in tech, with great takes on start-up and product, and he’s active with the next big companies too, like Melodics, who we’ve had on here.

To chat the methodology of the start-up, what product is, the throughline of these companies, and what’s next, Rowan joined Simon at Spinoff Towers.


The 22 year old entrepreneur on why he disrupted his successful business

On September 4, 2010, when just 15 years old, Jake Millar’s life changed forever. His father and four close friends died is a skydiving plane crash.
Prime Minister John Key visited the scene and Jake wrote to thank him. A hand-written note reply came from the Prime Minister who wanted to meet Jake. Away from the media.
And as someone who had also lost a father young, and gone on to great success, Jake credits this meeting and example as part of what’s led him to go on and do what he’s done. And what a lot of that there is, already.
Always entrepreneurial, Jake became driven. He set goals and got them. Head boy of school and house, check. He landed a 40,000 scholarship and then rather than take it, he took advice from a book by Sir Richard Branson that said “Screw it, Let’s Do it” and he gave it a miss and started a company that months later he was in the works of selling to the NZ Government.
His second venture, Unfiltered, sees him traveling the world, spending most of his time in North America, talking to business leaders about how they succeed, and selling it to people and great companies all over the place. It’s going great guns and backed with serious investment. He’s even interviewed Sir Richard Branson. At 22 he’s just getting started but already giving back, in New Zealand doing fundraising for Lifeline, raising 55 thousand with a charity dinner. In conversation with Simon he talked career, what it takes to succeed and giving back right from the get-go.


How Lewis Road Creamery made gold from chocolate milk

A few short years ago a fellow looking for some good butter for a baguette noticed something odd. Although we were a dairy country if you went to the supermarket and wanted a fancy butter the option came in a blue pack, all the way from Denmark.

Why and what on earth? This thought led Peter Cullinane to try to make his own top-shelf butter, and to then found and grow Lewis Road Creamery, beautifully made, indulgent and to-be-savoured dairy. It’s been quite a ride - with tales of security guards protecting their Whittakers Chocolate milk collaboration, sold out ranges, copycat milks and expansions into bread, ice cream and non-dairy milks to name a few. Lewis Road Creamery is a huge success, and part of that may be that it wasn’t Peter’s first rodeo. He’s an ad man, who ran Saatchi & Saatchi in New Zealand and Australia, and then worked for them in a bog role in New York. On coming home he co-founded Assignment Group -who have always let the work talk for itself, launching Hyundai here and helping Whittakers reach their most-loved brand position. And he also co-founded Antipodes, the beautiful water in the elegant German bottle.



BIB Repeat: TV Producer Bailey Mackey on being in the middle of a global bidding war

Last July long standing TV producer Bailey Mackey (CodeThe GC) came to the Spinoff Towers to talk about the busines of making TV. Earlier that year new had hit that the production company he runs, Pango, had sold a television format to Freemantle Media, the world’s biggest tv outfit. This was a massive coup, made all the bigger by the fact it was an under-the-radar show called Sidewalk Karaoke hailing from Māori TV.

Bailey talked Simon through the bidding war that surrounded the format and talked about how a good idea with the right brain and guts behind it can make it all the way to the top, even if its from compratively small origins. 


Scott Blanks on 20 years of comedy at The Classic

20 years ago a bunch of young comedians, and their manager, who’d spent years making comedy nights happen across Auckland, thought it was time for a dedicated venue. On Queen St, near the Town Hall, they found a venue that was a lot perfect and a bit yuck – The Classic, infamous as an adult cinema. Over 20 years of building the business and the state of comedy in New Zealand, one founder, Scott Blanks, went from organising comedy nights through to being the owner, mentor, fosterer and friend to comedians young and old, new and established. He turned his background – first in accounting and then cinema marketing – into a role often called the Godfather of Stand-up, creating careers and also recognition for the craft. And not just with the live shows, but through telly too. Before there was 7 Days there was Pulp Comedy. Scott was part of that. And before that, Funny Business. Yep, Scott too. And how it’s all grown.

His club puts on 350 plus gigs a year for tens of thousands through the door, with space on stage for those just staring right through to some of the biggest names in world comedy. To chat the first 20 years, the explosion in comedy he helped spark and what’s next, Scott Blanks of the Classic Comedy Club joins us now.


Theresa Gattung on Telecom, surviving public scrutiny and investing in women innovators

At the age of 37 a young women, who made her way up through a pretty sexist world, got the biggest job in the country. No, it’s not Jacinda Ardern today, it’s Theresa Gattung, in 1999.
For a brief little window there a few years later most of the top jobs in this country were held by women - Dame Sian Elias was Chief Justice, Dame Silvia Cartwright was Governor-General, Margaret Wilson was Attorney-General, Theresa Gattung was Telecom’s chief executive and Helen Clark was Prime Minister.
But boy how we slipped. By the time Gattung retired in 2007 it was only Dame Elias left.

How do we get back? Well, the new PM is a start, but gains got can be gains lost.

One way is for women to empower women. And it’s in that capacity Theresa Gattung joins the podcast today.

After Telecom she’s gone on to chair major boards, co-found ridiculous success My Food Bag, and get a Companion of the NZ order of Merit gong for services to business and philanthropy, with her work for the Wellington SPCA and organisations empowering women.

Like the newly lunched SheEO. A fund that has women invest in women, part of a global 1 billion dollar idea that Theresa has just helped bring here.


Always be ready to sell: Mark Hurley on selling to an $11 billion agency

Today's guest is a serial entrepreneur. If you haven't heard of his latest company you've very likely seen their work on awarded and effective websites for clients like Marketo, Visa, Air Newzleand, Spark, and Les Mills. Having started just six years ago with a perfectly timed mix of design, brand marketing, and build for the market, his agency Little Giant came and got big fast. Little Giant was one of New Zealand's fastest growing companies in 2015 on the Deloitte Fast 50. One of Asia Pacific's fastest growing companies in 2015 and 2016, and Mark was named an EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalst in 2017.

They grew big and they got bought by one of the leading players in global advertising, the $11 billion annual revenue behemoth Dentsu Aegis. It's a huge achievement in a short time but it wasn't Mark's first rodeo. He's been starting companies since he was 17 and learned some hard lessons along the way that he's turned into his exit and next launching pad. Mark Hurley joined us on the podcast.


Cloud technology is the future and the future is now

On the fourth of July just four years ago today’s guest started a new company in the technology space. Having come out of some of the world’s biggest ICT companies like IBM and Cisco, Mike Jenkins was keen to help use the power of this cloud technology thing to help businesses do better. And look at how it’s gone - today his brainchild The Instillery is working with some of New Zealand’s biggest companies, like Fonterra, through to helping retailers like World run better businesses. He was awarded the emerging ICT leader at the CIO Awards and got the Digital Transformation of the Year gong at the IDC Australasia Awards for their work transforming Fonterra. From starting with a team of three they’ve grown to 30 employees and are just getting started. To talk about the power of the cloud, the effect it is having on business, and how he has used it himself, Mike Jenkins joins the podcast.