Tuesday 10th April 2012
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New Zealand has the makings for a “massive renaissance” with a number of small to medium sized businesses capable of creating money off the strength of their ideas with small capital outlay, says visiting futurist Mark Stevenson.
Stevenson, who describes himself as a “brain for hire”, was in New Zealand last week for a conference address and to spend time with Wellington-based business incubator, Creative HQ.
He is currently co-founding a new research and investment vehicle designed to bridge the funding gap that hampered many new businesses: getting from the idea stage to commercial sustainability.
“If New Zealand gets it right, it is in for a massive renaissance,” Stevenson said. “New Zealand has great academic institutions, it has a great can do attitude that seems to be in tune with the way the whole world is going and you all speak English – it’s great! The whole idea that you are isolated now is ridiculous.”
“You have high levels of education, you are starting to deal with the education problems.”
Stevenson’s new vehicle will invest small ticket amounts of $500,000 to $1 million into start-ups that combine fresh ideas with technology.
“A lot of small companies find it hard to get investment and the reason is that investment models are still based on the idea of industrialism,” Stevenson said. “Most investment funds can’t invest less than $5 million because they say the overhead of running the investment is too high.”
But Stevenson challenges this, noting a business like Facebook became a multi-billion dollar enterprise on virtually no initial start-up capital. He believes New Zealand is well placed for the coming age of businesses that are no longer based on traditional industries, such as local favourites agriculture and forestry.
“New Zealand’s just got the right combination of mind sets, big picture thinking and well-developed and thoughtful populace,” Stevenson said.
“The sell is simple - There is a whole bunch of cool stuff going on here that no one pays attention to.”
Stevenson also says there’s no point waiting for the government to come up with the answers.
“I think government is going to have to shift and some nations will get it and some nations won’t,” he said. “The thing with government is that everybody complains to the government and then waits for them to do something about it.”
“I think government has a role but waiting for government to do something is pointless. It has to come from the bottom up and then the government will come along later.
The good thing about IT industries is that you often don’t need a lot of infrastructure, you can do so much of it online."
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