Steve O’Connor – General Manager, Creative HQ

“The recognition some time ago that it’s pretty damn hard for innovative, creative, young start-up ventures to genuinely succeed. The prospect is there for great growth but the challenge of taking innovation and commercialising it – and then secondly getting it offshore into bigger markets – is a big challenge. So the idea behind the incubators was taking experienced people with specialist skills that these young start-ups don’t technically have and wrapping it around these businesses to help them get there. Across the seven incubators nationally, there have been several hundred successful graduations so we have a couple of hundred-plus alumni businesses out there flourishing and doing really well on the international stage. So the economic benefit of that is fantastic and it’s building a groundswell of these cracking companies and inspired entrepreneurs that are learning the ropes of how New Zealand can succeed overseas.

Probably the biggest thing we can offer them is experience so we have a team here that we have built up over time that have done it themselves so they have lots of external experience prior to coming to the incubator and then within the incubator see a lot over a range of these businesses so that we can, firstly raise the headlights and the prospects of what these business can achieve in their own minds and then we can help them see some of the pitfalls in the road along the way. Growing a successful company is a very hard thing to do, particularly internationally. There are a lot of pitfalls, a lot of holes in the road – so if we are able to steer them around most of them and if they do fall into some, to help pull them out – get the tow truck out and get them out is really beneficial to them. When you do get overseas, that can be challenging so having people with experience and a track record of doing it, standing alongside these businesses really makes a big difference.

It’s played a big role on a couple of fronts. Actually over half of the businesses we now have are Internet-based, so the core of their business is actually based around the Internet. The first thing for all of them is that the Internet has been a fantastic way of communicating their product, their value proposition and what they do and even for businesses, or very early stage start-ups, to figure out what customers think about their product and do market validation work, the Internet’s just been a brilliant tool for doing that. They can connect with a number of people and get feedback near real time, so the Internet’s been a very valuable tool for all of our businesses. At the other end, in terms of selling themselves to the world, it’s a natural tool for any business. And then for a portion of our businesses with good growth prospects, using the Internet is the core platform means that they can genuinely grow with startling speed, both from the design and development of their products using the Internet through the delivery of the products. A lot of our businesses are what’s called the ‘weightless economy’ which is fantastic – it’s not having a physical product that you have to ship somewhere. It means you can get international very, very quickly.”


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