AFQY Vision Week NZ Part 3: Building & Funding a Tech Idea, Growing More Interest in Tech for Pacific and Maori, Data & Digital Twins


Part 3 of the key outtakes from our AFQY Special Edition Vision Week event includes insights from Aidan Kenealy, Hylton Stunnenberg-Southon & Stephen Clarke.

Written by Gemma McKenzie, AFQY Editor

Watch the full video replay here.

This special edition AFQY event included a range of lightning talks from speakers covering four key areas - environment, society, culture, economy - to give attendees some inspiration for thinking about what we want the vision for NZ to be, with a focus on how tech could play a part in the great reset.

Tech was our third largest exporter and therefore we could be getting a 10X return by setting up a whole range of things that enable it - Ryan the Lion

Aidan Kenealy - Independent Founder Advisor for High Growth Startups

How to approach building a bit of tech and getting it funded

A huge number of the big businesses that have come out of New Zealand have come from the same question where you're in the pub with your mates.

 I've got an idea, how do I go about getting it built, how do I go about funding it?

Aidan used a number of assumptions in order to answer this question in five minutes, and took the approach of answering: "How do we build a proof of concept so that someone can go and get further funding from their angel investors or venture capitalists?"

There are two forces that come into play: the building and the financing of the build. These two things are often completely interlinked and they're usually proportional to each other.

If you have an idea, it's not necessarily worth a million dollars if you don't have the ability to build the solution yourself... It's more accurate probably to think about any idea you're having, or problem you want to solve, as costing a million dollars.

Building the tech

The best place to start is with you. If you can start building or demonstrating how you're going to solve a problem you're always going to be better off. If you can build a prototype it doesn't cost you anything.

Learn how to do it yourself. Invest the time and effort into upskilling yourself so you can build it yourself. If you don't have the time to learn the skills and you've got the money then paying someone to do it is not a bad option.

Funding the tech

Fund it yourself or go for friendly money if you can (e.g. friends and family), look at sweat equity if it's applicable, then government grants, private grants, research grants through universities, and then look at angel investment once you've got something to demonstrate.

Watch Aidan's full talk here.

Hylton Stunnenberg-Southon - Head of Digital Solution Delivery, NZ Post

Growing an interest in tech for our Pacific and Maori communities

Hylton's vision for NZ is to increase the number of role models for Pacific people in the tech industry, and to leverage existing tech programs so that they're not just short stints, but instead it's a long life cycle that is progressed through from a young age with families, all the way through to making it a career. 

Having access to things like technology or just tech awareness isn't something that's high on the values for the Pacific and Māori communities, Hylton says, because it's not an area they're familiar with. 

How do we educate Pacific, Māori, even just other nationalities, around the fact that being part of tech isn't necessarily bound to being a developer. It's broader than that, the vast range of skills that are needed, the different roles.

If you look at our training and mentoring programs, we've got some pretty well-established programs out there, Hylton says, but asks how do we stretch that further to enable teachers as well; teachers, those who would like to pursue a career or have an interest in pursuing a career in education in the tech space? How do we put together programs that better support teachers in all areas, primary, secondary, so that tech becomes an everyday thing?

How do we reach out to our Pacific people and our Māori people? How do we also make it accessible for families at home whether it be through hardware or internet?

The industry needs us, it needs more mentors to help grow more interest for our Pacific and Māori people.

Watch Hylton's full talk here.

Stephen Clarke - Chief Data Officer, NZ Transport Agency

The data and analytics revolution within the existing transport tech capability

Stephen's vision for NZ is pixel ready projects to support the shovel ready projects. For NZ to develop a national digital infrastructure as a digital twin system with associated protocols standards and operating procedures that allows information to flow smoothly, and in real time, to link the transport system to all its users.

Folk at the office often say we don't want to reinvent the wheel but I have to disagree because I genuinely believe the pneumatic tire was fantastic innovation. I guess speed, efficiency and comfort aren't for everyone but there's no accounting for taste.

  • Most of the innovation in transport will be a product of data analytics and it does not necessarily need any new tech at all. "We have the tech, we have the data, but we've never leveraged that data as an asset and realised the vast potential of our existing data sets."

  • Now is the time to take the next step and extract the value from that data through analytics and automation and we should do it sooner rather than later to unlock the billion dollar opportunity that's sitting waiting for us that we haven't grasped yet.

  • We need pixel ready projects to support the shovel ready projects. Now we should be thinking about pixel and shovel, it's no longer pick and shovel.

  • The transport system doesn't just move people and goods from point A to point B - it improves our wellbeing and livability, it's a key enabler for a healthy economy.

  • We still need to address the data ownership and culture sovereignty concerns as we transition through this revolution - hello, spoiler alert, it's not something we're brilliant at, it's something we need to improve on.

Watch Stephen's full talk here.