Kōrerorero #11

/ Kōrerorero blog / 26 Oct 2021 / Nic Anderson

Korerorero Title

Welcome to our Q&A series Kōrerorero .. a forum to discuss and share insights, inspiration and advice from voices of founders and investors within the Kiwi start-up community.

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Conversations with Ben Kepes - professional board member, commentator and investor

 

Widely experienced Ben Kepes shares his views on where he thinks the NZ tech investment sector is headed and tells us about his "no dickheads" filter... 

Commentator, analyst, subject matter expert, investor, speaker and board member Ben Kepes, started commentating on the move to the cloud around the same time that Amazon Web Services, Salesforce and Xero got going. As such, he was one of only a handful of people watching the space. This allowed him to gain a degree of brand recognition and importantly, exposed him to cutting edge technology developments globally (things like zero-trust, serverless etc). He wanted to put this knowledge to good use and started advising and investing in early-stage companies in Australia, the UK and the US and, more recently, in NZ.

       

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As a Board member on both NZ and international companies, what are the key trends you have witnessed ...

The need for agility! It's been a few years since famed Venture Capitalist Marc Andreeson coined the term that "software is eating the world" and now every organisation needs to think about what it does within the context of a digitally connected, socially active and "always-on" stakeholder group. The technology that I've been covering for 15 years all directly helps organisations deliver agility - digital marketing tools, cloud computing, developer tools and the like.

 

What are your top tips for Kiwi companies with high-growth potential ...

Build a team. Find product-market fit. Don't focus too much on building scale here in New Zealand, rather find your market proof here and then scale elsewhere. Develop the sort of confidence that is atypical for Kiwi companies (but please don't over-reach on that).

 

NZ's talent shortage is becoming significant, what's your advice for start-ups on how to best navigate this issue...

There are no easy answers, alas. Train your existing team, look to hybrid outsourcing/ offshoring models but also just accept that talent is in hot demand right now.

 

What key tools/documents/blogs would you like to share with Kiwi entrepreneurs ...

Anything that Rowan Simpson writes (even if he is a grumpy bugger!) and, of course, Suse Reynolds and Bridget Unsworth's huge contribution form the Angel Association. In the Venture Capital world, best not to look past Lovina McMurchy (from Movac).

 

You've invested in many early-stage tech start-ups. What do you look for and what filters do you apply..

I've done around 40 early-stage investments in Australia, the UK, the US and New Zealand. I have three very simple filters when deciding on an investment. Firstly, is this a real problem, or a solution looking for a problem? Secondly, can the team execute upon this opportunity. Finally, do they fulfil my "no dickheads" rule. Life is too short to do business with just anyone, even if they could make you millions of dollars.

 

Our Aspire fund has 4 focus areas (software, deep-tech, health-tech and agri-tech. Do you lean towards any of these in particular...

I'm hugely passionate about NZ not trying to replicate Silicon Valley but rather finding stuff that we're already good at and applying smart tech to that. So agri-tech is my standout go-to for NZ Inc. Clearly we've done some good stuff in software, deep-tech and health, but these seem to me to be good luck rather than something we have core competence in. Obviously we are starting to build a good baseline of general tech talent in New Zealand so have some good SaaS smarts that we can leverage, but we need to be mindful that this is a development over time and we can't just magic it into existence.

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Join our Kōrerorero

This is our 11th Kōrerorero of the series.

Are you a founder of a Kiwi start-up, or a start-up investor, who's keen to share your insights as part of this series? We'd love to hear from you! 
Drop us an email at marketing@nzgcp.co.nz and let's chat.

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