A world apart, but closer than ever: why UK and New Zealand tech is made for each other
The UK and New Zealand are quite literally a world apart. The distance between London and Auckland is just shy of 10,000 miles, which at one point in time would have taken around 100 days to travel by sea. Sounds like a great adventure, though not quite as comfortable as the current - and much shorter - method. Luckily for us in 2018, our nations are really closer than ever.
Recently we were reminded of the strength of this continued relationship, as the Mayor of the City of London headed to New Zealand on behalf of the UK. His aim was to further strengthen the trade links between New Zealand and the City of London, particularly in the flourishing tech, cybersecurity and fintech sectors of both countries.
I’ve spent the last nine years building a global technology company out of Auckland, so it was encouraging to see the Lord Mayor’s interest in collaboration. London and the wider-UK have always been key markets for Vend, and our product is a great example of a Kiwi tech idea strengthened by its British customers.
Bigger markets mean bigger opportunities
Fortunately for the Mayor of City of London, it shouldn’t be too hard to persuade Kiwi businesses of the benefits of his home country and city. We know there’s a lot we can learn from London.
The UK, and with it London, is widely acknowledged as the go-to European hub for technology. London attracts three times as much investment as Paris. This advance is largely down to the use and acceptance of cloud business models across traditional industries, such as banking and utilities, while other European countries have somewhat lagged until recently in pursuing these technologies.
London’s position at the centre of financial and capital markets also helps to make it an attractive location to foreign businesses. Budding tech entrepreneurs are located a stone’s throw away from a vast pool of potential capital and investors. Whilst obvious to those who live there, this is a huge draw for those working out of smaller centres such as New Zealand, who have a much smaller pool of capital to draw from.
There is of course the cultural connection too. We all equally enjoy a good pint, the grammar of our common language and a game of football now and then, although at times the sporting field is not a level one. Our Kiwi roots grow deep in the UK.
Many Kiwi tech entrepreneurs are already aware of the stepping stone that London can provide to their business before expanding into Europe. New Zealand Trade and Enterprise report that the majority of Kiwi businesses look to establish themselves first in London before launching into continental Europe. The UK now accounts for a third of New Zealand’s IT exports, just after Australia and the US. And for Vend, the UK is one of our core markets. We set up our first office in London four years ago - drawn by the independent retail culture and business opportunities - and now have thousands of local retailers using our software.
Smaller markets drive creativity and scalability
But what does New Zealand have to offer in return? Well, we also know a thing or two, and there’s much the UK can learn from our unique, growing industry.
Never one to blow its own trumpet, New Zealand has been quietly growing to become a global tech powerhouse. Technology is now New Zealand’s third largest export (after agriculture and tourism), accounting for 10% of the nation’s total GDP in 2017. The top 200 Kiwi tech companies broke through $10 billion in sales last year, helping to cement the sector’s importance to the country’s economy as a whole.
A question that many people ask is how has a country that is so isolated been able to create such an innovative and flourishing tech sector? Interestingly, it is the country’s exact location and size that has allowed it to do so. Kiwi entrepreneurs have needed to think and act globally from day one, creating technology businesses that are easily scalable, so they can expand quickly into other markets. The development of the Software as a Service subscription model has been especially valuable in this, and is a real factor in the global success of both Vend and accounting software Xero - a jewel in New Zealand’s tech crown.
Kiwi companies also tend to operate at the higher end of the value chain, and are rich in IP, making them more resistant to the cheap imitators that often see revenues whisked away to lesser companies. Vend is an example of this - a well designed product that is targeted at a specific niche, providing the world’s small-to-medium retailers with an intelligent and feature-rich platform that helps them to grow their business.
A mutual opportunity
I’m sure The Mayor of the City of London found a huge amount of opportunity to encourage closer economic links between both countries. And as the UK heads ever closer to independence from the European Union, it’ll be these further afield relationships that’ll take full advantage of the trade and investment opportunities. The benefits will of course go beyond purely economic, and will be a fantastic bridge from which to share both talent and expertise. Now we just need someone to build an actual bridge between NZ and the UK. Perhaps I’ll have to give the Lord Mayor a call.