Business Management

New Zealand technology stars set sights on UK

This is a contributed piece by Vaughan Rowsell, CEO and Founder of Vend

New Zealand was once considered to be simply, Britain’s farm. But from the invention of the electric fence and the eggbeater we’re now home to sophisticated SaaS accounting, payments and POS systems that also make up a strong app economy. And Silicon Valley investors recognise something amazing is happening here.

Technology is New Zealand’s fastest growing export sector (up 40% in the past two years) and it’s now our third largest GDP export. More and more, innovative companies are springing up in New Zealand and making waves on a global scale, including in the UK which is our third biggest export market for IT after Australia and the US.

In July, more than 100 small businesses and advisors packed out the New Zealand High Commission in London to show how cloud technologies are impacting UK retailers and SMBs. Companies like Vend, Xero and Spotlight Reporting, born out of New Zealand but on big growth trajectories around the world, showed how their software is contributing to the current revolution in retail - making business tools affordable and accessible, so retailers can run their businesses more effectively and compete with the larger stores.

Technology companies like Xero, which recently signed-on its 500,000th customer, and Vend, with customers in 140 countries around the world, are banging on the door of Silicon Roundabout, bringing flexible and sought-after software for retailers that’s easy to use and manage. So, how did we get here?

Defying market size

Due to New Zealand’s small market size, entrepreneurs have to think and act globally from day one. There aren’t as many investors here compared to other markets, so we’re compelled to create something that will stand out on the world stage - and do it on a shoestring. Fortunately, cloud means we’re no longer restricted by geography; we can weightlessly export world-class software anywhere, at any time.

Daniel Taylor, New Zealand Trade Commissioner to UK & Ireland says our international growth is because technology is a great leveller. “Data is at the heart of ICT solutions and this has no regard for geography - meaning that logistically there is no reason for a Kiwi company to not compete anywhere on equal footing if the approach is right. For those in the UK who might say ‘But NZ is on the other side of the world’ – well that just means that support can be delivered 24/7,” he says.

Before I wrote the first line of code I knew Vend would be a global company, and it was this impetus that gave us direction and momentum in the early days.

Growth in the UK

The UK cloud computing market is now worth over £6 billion ($9.2 billion) and EY research shows that London now dominates the Europe tech industry, attracting three times as many investments as Paris. The UK is the place to be, and it’s certainly true for New Zealand businesses - New Zealand Trade and Enterprise are seeing more and more companies establishing themselves in London before launching into continental Europe.

This is because in the UK the use and acceptance of cloud business models is continuing to grow across traditional industries such as banking and utilities. This allows smaller cloud-based companies like Xero, Spotlight Reporting and Vend, who provide a more flexible and modern product, to compete in larger markets.

“NZ companies offer customer-centric products or services that are innovative and creative, focusing on a well-defined market niche. They also tend to operate at the higher end of the value chain and are rich in intellectual property, making them harder to copy,” says Taylor.

Gary Turner, Xero UK Managing Director believes in the huge opportunity for NZ companies in the UK. “London is really exciting, because it’s right at the centre of the financial and capital markets globally. And that has meant that we’ve seen a huge explosion in technology innovation,” he says.

With that kind of appeal, it’s likely Kiwi businesses will continue to make their way to the bright lights of the UK for some time to come.


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