Vision Manawatu Awards

Just amazing small business talent in the room at the Vision Manawatu awards dinner on Friday night at Silks Lounge, Awapuni.  Pictures below capture the excitement in the room, and our Massey table.  So many heartwarming stories of team and family success over 3 generations in the Manawatu.

 

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Realising value in the agri-food industries: the next wave of digital innovation

In an earlier post I wrote about how digital was changing incubation needs in the creative industries.  At the time, I was putting together a proposal for a virtual incubator at Southampton, but before anything could be put in place, I left the UK for a new post at Massey University in New Zealand, at the Palmerston North campus in the Manawatu Whanganui region.  The energy here is around the growth possible in the Agri-food industries and the exciting aspirations around initiatives such as foodHQ, which has a mission to “generate value for the global food industry through innovation across the value chain”. The value chain for the agri-food industries stretches from the land to the plate, and the opportunities for digital innovation occur at every step of this complex ecosystem – production, transport, product development, business and commerce, logistics, distribution, marketing and retail.

Looking at it from my point of view, there are real challenges and opportunities here for digital innovation to realise and amplify the value in the agri-food industries, so vital for New Zealand’s future.  For some time now, people have been getting used to:

More widespread access to broadband technologies (including efforts to improve rural access)

  • Smartphones and tablets improving mobile access
  • Social media platforms
  • Availability of big and small data
  • Cloud computing
  • Digital marketing and market analytics
  • Visualisation
  • Falling technology prices

We now have growing communities of problem solvers, entrepreneurs and innovators looking to create value from this space: the entry barriers to digital innovation are getting lower all the time, and new innovation and commercial possibilities are open as never before to SMEs.  To maximise the benefits of this complex innovation ecosystem, we need to take a systemic view, shifting the emphasis from the basics of production (though this is so important!) to:

 

  • Consumers as co creators of value
  • Value chains to value networks
  • Product value to network value
  • Simple co-operation or competition to complex co-opetition and
  • Individual firm strategy to strategy in relation to value networks.

 

Relatively new trends in digital innovation presents us with many opportunities, such as the growth (and growing awareness) of open innovation and distributed business models, which can aid value creation.  There is also the growth of crowdfunding and crowdsourcing, fuelled by a social media culture, as mechanisms to not only finance, but shape emerging business models. Of course, we need to be aware that there are many unresolved issues concerning intellectual property, rights and ownership, distribution of equity and revenues, monetisation, trust.  And of course, we have to recognise that aspirational growth will take place against a backdrop of financial restraint and cutbacks particularly likely to impact public sector procurement and support.  But the vision to create a world-class space where entrepreneurs and innovators can come together and connect locally, regionally, nationally and globally is there, and connecting with leading edge possibilities in digital innovation will be a key enabler in taking this vision forward.

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Exciting times for foodHQ Manawatu

It’s great to be here at Palmerston North, being part of developing the entrepreneurial and innovation talent to help make Manawatu a world-class centre for food innovation.   This project started some time before I arrived; yesterday, it was great to see Roger van Hoesel, CEO of the Netherlands Food Valley organisation present his perspective at the Manawatu Agrifood Business Forum, on what is currently the world’s leading agrifood university and innovation cluster in Holland.  foodHQ is located here in Palmerston North.  Not only exciting from a professional point of view, but many excellent new colleagues and sampled local food and drinks too.  Pics below, a little blurry but shows key speakers in action.  More seriously, looking forward to picking up the digital side (more later).

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Latin America and Spain Film Festival

Palmy certainly hasn’t disappointed with film festivals since I came here in July. The New Zealand International Film Festival put out  a great mix of films in the Downtown Cinemas, and in October, the Latin America and Spain Film Festival has been a treat. I saw a great mix of films from Argentina (It’s not you, it’s me), Brazil (Simonal), Chile (The Maid), Colombia (The Hidden Face – my favourite), Ecuador (In the name of the girl), Mexico (in the middle of Heaven), Spain (Sleep Tight) and Venezuela (Topsy Turvy), al brought different joys.  Kudos to the organisers too, many of them from Massey – the Living Room provided a lovely informal setting and it was easy to make new friends over wine and coffee as many of the same people returned time and again. Just excellent.

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4 months in – the South Island calls

4 months in, I decided to take my first trip out of  the North Island.  The Interislander ferry took me through the beautiful harbour of Picton, then a trio of Kiwirailscenic runs down the Pacific Coastal route and the Tranzalpine line over the mountains to Greymouth.  The pictures below convey the beauty, taken from an open viewing platform on the train.  They speak for themselves.  Next time South, I’ll explore the fascinating industrial heritage of the West Coast and Fjordland. In awe.

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Launchpad: take off!

The pictures below tell the story of the energy in the room at Akina’s Launchpad event in Auckland’s GRIDAKL venue last week in Viaduct Harbour.   I was there to observe the event with my colleague from Massey’s Wellington campus, Martina Battisti, looking at the dynamics of emerging social enterprises.  It was great to see  teams getting to grips with business model development in a social context, and the mentor support teams getting into action.  Also good to connect with the Akina team, particularly David Clearwater, who I met as  a fellow mentor at the Palmy Startup Weekend.  Really looking forward to the interview phase with teas from the length and breadth  of New Zealand.  We’re hoping  to get some good practical advice together for new social enterprises and gain new insights into business model development in social contexts.  Good times!  And thanks to Akina Foundation for providing us with this great research opportunity.

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The Startup weekend – fantastic experience for students

I was really pleased when I arrived here in July to find that one of my teaching weekends, the block for 152.334, Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship, had been set up by my colleague Jo Bensemann and the BCC to run through the Palmy Startup weekend* (see previous posts, here and here and here). While I’ve worked on start-ups in many different ways in the UK, USA, Russia, Pakistan and elsewhere, the New Zealand experience was new to me, so I was both excited and just a little anxious about what to expect. The weekend was top and tailed with two sessions on the Turitea campus led by me, to set the experience in context pre- the event, and then afterwards to work on critical reflection about personal learning and development.  Once out of the lecture theatre, the students were mixed in with other participants in the weekend, and spent the first evening getting into teams and bouncing ideas around.

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The atmosphere in the UCOL atrium in the centre of town was intense – no need to leave as food, beer, mentors, everything you needed was right there on hand, thanks to some fantastic sponsorship*.  As the weekend progressed, students began to work on market development, and began to put together pitches as the ideas came into shape.

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Mentors were tough but constructive in providing feedback and by the time of the judging, it was incredible how much progress had been made.  The Massey students were at the centre of it all, in both all-Massey teams and mixing in with other participants.  One mentor said of the students, “They were all incredible this weekend! Very smart, respectful and motivated and it was a pleasure to meet them!”.  I felt the same – they did me – and themselves – proud!  Over to the judging* and I’m pleased to say one of the Massey students, Ross Frater, was in the winning team, with a business service idea, Expert Systems catching the eye of the panel. Other students were in commended teams, notably UGradbooks  and RedeemMe (variants on book exchanges and loyalty schemes, respectively).

* See this link for mentors, judges and sponsors, and the BCC team

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The approach to the paper was to give the students an exciting practical experience where real-life skills of team-building, leadership, entrepreneurial behaviour and presentation could be developed.  A critical reflection piece gets them thinking about personal development and how much they have achieved.  It’s not so much about whether real businesses come out of it, though that might happen in one or two cases.  It’s about developing new skills sets and strengths, and building new networks, realising not only that you can do it, but what that means and what it takes.  You can’t do that in a classroom.  So, so different to traditional business planning approaches.  The students enjoyed it too, judging from comments in their critical reflection pieces, and comments afterwards.  Two of them said, this was the best paper they had ever done, and complimented the University on making this happen.  The BCC team* Richard Dryden, Dave Craig and Nick Gain played  a fabulous part in making this happen, they were incredibly professional and supportive throughout, both to me and the students, I can’t thank them enough.

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Goodbye to NZIFF 2014!

The two week New Zealand International Film Festival  has now ended in Palmerston North, leaving my quite bereft.  It’s a long time since I’ve been anywhere where I’ve had the choice of 5 super films everyday just down the road.  I’ve managed to see eleven, almost one a day.  I began with the intensity of Locke, which felt like one of those “I’m late” quasi nightmares, trying to get things done in he UK; then ended with the roller coaster ride of Wild Tales, finishing NZIFF, fittingly, by laughing out loud at the frustations of Argentinian city life.  Inbetween, Land Ho!, not so strong a narrative as some of the others, but many views of my beloved Iceland; In the Courtyard, a Parisian melange of city characters.  One of my favourites, Force Majeure, tensions in a Swedish family, set against stunning snowscapes.  Particle Fever about CERN and the Large Hadron Collider, with a message for international co-operation with representatives of warring nations getting down to the science.  Diplomacy, from Germany, adaped from a stage play about the impending sack of Paris in WW2. Again from Sweden, In Order of Disappearance, a spot of Tarantino-esque gangster chic  (not one of my favourites).  Wasn’t really taken with Snowpiercer  (international production), but many would like the dystopian fantasy, methinks.  An interesting premise that didn’t quite come off in my view.  The Skeleton Twins (USA), Allen-ish at times, but an acutely observed relationship between brother and sister.  And finally, a charming Spanish road trip, Living is Easy With Eyes Closed – when it finished, I looked round and everyone in the cinema was smiling.  my favourite?  Wild Tales, closely followed by Force Majeure,  So much joy; looking forward to 2015.

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And off we go…

Met the students this morning – they’re here for the 152.334 Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship paper, and we started off with a session setting out the aims for the next few days, and working out how the practical side of the #SWPalmy Startup weekend will fit with the academic side  — linking theory and practice in other words.  We had some good discussions around people’s expectations of the weekend; excitement in the air, and some a little apprehensive too, as they go off to join a much bigger group this evening.  Good to see an impressive Judging Panel  too (scroll down the page on the above link).  Looking forward to my evening session!

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The Startup Weekend Experience

Yesterday, I interviewed Richard Dryden, Marketing and Events Co-ordinator for the BCC, about what to expect from the Start-up weekend on 12-15 September.  Here’s a summary of the key points:

  • You refer to the Startup Weekend as “and MBA in a weekend”.  What do you mean by that?

Well, participants have said it’s like compressing the intensity and learning of an MBA into a short period of time.  You really get a thorough grounding in all aspects of business model development, the marketing channels, the customer architecture, in  a short space of time – there’s nothing like it!  You use tools like the Business Model Canvas in a very real sense, really refining ideas int a sharp focus.  When I did the Weekend myself, we reduced our initial 150 post-it notes to around 10, taking our idea from something that was OK, but quite general, down to something really specific.  there’s a real sense of exhilaration afterwards.

  • What kind of ideas do people work on?

It really varies.  Some are as you’d expect, high-tech, high growth.  Other ideas that are popular are those that impact the community, social enterprises, those with an environmental impact.  You also of course see some agri-food businesses, reflecting local interests and strengths.  And of course, there are fashions – apps are very popular at the moment for example.  It’s across the board really.

  • What happens after?  Do people go on and set up businesses?

It depends – some people do — the make up of your team is very important as to whether you have the momentum to keep going after.  The main thing though, is the personal development and the sense of achievement, as well as having acquired new skills.  You learn a lot about yourself.  At the end of the day, what you put in is what you take out – bring an open mind!

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