UPDATE: This post from February 21, 2016, is being republished in the light of the announcement that Club Penguin […]
British Columbia and New Zealand share many economic similarities, except that New Zealand has way more sheep, are way better at rugby and are better sailors. Both economies are focused on natural resource exploitation, tourism, wine, and horticulture. Both economies have similar populations though we have more space and are not isolated in the South Pacific. The motion picture industry has been a major factor in both economies, but both are highly vulnerable to foreign exchange fluctuations. Both economies have made efforts to diversify into high tech, pouring millions into development of startups. Both economies have had modestly successful companies in high tech, which have been bought out and moved out. The crucial difference may be New Zealand’s pragmatism about how to deal with this economic reality. British Columbia could learn from New Zealand.
Well-known local entrepreneur and community activist, Raghwa Gopal has been named the new CEO of Accelerate Okanagan with much fanfare. My sincere wishes for his success in this important new role in the community. However, it is extremely important to also recognize the major challenges he faces. Just this week BMO issued a report which ranked Kelowna the worst job market in Canada, well behind many seemingly more distressed Ontario communities. The reasons for Kelowna’s economic problems are deep and long-standing.
It was with some amazement that I read of the stunning results achieved by Andy Hamilton and the Icehouse incubator in Auckland. I have had the good fortune to know and work with Andy, visiting the Icehouse as the Director of New Zealand Trade & Enterprise’s Silicon Valley incubator in Redwood City. Andy routinely asked me to stop by when I was in town to deliver a “tough love” talk to the resident companies. Andy’s results contrast sharply with the results being achieved in other incubators, particularly here in BC. Much is being written about an incubator glut, massive waste of government money, and most importantly poor quantitative results from incubator companies. For example, when asked how many companies they have helped succeed a local BC accelerator employee could only say: “You really have to define success. I mean for most of these guys our success is just about getting them to realize their ideas are bad.” Really?
At an absolute minimum, Google has scored a PR coup with their blog announcement of “Project Loon,” a trial of Internet Wifi via balloons floating in the stratosphere over New Zealand. You may have already seen, heard or read about this, as the story has appeared in much of the mainstream media, albeit without much journalistic scrutiny. The Loon project has also been covered extensively in the tech “blogosphere” (pun intended). From my reading, only very few journalists have delved into the devil of the details, and asked serious questions, which remain largely unanswered. It is probably not in Google’s best interest to say too much more, as they have already favorably established the Loon Project in the media. The Kiwi’s have a term for this kind of project. They are known in New Zealand as “#8 Wire” projects. Read on and I will explain.
When I first stumbled on the HBO television series Flight of the Conchords, I had no awareness of the developing cult status of the two Kiwi comedians/singers/songwriters, Jermaine Clement and Bret McKenzie. I will say that the first episode was so exceptional that I nearly pee’d myself in hysterical laughter. I then immediately got on the Net and the phone to my mates at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise here and Down Under in New Zealand. My first question was who at NZTE had helped with development of the script for the show?