Connecting Kiwis with San Francisco
Tuesday 20 September, 2016
Kiwi Landing Pad (KLP) was established in 2011 to help selected high growth New Zealand technology companies establish and grow their business in the USA. Sian Simpson is KLP’s Global Community Manager and has spent the last four years working with high growth NZ tech companies implementing and managing their online strategies, growing their communities, and creating and curating content across multiple platforms. She has worked with over 1,000 NZ businesses, met with over 1,500 entrepreneurs and grown the NZ tech community in the United States to 3,000+ members. Hannah from UCE sat in on an exclusive roundtable at Awesome HQ on Friday the 16th of September, in which Sian discussed the ecosystem in the USA and her involvement with Kiwi Landing Pad in San Francisco.
Offering New Zealand technology companies residence at their office in San Francisco, Kiwi Landing Pad currently have ten businesses co-working in their space, ranging from OCI (serving the aerospace and robotics industries through innovative projects), Unfiltered (business education platform, has been gaining a lot of media attention recently!) through to Ao Skincare (blending renewable natural botanicals from NZ for their skin care range) and 90 Seconds (cloud video production service). Sian is passionate about helping kiwis, and her experience in San Francisco means that she is able to offer tips and tricks about living and working in the US. She works with businesses on a case-by-case basis, assessing their needs and wants. Alongside this, KLP established an advisory board last year connected to the US market, giving companies the ability to access mentors with knowledge in realms such as advice, tactics and connections, which are very different in the US than here in NZ.
KLP encourage people to get the lay of the land so that they can validate themselves in the US market, they introduce them to people who can help with this through networks, information and access, and provide a supportive environment to do this from. Bridging the gap knowledge-wise, seeing where an idea is ‘at’ and seeing if said idea will stick or gain traction in the US is crucial to continue through the next stages of planning and progression. As Sian says, many NZ start-ups beeline for the US market which is incredibly competitive even when there is a wealth of options at home in NZ, across the ditch in Australia or elsewhere across the globe. KLP instead encourage people to look at their markets and go where their customers are. Many companies either choose to come to the US too soon or overlook other markets that could be just as good. KLP has noticed some kiwi tech companies choosing to set up in Toronto in the last few years. Toronto has a growing technology ecosystem and is easier to navigate as it's part of the commonwealth and in the right timezone. The realisation that the US may not be the right place at that point in time could encourage entrepreneurs to consider some of the phenomenal Australian accelerator programmes open to kiwi residents, opening up the Australian market with hands-on experience.
“If you’re looking for connections, you need to be ready for that connection” - Sian Simpson
If you are wanting introductions, Sian encourages you to be specific in these introductions with who you want to speak to and why. The Kiwi Landing Pad has a large network and asking for anything broad is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Additionally, it's helpful that you have a clear mission and message so that people understand why they are talking to you, along with a clear ask of how they can help you.
Sian’s enthusiasm and dedication to the New Zealand technology scene is contagious. We need to tell our story better as a nation, she says, with the suggestion of a campaign similar to the very successful “100% Pure New Zealand” campaign for tourism needed for tech. With technology being the country’s third biggest export, she wants to encourage NZ to move on from being world famous in New Zealand to just being world famous, noone will know about us if we are jumping up and down in New Zealand as opposed to telling our story on a global stage. She talks about how our ecosystem is young but growing in the right direction and we just need more time and to keep going as we are trending upwards as the NZ tech scene which is really exciting. Sian claims that she’s “not an expert, she just has an opinion!” but it is undoubtable that her knowledge and passion is doing great things for New Zealand tech companies both at home and in the US.