In pushing the case for projects IT managers should stress their export potential, says US-trained Kiwi lawyer Michael McNeil.
For IT managers, he says, under the right circumstances, an internal project can turn into a profitable export. “IT managers should be making that [export potential] as part of their cost case,” McNeil says. Such a development was last week sitting on his desk, he says.
McNeil believes there’s “no question” that this country will be a major exporter of knowledge over the next 10 years and that the most successful model for New Zealand firms to expand overseas — given the smallness of local companies and the large size of foreign markets — is to partner with a multinational.
“We will be seeing more and more knowledge come out of New Zealand, and capital and marketing coming out from the US,” McNeil says.
The Lower Hutt-born McNeil was, until six months ago, a partner in a New York law firm and ran an application service provider. Now working for Chapman Tripp in Wellington after spending most of the past 30 years in the US, McNeil says US attorneys are “as much deal-maker and business consultant as lawyer”. McNeil is not afraid to blow his own trumpet, claiming business contacts on both coasts of the US and work with big names like Lord of the Rings SFX shop Weta, a $25 million IT investment deal and a US venture capitalist investing in eight Kiwi firms.
Kiwi business people, he says, should seek these partners by looking at their contacts, customers, old school friends, ex-pat networks. Such organisations are quickly gathering steam, including the Kiwi Expats Association (KEA), ANZA Technology Network and Global Network of Kiwis (Gnok). Cold-calling is a non-starter and trade shows alone are usually ineffective, says McNeil.
US investors hurt by the bursting of the tech bubble are partnering more with New Zealand and Australian businesses, either offering them venture capital or helping to take their products to the US or other markets. These investors prefer this part of the world as it is “educated, sophisticated, with no language barrier”.
Carter Holt Harvey-offshoot Mariner7 chief executive Heather Miles agrees with McNeil’s view, depending on the product and how it can be tailored to suit other markets. But she says only when the HR software was developed for internal use was its commercial potential seen.
The rival StaffCV developed its product based on the observation that the airline industry needed a recruitment tool, Miles says.