One of the biggest challenges New Zealand companies face to ensure survival is their relatively small scale, with many having to break into export markets earlier than their overseas competitors. But a group of Auckland North businesses are tackling the challenge of ‘going global’ by participating in iTEC (Information Technology Export Cluster).
This high-tech business cluster, started by ATEED North Area office business growth specialist Wayne Voss, enables participants to share information on their journey to export.
The first iTEC cluster, which recently celebrated its two year anniversary, includes ten North Shore information and communication technology (ICT) companies. A second iTEC cluster has been created and is currently looking for additional members.
Both clusters meet at ATEED’s North Area Office every six weeks to take part in professionally facilitated sessions. Each cluster will ideally consist of 10 companies to encourage sharing of business intelligence.
Zane Taylor, ATEED’s Area Manager North, says that unlike their overseas competitors, many Kiwi businesses often initially lack the size and capability to export successfully.
“North American companies are typically billion dollar enterprises before they need to export, because their domestic market is so huge. There’s no immediate need to look offshore.
“However New Zealand companies are often forced to enter export markets very early in the development of their businesses due to the fact that they quickly outgrow our small domestic market.”
Wayne Voss started the iTEC cluster to help small to medium sized Auckland ICT businesses that were already in export markets, or aspirations to export in the near future.
“Member companies have been really good at sharing their experiences and what has worked well, and what they’d do differently if they did it again,” says Zane. “Other companies can learn from their mistakes.
“Members tell us what kind of specialist knowledge will be of greatest value to them. We then arrange for specialists in areas such as intellectual property law, strategy, recruitment and human resources to present at iTEC question and answer sessions.”
Zane says professional facilitation of each group is another critical key to success. “We’ve brought in facilitators Kel Marsh, Heather Grace and Nick Muller to ensure meetings are well run and participating businesses get good value from them.”
Jane Mattsen of Abel Software, a cluster member company that creates Abel® Enterprise Resource Planning business management software, says iTEC has been rewarding.
“Sometimes running a business can be quite lonely, but Wayne and ATEED have connected the iTEC members who are all in the same space. Sharing what we know makes sense”.
“Different companies in the cluster float ideas about what they want to do, and the other companies can share their experiences to help. So if we’ve done something similar we can share what worked for us” says Jane.
Aaron Muir of Argus Tracking, a fleet optimisation company which uses GPS tracking technology, says the contacts he’s made through the iTEC cluster have been invaluable.
“Being the youngest one in the group, I’m gathering a whole lot of knowledge very quickly from the older bunch,” says Aaron. “Every cluster session I go to ends up with me having two pages of notes of things that I need to do.”
According to Zane, there’s already been collaboration between companies within the cluster: “One of the companies has facilities in Australia, and has offered them to other members who might want to go on a sales trip over there. They can land in the office and hit the ground running.”
Zane says the new priority for the iTEC cluster is to increase this collaboration and “try to double export earnings within the group within two years, which is an audacious goal.
“But with the companies working together and tackling their challenges strategically it’s one which we hope we can achieve.”
Regional Business Partner Programme: Auckland businesses can access information, funding and training to innovate and grow their business through the Regional Business Partner Programme, run by ATEED’s Area Offices in Albany, Henderson, Highbrook and Quay Street.
The programme sees ATEED deliver NZTE’s capability development vouchers and Callaghan Innovation’s research and development grants throughout the Auckland region.