If you’re thinking about relocating to get ahead in your IT career, forget Silicon Valley and consider New Zealand.
With a population of just under five million people, it may surprise you to know that Kiwi innovation is making an impact on the world stage. And where better to join the IT revolution? New Zealand’s most tech savvy city, Auckland.
According to Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), opportunities in IT are on the rise, “Over the last 10 years, the sector has witnessed 25 per cent growth; ICT and digital media accounts for 3.2 per cent of employment in Auckland, or one in 30 jobs; and nearly half (48 per cent) of New Zealand’s ICT companies are based in Auckland, employing 37,000 people.”
While Kiwi companies such as Xero, Pushpay and Rocket Lab have achieved world-wide success, other home-grown organisations are also making great strides and are waiting in the wings, preparing to arrive on the global stage.
One example is Auckland-based firm Soul Machines. According to its website, Soul Machines, “Is the first Human Experience Platform that gives you the ability to automate and personalise digital interfaces and interactions at scale.” Taking AI to the next level, the company provides an interactive platform between humans and digital beings to redefine customer and brand experience.
Soul Machines’ fascinating and ground-breaking work is co-founded by Dr Mark Sagar, who after completing a PhD in Mechanical Engineering went on to use his technical skills for film production company Weta Digital. It was here he developed a unique realistic facial rendering system used in films such as Avatar and King Kong, even winning two Academy Awards for his technological ingenuity.
Sagar pioneered the use of the facial action coding system in motion capture for digital characters, a system originally devised by psychologist Paul Ekman to identify and classify facial expressions. It’s been predicted that this technology will be integral as companies move on from using customer service staff to life-like consumer-facing chatbots.
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For those involved in the Auckland tech scene, there is plenty of support and collaboration. Innovation hubs continue to open around the city, bringing together brilliant minds to inspire creativity.
GridAKL, located in the newly regenerated Wynyard Quarter near the city’s waterfront, is a home for innovation in the heart of Auckland. It provides the space, support, inspiration and community needed for a strong and vibrant innovation culture.
Showcasing and celebrating ideas that may impact positive change both nationally and internationally, GridAKL assists high-impact, growth-orientated, technology-focused businesses and entrepreneurs to develop and commercialise innovations. This includes start-ups, SME, national and multinational companies, research institutes and everyone in between. These are supported by a network of investors, education providers and tertiary organisations, government agencies and other key partners delivering services to New Zealand’s innovation ecosystem.
GridAKL’s busy and wide-ranging programme of events includes: Speed dating with advisors, designed to assist those jumping into the world of start-ups; building a chatbot with PHP & Symfony, and website security – learning how to lock-down and protect your WordPress website.
Providing a range of services to anyone from budding entrepreneurs to established corporates focusing on innovation, GridAKL offers mentoring, support and specialist advisory services, hot desking and co-working spaces. It also has a full calendar of tech events designed to inspire, mentor and add value to those utilising the space.
GridAKL and the AR/VR Garage support Manukau’s newest coworking and makerspace, Te Haa o Manukau. Launched in October 2018, Te Haa o Manukau plays to the strength of south Auckland’s natural talent for creation and innovation. It partners with corporate, academic, philanthropic and community-based organisations to link creative and budding entrepreneurs with pathways into emerging industries, including creative technology.
Te Haa o Manukau offers a supportive tech focused community including hot desks; casual flexi and permanent memberships; free business advisory services; and a range of events to inspire budding tech entrepreneurs from children to adults.
Join the Auckland innovation army
If you’re in any doubt that Auckland is the new Silicon Valley, then take note of Anand Reddy, a partner at advisory firm PwC who recently said, "The technology sector is the third-highest export sector in New Zealand, and that trend is continuing to increase."