Who has the most sway over the New Zealand technology scene? This list is based on those with the policy clout, financial wherewithal or power to directly influence our Information and communications technology landscape. The lineup is my own, but thanks to my three-person sounding board – tech writers and commentators Bill Bennett, Paul Brislen and Peter Griffin.
1. Peter Beck
Rocket Lab founder
One-time Fisher and Paykel apprentice Peter Beck (pictured) has created a whole new industry, with Rocket Lab (now valued at more than $1.5 billion and climbing) single-handedly propelling New Zealand from nowhere to be the fourth-largest launcher of small satellites in the world last year. Yes, his company is now registered in the US and expanding operations there, but most of its 500 staff are in New Zealand, and it is looking for 100 more pronto, with Launch Complex 1 at Mahia Peninsula – with its pleasingly empty skies – set to remain Rocket Lab’s high-volume launchpad long term. Beck is also a member of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Business Advisory Council, and it was notable that he spoke out strongly against a capital gains tax – which he saw as a negative for an already sparse tech start-up scene.
2. Marko Bogoievski
Infratil CEO, Vodafone NZ chairman-in-waiting
As Telecom CFO, Marko Bogoievski said the Government was going to carve up the company – and that it would be better to control its own destiny by structurally separating itself. The board didn’t want to know about it, and overlooked him for CEO when Theresa Gattung departed. History proved Bogoievski right as he watched from afar in his new role as head of Infratil, a company that ran buses and airports and utilities … and, over time, introduced broadband to one of its properties, Trustpower. It also made a wildly successful bet on cloud computing with its 2016 investment of $420 million in Canberra Data Centres (now worth just under $1 billion) and a recent $3.4b bid (with Brookfield) for Vodafone’s NZ business. If the Vodafone deal gains regulatory approval, as expected, Intratil will be one of the biggest players on the NZ tech scene. And Bogoievski has already outlined big plans for Infratil’s latest acquisition, including a big push into fixed-wireless broadband (which has a lot of potential to compete against UFB fibre) after 5G mobile networks arrive, and a radical proposal for Vodafone, Spark and 2degrees to pool resources on mobile infrastructure.
3. Megan Woods
Research, Science and Innovation Minister
The Science, Research and Innovation Minister quickly made her mark by dismembering Callaghan Innovation’s Growth Grant scheme – which had dispensed hundreds of millions to start-ups under a government-picks-winners approach – and replacing it with a universal 15 per cent R&D tax break. Whether the radical shift in approach will work won’t become obvious for several years, but there’s no doubt Woods is as happy to jump in and reshape things as Steven Joyce before her. Woods has retained her R&D role with the Cabinet reshuffle, but will now be distracted to a degree after being drafted in to save KiwiBuild, too.
4. Stephen Gale
The Telecommunications Commissioner is the Commerce Commission’s regulatory cop for the telco industry. They can’t change the law, but investigations and recommendations have led to recent changes such as the ability to take your mobile number with you when you switch phone companies, and lower interconnection fees between networks (which removed a mechanism for the more well-established Spark and Vodafone to potentially gang up on 2degrees). Gale has an investigation under way into quality of service (you can tell him what you think of your broadband provider here . We’ll see where that leads for our most complained-about industry. Telco bosses will be bracing.
5. Sir Stephen Tindall
The Warehouse founder has invested hundreds of millions into countless (actually, 200) local start-ups via his K1W1 fund, from 1994 through to today. Recent investments include chicken-free chicken maker Sunfed, helping to fund its push into Coles supermarkets in Australia, and a top-up to K1W1’s longstanding holding in Rocket Lab. (Sir Stephen became the first major investor in Rocket Lab in the 2000s after literally stumbling over the tiny start-up, which had an office in the same Parnell, Auckland, building as another of his investments, biofuel company LanzaTech.) Recent local investments also include Dotterel, which is developing noise reduction technology for drones, customer feedback software company AskNicely and Halter, which is developing smart collars that use audio signals to remotely herd cows. But really, think of any Kiwi tech startup in the news lately and it’s be likely that Sir Stephen is chipping in. He’s looking for business smarts, bright ideas and a return on his money, of course. But whereas many venture capitalists are mercenary, Sir Stephen sees a broader mission to back New Zealand entrepreneurs who can help to build an information-age economy.
6. Osmond Borthwick, Len Starling, Brad Ward
The ‘Yes, Minister’ crew
While ICT and Communications Ministers come and go, the bureaucrats who write and manage policy have been remarkably constant. This setup is perhaps best evidenced by a complex piece of legislation called the Telecommunications (New Regulatory Framework) Amendment Act 2018. It’s a law that made sweeping changes to the way the industry is regulated (which kick in from next year), but which barely changed as its long traverse through Parliament over 2017 and 2018 took in both National and Labour-led governments. The most powerful ICT mandarin, Bruce Parkes, recently moved to DoC, leaving policy manager Osmond Borthwick as the top string-puller. Borthwick doesn’t have as much power as Parkes amassed, but including his stint at the Commerce Commission, the policymaker has outlasted ICT ministers from Maurice Williamson, to Paul Swain, to David Cunliffe, to Clare Curran (an abbreviated list or we’ll run out of space). Ex-Treasury manager Len Starling has spent a decade in charge of radio spectrum policy and planning – from cellular networks to new wireless technologies. His sweeping brief includes competitions issues, Treaty claims, operational policies and hugely contentious spectrum auctions. And while distracted by a wider brief these days, “Brad Ward has more fingers in more pies than anyone,” one insider says. “Maybe even more than Parkes in his heyday.” Since 2018, however, Ward (currently head of the chief executive’s office) has increasingly been pulled away for special projects such as a two-month stint heading KiwiBuild.
7. Jason Paris
Vodafone NZ CEO
Jason Paris started his tenure as Vodafone NZ chief executive with the worst of times, including layoffs, offshoring, outsourcing and price rises (pitched at honing the company for the future, but nevertheless, not much fun for anyone involved). Now, potentially, he faces the best of times, if he can take advantage of what he calls “the best of both worlds” – local control under new ownership but retaining access to Vodafone’s brand, global roaming and technology. Paris says he wants to push ahead a lot faster in areas like fixed wireless broadband and Vodafone TV – which he sees becoming an aggregator for all the streaming video content you need. We’ll have to see whether he can hit his marks, but without the need to run things past offshore committees or wait in a global queue, Paris will have a much freer hand than his predecessors to pursue his goals.
8. Nicholas Bagnall
ACC investment manager
Despite his subterranean profile, Nicholas Bagnall is the long-time head of ACC’s investment portfolio, which has grown from $27.6b in 2014 to just under $40b today. The workplace accident insurer has invested in a wide range of instruments and companies as it seeks to fund future payouts – but it’s notable how often ACC appears on the share register of local tech companies, from the small to the more established (ACC recently participated in Rocket Lab’s $203m round – which, notably, did not include the $41.2b NZ Super Fund). ACC’s largest tech investments include its holding in Spark (worth around $176m), Vodafone NZ buyer Infratil ($156m), Chorus ($97m), Microsoft ($70m), Google parent Alphabet ($75m), Samsung Electronics ($64m), Trade Me ($63m), Apple ($55m), Sky TV ($44m) and Facebook ($41m). Along the way, Bagnall has become reportedly NZ’s highest-paid civil servant. ACC’s 2018 annual report lists one un-named employee at its highest tier – the $850,000 to $860,000 bracket.
9. Kris Faafoi
Broadcasting, Communications, Digital Media Minister
Kris Faafoi – generally well-regarded for his efforts in Commerce and Consumer Affairs – took on the Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media and Digital Services portfolios, too, after Clare Curran’s exit from Cabinet and is now righting the ship after his predecessor’s wobby run. Some choppy waters could lie ahead, however, as he attempts to find an “enduring” solution for iwi spectrum claims that threaten 5G network upgrades; a UFB broadband pricing spat between Chorus and retail ISPs; and the possibility that Coalition partner NZ First will go feral on both Spark and Sky and re-animate its legislative push for free-to-air sport. The tech and broadcasting industries now face competition for Faafoi’s attention, however. Housing was added to his lineup of portfolios in the latest Cabinet reshuffle.
10. Jolie Hodson
Spark chief executive
After a quick succession (she was appointed the same evening he resigned), customer director Jolie Hodson replaced Simon Moutter as head of Spark. As the head of our largest telco, Hodson become an immediate power-player – but unfold over the coming months will it become clear how she will handle issues such as whether to dump Huawei to stay on-schedule for Spark’s 5G mobile network upgrade, and whether to continue her predecessor’s controversial push into sports broadcasting – seen as something of a hospital pass by some.
11. Kate McKenzie
Chorus chief executive
Former Telstra chief operating officer Kate McKenzie walked into a world of controversy as she took the reins at Chorus from Mark Ratcliffe (now temporary-CEO-for-life at NZTA), the company that runs nearly all of our copper phones lines, and controls most of the public-private Ultrafast Broadband (UFB) rollout.. She neatly diffused an explosive Labour Inspectorate investigation into subcontractor exploitation of workers on the UFB by commissioning an independent report and making just-enough change. But the Aussie exec still faces a bunfight of future fibre pricing as retail ISPs fight for their right to “unbundle” Chorus’ fibre network (that is, install their own gear in Chorus exchanges to give them more control over service and pricing). Expect more political arm-wrestling over 5G mobile networks, given Chorus has floated the proposal of a single mobile network on the UFB fibre network, shared by retail providers like Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees (who all hate the idea – at least, if it involves Chorus). She has some big ideas, but so far McKenzie has been on the backfoot politically as the government leans toward the retailer ISP’s line on various issues.
12. Mark Callander
Vocus Group executive director, Vocus NZ CEO
Mark Callander was top dog at CallPlus when it was bought by Australia’s M2, and has remained in the big chair as the outfit has grown and changed ownership again, getting swallowed by ASX-listed Vocus Group. Today he runs Vocus NZ and, in something of a reverse trans-Tasman incursion, has become an executive director of Vocus Group and chief executive of the Australasian telco’s wholesale and international business, too. The Kiwi exec rather got it in the neck from both sides during Vocus’s almost-takeover by private equity outfit EQC, with the Aussie business press both grizzling about his potential to score an $8m options windfall if the deal went through, then grousing when he and the rest of the board wouldn’t see for a lowball price. The latest rumours have Vocus looking to offload its NZ business (which includes Orcon, Slingshort, Flip, 2Talk, Switch and a fibre network formerly owned by FX Networks) for $A400m. For Callander, whose dealth with four on-again-off-again deals over the past four years, it’s just another day in the office.
13. Rebecca Kitteridge, Andrew Hampton
In a couple of short years, we’ve gone from a global supply chain being taken for granted to a new era of trade wars and suspicion. And standing square in the middle is GCSB director-general Andrew Hampton. Why? Former Prime Minister John Key actively boosted Huawei, but his government also passed the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013 or “Ticsa”, which requires phone companies to get GCSB approval for any proposed network upgrade. Last November, Hampton said Spark’s proposed 5G mobile network upgrade, using Huawei gear, was a no-no. Presumably he will say the same to 2degrees – which will be left in much more of a pickle that Spark, because it’s an all-Huawei ship. Hampton holds its future in his hands. Huawei has complained bitterly that the Spark decision – and broader efforts in the Western world to blacklist its technology – are a trade-war beat-up and that no evidence of espionage has ever been tabled. The political firestorm continues to rage. Security Intelligence Service (SIS) director Rebecca Kitteridge is also in the frame in the new age of surveillance by dint of an update to the GCSB’s legislative guidelines, passed at the same time as Ticsa, which allowed the two agencies to work a lot more closely than before. In March, the outward-looking GCSB and domestic focussed SIS said they had merged their technology directorates.
14. John Edwards
Privacy Commissioner John Edwards drew worldwide coverage for a series of front-foot tweets after the Christchurch mosque massacres, including one calling Facebook “morally bankrupt, pathological liars … who facilitate the undermining of democratic institutions” and another post that called the social network’s initial silence about the shootings “an insult to our grief.” His comments kept the heat on big tech at a time when other parts of the government seemed exclusively focussed on a firearms crackdown. Edwards also made a big push for an update to the Privacy Act (1993), which finally made it to Parliament in March (the Privacy Bill passed its second reading during April but a date has yet to be set for it to go back before the House). The commissioner got a number of his wish-list items included in the bill, including a key provision for mandatory data breach disclosure, and another that any overseas organisation doing business in NZ will have information collected about NZers (wherever its held) covered by our privacy law (the current law is grey, allowing Facebook to maintain its NZ customers fall under weaker US privacy law; until last year – when tough new EU privacy regulations kicked in – the social network claimed its NZ users sat under Irish privacy law). There were limits to Edwards’ influence, however. MPs ignored two big wishlist items: data portability (taking your information with your when you switch, say, insurance companies) and the ability for his office to levy $1m fines on organisations who ignore our privacy rules. It seems Edwards will have to continue to rely on public shaming as one of his primary enforcement tools – but he is rather good at that.
15. Sir Eion Edgar/Malcolm Dick/Tex Edwards
The cable guys
For nearly two decades, the 50 per cent Spark-owned Southern Cross Cable was New Zealand’s only major broadband link to the outside world. That changed in July last year when the 15,000km, $400m trans-Pacific Hawaiki Cable went live – blowing a hole in Spark’s profit, and allowing us all to breathe a little easier about our internet. Plans for the Hawaiki had been kicking around for the best part of a decade until CallPlus founder Malcolm Dick and Dunedin businessman Sir Eion Edgar steamed in, injecting tens of millions of their own money and giving it the credibility to take off. Dick, in turn, roped in 2degrees co-founder Tex Edwards. The Crown chipped in as an anchor customer, too, and suddenly Hawaiki went from a pipedream to the biggest NZ-based infrastructure project outside of the UFB.
16. Martin Cocker
Netsafe chief executive
Netsafe pootled along quietly for several years advising people on internet security, and now to keep kids safe online. That change in 2015, when it was selected as the lead agency for the Harmful Digital Communications Act. Chief Executive Martin Cocker was given a $16m budget boost and went on a hiring spree. The new bodies were needed. The HDCA makes Netsafe your first port-of-call if you’re the victim of hate speech or bullying online. And whereas mere civilians struggle to reach a human at Facebook or Twitter when they want to make a complaint, the social networks will always take Cocker’s call when he advocates on a member of the public’s behalf – because they know the HDCA gives Netsafe the power to escalate a case to the District Court if it can’t be resolved the agency.
17. David Shanks
The role of Chief Censor used to be relatively straightforward, given New Zealanders had a very limited number of ways to access content, and his office could take a nod from overseas authorities when classifying material. The wild west rise of the internet blew that up. Unclassified Netflix shows and unclassified games now stream into Kiwis living rooms willy-nilly, because only content that is physically sold in NZ faces a mandatory rating. But the Chief Censor can roll-up his sleeves and approach offshore content providers, as the incumbent David Shanks has done, notably lately with Netflix and streaming gaming kingpin Steam. Acting on complaints from members of the public, Shanks created a new RP18 (parental guidance for those under 18) rating for Netflix series 13 Reasons, and had persuaded Steam to display NZ ratings for a number of games, and even pull one for sale. With his enforcement powers restricted to our shores, Shanks has had to rely on his powers of persuasion to wrangle offshore content providers, which he’s doing with surprising effectiveness. The Christchurch Mosque Massacres also brought the political element of Shanks’ role into sharp focus as he gave the alleged shooters video and hate pamphlet an Objectionable rating, meaning both are illegal to view or share.
18. Graham Mitchell
Crown Infrastructure Partners chief executive
As politicians and telco bosses have come and gone around him, Graham Mitchell has headed Crown Infrastructure Partners (formerly Crown Fibre Holdings) since it was founded in 2010 – and a number of his key staff have stuck with him the entire time, too. Mitchell’s agency has overseen around $2.5b spent spent on the urban Ultrafast Fast Broadband network and Rural Broadband Initiative so far, plus associated projects like the $100m Mobile Blackspot fund – often having a key role in who gets contracts and on what terms (a process that can require some fancy footwork as CIP is also the largest shareholder in Chorus with its 42 per cent stake). People haven’t been 100 per cent happy with the UFB – especially in its early days with long waits that sometimes ended in bodgy installs – but compared to Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN), it’s gone like a dream – and NZ has gained world-class broadband for, next to the NBN, peanuts. CFP became CIP in September 2017 as its brief was widened from broadband to include up to $600m in infrastructure spending to support new housing developments.
19. Jordan Carter
InternetNZ Group Chief Executive
Many people think the internet is controlled by no-one, but in fact there is an organisation called Icann that – under contract to the US Department of Commerce – controls its plumbing. And Icann assigned the non-profit InternetNZ to administer the .nz domain. As the group chief executive of that organisation, Jordan Carter’s brief spans from the technical to political – including some hard decisions about which websites to temporarily block in the wake of the Christchurch shootings. The InternetNZ has also also lobbies for an open and uncapturable internet – a role that has seen it lobby, with a large degree of success, on areas like copyright reform and closing the digital divide. The head InternetNZ always looms large on the NZ tech scene. The fact that Carter is close to the PM (he flatted with Jacinda Ardern when they were younger and was by her side in Paris for the Canterbury Call summit, which he also chaired) … well, it doesn’t hurt.
20. Victoria MacLennan, Don Christie, Craig Young, Paul Matthews
Back in 2010, a spat began over whether NZ needed software patents. Victoria MacLennan and Don Christie – who both ran (and still run) local IT companies, thought the measure was too expensive and impractical for Kiwi companies in the fast moving tech world. While lobbying (ultimately successfully), they realised that the ICT industry groups of the time were dominated by local subsidiaries of the multinational tech giants. Thus, NZRise was born – which has since agitated, with considerable success, on issues such as copyright under the TPP and government tendering rules. Its influence was notable with IRD’s multi-billion upgrade, where meetings with ministers helped local outfits get a foot in the door. MacLennan remains a co-chair of NZRise; Christie has just stepped down as co-chair, but says that will only allow him to be, if anything, more outspoken. The Telecommunications Users Association of NZ (Tuanz) has been an effective voice down the years issues such as the fight to lower mobile termination rates (mobile network interconnection fees, which pumped up calling costs and shut out new competition) and number portability. It’s latest head, Craig Young, is wrestling with issues such as the cost of Ultrafast Broadband, closing the digital divide and better internet to rural areas. The Institute of IT Professionals head Paul Matthews pushes hard on issues including the IT skills gap and off-target government grants.
21. Sir Peter Jackson
Weta Digital owner
Sir Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital is constantly pushing the envelope with new movie making and special effects technology. His ability to do deals that can create large amounts of jobs has influenced our legislation from labour laws to film subsidies. By pooling tech talent in the capital, Jackson has been instrumental in creating the so-called “Silicon Welly” theme. And there has been a ripple effect. Many startups, including Auckland’s Grinding Gear Games – which sold a majority stake to China’s Tencent last year for $100m-plus – have leaned heavily on Weta alumni.
22. John Holdsworth, Simon Holdsworth
John Holdsworth took control of NZ Post’s IT division when it was privatised and used it to help turn Datacom (founded in Wellington in 1965) into the the $1.3 billion revenue company it is today, employing more than 5000 people for its IT services and data centre operations across New Zealand, Australia and Asia and beyond. Holdsworth’s investment vehicle, Evander Management (these days run by his son Simon), controls Datacom and is one of the most prolific investors on the local startup scene. Startups – taking stakes in the likes of Flick Electric, PowerbyProxi, Common Ledgep and Nyriad, the Cambridge-based supercomputing outfit that’s starting to make waves around the world. What’s next? Vodafone NZ could be considering a play for Datacom (new owner Infratil already owns Canberra Data Centres across the ditch and will be eying Spark’s successful take over of data centre operator and IT services crowd Revera on this side of the ditch).
23. Murray Holdaway
Vista Group co-founder, Executive Director and Chief Product Officer
Selling software for running cinemas and marketing theatrical releases sounds bonkers in the age of streaming, but Auckland-based Vista Group has flourished, becoming the only global player in its business. Co-founder, executive director and shareholder Murray Holdaway now has more than 600 people working for him. And since its 2014 IPO, his company’s market cap has increased more than five-fold to around the $1b mark. Another Auckland software startup, Pushpay (whose recently-departed founders pushed the edge of this list), reached the same valuation milestone in a similar timeframe – but Holdaway gets the nod for this list because he’s constantly bringing in fat profits and has lasted the distance at the top.
24. Jacinda Ardern
Prime Minister, keen Facebook Live broadcaster
The Prime Minister shone a harsh spotlight on social media companies after the Christchurch mosque massacres and engineered the unprecedented Christchurch Call summit in Paris during May – which saw big tech companies pledge to collaborate on efforts to stamp out hate and terror content. The initiative is very much a work in progress, but not a bad start – and it was only ever going to be a start. At home, Ardern has resisted pressure to follow Australia’s lead and introduce unilateral measures to control Facebook and co (across the Tasman, social media companies that fail to quickly remove abhorrent content now face fines equal to 10 per cent of their revenue [check] or even jail for their executives). And it’s still not clear if her government will uses levers such as the mooted digital services tax (which would see the Crown pocket up to 3 per cent of NZ revenue) to apply further pressure to the big tech multinationals.
25. Paul James
Government chief digital officer
While the nation was distracted watching the shenanigans over Derek Handley’s almost-appointment as government chief technology officer, civil servant lifer Paul James succeeded the well-regarded Colin MacDonald as government chief digital officer (if those two roles sound similar, it’s because they are – although the chief technology officer gig was going to have more of a futurist dimension, too. To discuss the differences further, book a cup of coffee with Clare Curran). James’ power as CDO is far from absolute, as different government agencies have a degree of wiggle room to go their own way, but he still has sway over key decisions about local vs international contractors, privacy, security and how the government uses big data. James is also constrained by his other, rather major role: chief executive of the Department of Internal Affairs – but that role also has a large tech element, given the DIA’s role in filtering our internet.
26. Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel was made a New Zealand citizen – initially on the quiet – in 2011 on the back of his investments in (then) early stage companies like Xero and Vend (albeit with some lopsided help from the taxpayer and his promise to promote NZ as an attractive place for fellow Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to put their money. The German-born billionaire, who made his fortune from early Facebook and Paypal investments, has been quieter on the startup front recently but he has influenced our lives in another way as our security agencies adopt surveillance and data mining software from another of his recent ventures, Palantir.
27. Phil McCaw
Managing partner, Movac
Movac is the most successful outfit on our thin venture capital scene, and Phil McCaw its co-founder and managing partner – and also served as the longtime chairman of the Angel Association of New Zealand. Movac’s greatest hits include early investments in the likes of TradeMe, Vend, Timely, Green Button (sold to Microsoft), Givealittle (now being offloaded by current owner Spark), PowerbyProxi (sold to Apple for more than $100m; McCaw had a 10 per cent stake).
28. Rod Drury
Xero director, entrepreneur
Rod Drury has laid low over the past few months after stepping down as chief executive of Xero. But with around $100m burning a hole in his pocket after successive share sales, it won’t be long before the entrepreneur – who also founded the successful Aftermail and Glazier Systems (today known as Intergen) – pops up in a new venture. Until then, Drury has grown a beard and changed his social media profile to “funemployed” (it really is time to get back on deck).
29. Sam Morgan
After making successive fortunes through founding Trade Me and his early investment in Xero, Sam Morgan is still an active investor in companies including Vend (where he is a director), vWork and Goodnest. His social investing vehicle, Jasmine, continues to be a pioneer in micro-investing in projects and startups in developing countries.
30. Vic Crone
Callaghan Innovation chief executive
The incoming government has gutted Crown agency Callaghan Innovation’s marquee Growth Grants programme in favour of re-introducing an R&D tax break. But there are still hundreds of millions in multiyear grants on the table as the scheme is wound down – necessitating some sharp decisions such as whether to allow Apple to keep up to $25m in matching R&D funds awarded to its recent acquisition Auckland wireless charging startup PowerbyProxi (it can, if R&D is kept local). And some fancy footwork has secured a $75m upgrade to Callaghan’s Gracefields site in the Hutt Valley for a new Innovation Quarter. Former Telecom exec and Xero NZ MD Crone is also a director of one of NZ’s most promising security startups, RedShield, chairwoman of Figure.NZ – a social enterprise dedicated to democratising NZ’s data and on the board of one of our largest business incubators, Creative HQ.
31. Martin Stewart
Sky TV chief executive, director
Sky TV ‘s new boss has proved he knows how to tear down the old. In a few short months, he’s cleaned out almost every senior manager hired by his predecessor, John Fellet, cancelled a big-budget decoder upgrade and taken Fellet’s seat on the board for good measure. But will he be able to build up the new? Martin Stewart says he will re-build Sky TV’s sports portfolio, relaunch its sports channels in August and re-centre investment on streaming. Most analysts like the broad thrust of his thinking, but will he be able to follow through with execution, and even so, is it just too late? And who will blink first as Sky TV and Spark square-off over All Blacks and Super Rugby rights for the post-2020 era? We’ll likely know the answers in only a few months.
32. Kevin Kenrick
TVNZ chief executive
The Telecom alumnus has led a big push into streaming content at our state broadcaster. Its On Demand service hit a milestone of 100 million streams for 2018, a big increase over the 6.2 million reported for 2016. In the year ahead, TVNZ could begin charging for online content, Kenrick has told the Herald. Certainly, the groundwork has been put in place. TVNZ is also Spark’s free-to-air partner for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, and could receive windfall viewers if technical problems mean the telco has to transfer games to TVNZ. The digital push helped the company stabalise earnings for the first time in six years last year, but the path ahead is still fraught with peril as streaming globalises the entertainment audience.
33. John Stanton
Chairman of 2degrees parent Trilogy International Partners
Seattle-based Forbes billionaires list member John Stanton has spent his career buying in and out of phone companies – most famously T-Mobile. Along the way, he’s also bought into the Seattle Mariners baseball team and been named to the boards of two of the United States’ largest companies: Microsoft (where he’s been a director since 2014) and Costco (where he’s sat at the top table since 2014). His investment vehicle, Trilogy International Partners built a majority stake in 2degrees. The Kiwi telco has recently made its first profit and, in Stanton’s usual investment timeframe, it’s overdue to be flicked on. Or will the US magnate decide it’s time to double-down, and make another bid for Vocus’ NZ assets?
34. Julia Raue
Raue made her bones as the longtime chief information officer at Air New Zealand, where she was instrumental in modernising the airline’s systems from heavy-duty stuff under-the-bonnet to customer-facing initiatives like Grabaseat – and won CIO of the Year in the process. Today in the new phase of her career as a professional director, she’s the tech voice on the boards of some of our largest companies including The Warehouse Group, Z Energy, Southern Cross and TVNZ.
35. Matt Whineray
NZ Super Fund chief executive
The $41b Super Fund has traditionally been light on local tech investments (though it does hold a substantial stake in Datacom). It’s focus on investments in the $100m-plus bracket ruled out a punt on early-stage companies. But that changed with Budget 2019, which army-volunteered the Super Fund to chip in $240m toward a $300m to a new fund specifically for investing in startups (the remaining $60m is coming from another Crown agency, the NZ Venture Investment Fund). Its chief executive, Matt Whineray has already muscled his way onto the global tech stage after the Christchurch shootings, when he became the spokesman for a group of local and international funds (including the Super Fund) who want to “collectively engage with the social media companies Facebook, Google and Twitter … to strengthen controls that will prevent the live streaming and distribution of objectionable content. As shareholders and investors we will use our collective leverage to raise concerns with the companies’ board and management on these issues.” Will the tech giants listen? They better: Whineray was speaking for tunds with a collective $5 trillion (yes, trillion with a “t”) under their control.
36. Andy Hamilton
Chief executive, The Icehouse
Although Andy Hamiltion hates the term, The Icehouse is New Zealand’s largest and highest-profile business incubator. It’s been a bit of a rocky sector over the past few years as successive governments have grappled with different co-funding models, but Hamilton created a buzz in April when he announced that the Icehouse’s venture capital arm, Icehouse Ventures, had a series of new shareholders coming onboard: Simplicity KiwiSaver, First NZ Capital, and Sir Stephen Tindall’s K1W1, who between them have taken a 23 per cent stake. Simplicity alone says it will invest up to $100 million over 5 years into funds managed by Icehouse Ventures. Hamilton also an uncanny knack of inserting himself into every debate about the future direction of NZ Inc. Hamilton has long been one of the most influential players on the startup scene. Now he has serious money to invest, too.
37. Peter Crabtree
NZ Space Agency head
The sudden rise of the New Zealand space industry – that is, Rocket Lab – was met by the government with the creation of the New Zealand Space Agency (NZSA), headed by Peter Crabtree. The career MBIE manager has a science background, but he and his 17 staff have thorny political and commercial problems to grapple with as they help oversee what MBIE sees becoming a multi-billion space industry in NZ. Crabtree has to apply both safety and national interest tests as he works with MFAT, the NZDF and security agencies on approval for Rocket Lab payloads – which, early in its history, have already included satellites for three US military agencies. That role has to be balanced against the NZSA’s broader brief to help grow the aerospace industry in NZ, and attract further investment to this fast-growing new high tech sector.
38. Greg Cross
Co-founder and chief business officer at Soul Machines
This year saw Greg Cross inducted into the NZ Hi-Tech Hall of Fame. The one-time head of Microsoft’s NZ operation was a co-founder of wireless charging company PowerbyProxi – sold to Apple for in 2017 – and is currently chief business officer for AI virtual assistant startup Soul Machines, one of our most well-funded and exciting startups, as well as being a director of Cross Ventures and a partner in Movac.
39. Frances Valintine, Vaughan Fergusson
The new educators
Tech Futures Lab and The Mind Lab founder Frances Valintine founded The Mind Lab to give kids more experience with new technology and, more, school up teachers who were short on tech skills. And her latest venture, the Tech Futures Lab, offers NZQA-approved courses for any organisation or individual grappling with change. Vaughan Fergusson – best known for founding point-of-sale software company Vend, now worth north of $100m – founded the non-profit OMGTech! to run workshops to get kids and teachers more involved in tech, and bought a lodge in Raglan that he’s converting to an education retreat. Through their own efforts, and their high-rotate appearances at events and conferences and in the media, Valintine and Fergusson have helped change the way we think about technology and education.
40. Rob Pope
CERT NZ boss
Former Deputy Police Commissioner Rob Pope is perhaps best known to as the detective who doggedly pursued the Ben Smart and Olivia Hope murder investigation. But these days he has a new role as director of the government’s recently-formed Computer Emergency Response Team or CERT NZ. The idea is that if your home or small business is hit by cyber-crooks, CERT NZ will act as a triage centre, then point you to the right Police or IT contact for further help. It’s also involved in education and alert efforts, and collecting stats about which cyber-threats and scams are on the rise. Pope got a bump in four-year funding bump with Budget 2019 as his agency was allocated a $9.3m increase to $32.3m. With online threates gowing, he’ll need every cent.
Justice Minister Andrew Little talked tough about Google, but did not go to the courts when the search giant broke a suppression order. Revenue Minister Stuart Nash could crimp the tech giants profit-shifting habit with a digital services tax of 2 to 3 per cent on revenue, but it still hangs in the balance whether it will be introduced. New European venture capitalists APAC Parterns buying Trade Me, its new boss, Norwegian Anders Skoe can’t claim the local hero status of predecessors Sam Morgan and Jon Macdonald as it faces down new regional incursions by Amazon and Alibaba. Derek Handley remains on Sky TV’s board and still hold a number of other influential gigs, but the government chief technology fiasco and the collapse of a company he cofounded, Snakk Media, have dimmed his star. If he reaches orbit with Virgin Galactic, the judges will reconsider. Local heads of multinationals – who usually have little wiggle room – were also off the table.