INSPIRED BY KIWI INNOVATION
Imagine contacting your bank or mobile phone company at any time day or night and be instantly connected to someone who recognises you, is attentive and concerned about your problem, recalls your transaction history and resolves your problem there and then - a genuine one-call resolution each time. Then, if you were to call 12 months later the company would immediately remember you.
FaceMe’s ‘digital employee’ never leaves their job and constantly learns from each customer transaction, continually gathering vital customer data. Furthermore when they meet a customer face to face or over Skype they respond according to each customer’s emotional state.
These are not robotic ‘synths’ that create good science fiction stories. Digital employees only ever exist on the phone, computer or tablet or in-store with the sole purpose of providing amazing customer experiences.
FaceMe have a background of world-firsts and continue to focus on making complex technology, simple and accessible. FaceMe’s recent project, Nadia, was the first ‘Virtual Assistant’ built for over 460,000 people with disability in Australia; FaceMe is now challenging all businesses to review their approach to digital customer interfaces.
From their Smales Farm base in Auckland North FaceMe are enabling customers in New Zealand, Australia and the USA.
FaceMe recently won the Virgin Business Challenge, voted The Most Likely NZ Startup to Succeed Internationally. This gave FaceMe access to mentoring from Richard Branson and built the foundation for FaceMe to become an international business.
Danny Tomsett, FaceMe’s founder says “Amazing customer experience is about people and AI working together in a pervasive way with immediacy, personalisation and empathy being core. We know people are great at building relationships and doing complex tasks; AI has an incredible ability to learn and complete high volume transactions. We believe this approach is the recipe to re-define Customer Experience.”
Customers’ expectations of service are higher today than ever before and have such a significant weighting on both loyalty and wallet share. As customer experience increasingly becomes a key strategic driver for most firms, the traditional contact centre will be disrupted by Artificial Intelligence, estimated to be a $47b market by 2020. www.faceme.com
FaceMe's founder and CEO Danny Tomsett in conversation with digital employee Elyssa.
Sealegs has grown from a single inspired idea into a global company providing craft for civil defence, military use and for many global customers including acclaimed designer Philippe Stark.
How many ideas are discussed over a few beers and later dismissed as unfeasible? How many ideas come from the thought;
“I wish there was an easier way to do this” and then turn into a unique product that grows into a global business?
New Zealand has a long history of marine innovation. Kiwis were the first to use refrigerated ship holds to export meat and butter around the world. Kiwi farmer Bill Hamilton built a jet boat to travel up shallow South Island rivers. Today his company is providing commercial jet boat engines globally. SEALEGS® began with a revolutionary idea to make boat launching and retrieval easy and today is providing purpose-built amphibious craft to customers around the world.
Sealegs patented fully integrated solution uses motorised, retractable, steerable wheels that allow craft to be driven from a storage location down a boat ramp or beach and into the water with the occupants remaining dry within the boat. Once in the water Sealegs wheels are retracted allowing normal high-speed boat operations.
A Sealegs craft’s unique ability to transverse land and water allows them to travel through floodwaters of varying depths, allowing fast and effective access to communities in flooded urban and rural communities making Sealegs ideal for civil defence work.
The craft are increasingly used for purposes such as super yacht tenders allowing access to remote beaches and waterways. A Sealegs craft was recently built to Phillipe Starck’s exacting specification for his own personal use, and a customised fleet of Sealegs craft recently went to the Fijian government to support emergency response operations with 23 Sealegs amphibious craft supplied to the Malaysian Civil Defence Force. See the press release here.
Owned by Future Mobility Solutions, Sealegs operates from its modern factory and offices in Auckland North where complete craft and amphibious enablement kits are designed and built.
The company that began with a “I wish there was an easier way” dream of effortless boating has become a publicly listed company that has designed and built more than 1250 amphibious craft that can be found in more than 55 countries.
Design-led firms are contributing to New Zealand’s success through DesignCo, a strong network of like-minded organisations including New Zealand’s leading tertiary design schools, the Designers Institute, and local and central government entities.
New research into design’s economic contribution to New Zealand’s economy has shown that during the last year alone design contributed $10.1b to New Zealand’s GDP.
Good design really matters. In the private sector, the study highlights design’s significant impact on firms such as Gallagher, Fisher & Paykel, Xero and Air New Zealand and there are many firms within the Grow North Innovation District such as Invenco, ERoad, Navico and BCS where design has played a significant role in their success.
Massey University’s Professor Claire Robinson, convenor of DesignCo, said at the research launch: “There is a strong correlation between national prosperity, economic growth and a thriving design sector. International evidence confirms that design leads to more competitive firms making and selling higher value products and services”.
The sector also provides approximately 94,200 FTE design positions in New Zealand, roughly 4.4% of employment. Product design and interactive design disciplines are the two biggest individual contributors towards design’s GDP. The study indicates a broadening use of design as an effective process; in exporting firms, technology, health, conservation, the public sector and within cities”. Professor Robinson said.
Design is not always associated with software companies, but Xero is a design success story: its insight into how to make reconciliation easy, the essence of the Xero approach to accounting, was devised by its co-founder, Philip Fierlinger, a designer.
Grow North’s Director Kel Marsh says “Business people should look to the processes used by designers if they want to build more innovation into their businesses. The thought processes involved in identifying problems and then conceiving and developing unique solutions is the same for entrepreneurs as it is for designers. Both designers and entrepreneurs have to be effective at creating unique and valuable solutions and designers are often much better at it.”
Professor Robinson said: “DesignCo partners will continue to connect with the constituent parts of the New Zealand design eco-system, telling the story of New Zealand’s design excellence, rectifying the paucity of information about the design sector and gathering statistical data on the value and impact of design in New Zealand.
In 2015 a group of Auckland leaders gathered together to create a vibrant innovation ecosystem that will encourage more innovation and scaleable ventures. Research carried out by Massey University within the district informed a "Grow North" strategy which is now being implemented under the guidance of a steering group representing business, university and government.
New Zealand is becoming one of the best places in the world to create and test new ideas before launching them onto the world's markets. And the Auckland North district is a fantastic place to base a business and to live, learn, work and play. As part of this, the Grow North initiative connects people and groups together to create a single school-to-scaleup innovation escalator, increasing the number of researchers, academics, innovative and pioneering businesses and pulling more skilled employees into the district.
Grow North’s mission is to unlock the potential of individuals, groups and organisations and raise the overall level of innovation, collaboration and investor intelligence. Visionary leaders, specialists, entrepreneurs and investors are being attracted to the area to contribute their knowledge and hard-won experience.
The Grow North Smart Innovation District is sponsored by Massey University, Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development and the BNZ. Enquiries from potential new sponsors and partners are welcomed.
For further information about the Grow North Smart Innovation District, please contact Grow North’s Director, Kel Marsh. firstname.lastname@example.org
The Grow North Innovation District ‘architects’. From left, Brett O’Riley, former CEO of ATEED. Gary Monk, BNZ. Kel Marsh, Grow North Director. Ted Zorn, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Massey University. At right; former Massey University Vice Chancellor Steve Maharey and Grow North Research Leader Prof Rebecca Gill.
Invenco- revolutionizing self-service payment globally, one of the top ten NZ technology companies to watch
Inspirational self-service payments company, Invenco, is taking on the world and winning.
Invenco is experiencing 300% growth from its Auckland North base, creating dozens of skilled jobs to develop its hardware, firmware, software and cloud based products.
Founded in 2009 by Sir Peter Maire and a team of entrepreneurs, Invenco has rapidly secured its place as a leading provider of self-service outdoor payment terminals (OPTs). Having dominated 98% of the New Zealand fuel retail market it has expanded across South East Asia, the UK, Middle East and most recently the USA.
Invenco enjoys partnerships with some of the biggest players in the global fuel retail market including NCR Corporation, Diebold Nixdorf, Tatsuno and Petrotec and as it sells under its partners’ brands outside of New Zealand, millions of people use Invenco technology every day without ever knowing it.
What makes Invenco successful?
Invenco produces incredibly, technically complex products that are extremely difficult to execute, to the point where nearly half the world’s major OPT manufacturers have opted to move to Invenco product rather than continue to build their own.
The layers of certification and complex security around managing self-service payments, particularly in unattended environments, is extensive; with tens of thousands of tests to attain just one level of certification. This complexity is significantly multiplied when you add handling loyalty and fleet cards plus the safety requirements for operating electronics on a petrol forecourt.
Invenco has been able to be disruptive in owning and developing the technology from the ground up. Because it produces every nut, bolt and chip it can manage all of those costs and ensure seamless integration. And in building the product on an open platform it can support the widest possible range of content and applications.
It has also fueled some world leading innovation including the first twelve-inch touch screen – not only the world’s largest but it has the highest certification of any OPT on the market. This strongly positions Invenco and its partners to capitalize on a significant regulatory change in the USA forcing all one million pumps with OPTs to change to chip-card enabled terminals by November 2020.
Invenco is looking to seize a significant share of this opportunity while revolutionizing the pay-at-the-pump experience for the US market. It’s a great export success story from a North Shore company that has largely flown under the radar – something that’s becoming increasingly difficult as it continues to expand exponentially to meet growing global demand.
For more stories about Kiwi innovators click here. For more information about Invenco click here.
Booktrack's CEO Paul Cameron with members of the team at their Takapuna office.
Booktrack is an AI company that creates movie-style soundtracks for Audiobooks.
Based in Takapuna on the North Shore, Booktrack began in 2007 when Paul Cameron, and his co-founder and brother Mark, noticed that people all around the world commuting on buses, trains, ferries and aero planes, would get out their headphones and listen to music while they read a paper book. They thought that this was a strange behavior, and wondered why we would read a book and listen to music that has nothing to do with the story? Paul and his brother then started to prototype, test and patent designs that would synchronize music to text & speech so that you would hear the right music matched in mood/emotion to the right part of the story. People loved it!
Today, Booktrack has evolved to use scalable artificial intelligence (AI) technology to automatically create movie-style soundtracks for audiobooks. There has been an evolution with new mobile devices and digital delivery, but the audiobook listening experience is the same as the 1970’s. The current audiobook experience is still a plain narration with no background music, ambient audio, or sound effects. Imagine if we still watched silent movies today! Audiobooks have not evolved to include soundtracks because soundtrack creation is expensive and cost prohibitive, it can cost up to $40,000 per title.
Booktrack solves this with a proprietary AI engine that generates unique soundtracks based on the mood and emotion of the story, which can then be customized by Booktrack’s tools and production capability to create a cost effective premium soundtrack. This production methodology is >50x more efficient, 10x faster than current competition and introduces new revenue streams for publishers and distributors.
Booktrack’s solution generates a new and totally immersive augmented reality listening experience by delivering a soundtrack while listening to Audiobooks; equivalent to the introduction of sound transforming the experience of film forever.
For more stories about Kiwi innovators click here. For more information about Booktrack click here.
Digital disruption is not just a buzz term. It’s a reality in the travel and hospitality industry today.
Look at Airbnb. It has changed the way we book accommodation, giving power to the customer who can book into anyone’s spare room – literally! For accommodation providers, this spells a need to ramp up online marketing efforts.
There is a Kiwi company that is making it easy for operators to do this – STAAH.
STAAH opens up an accommodation provider’s inventory (or rooms) to more than 200 online channels. As hospitality businesses world over strive to keep multiple rooms occupied, isolated listings on a few online travel agency (OTA) sites (i.e. booking.com) is simply not enough. They need the power of a STAAH channel manager to be seen and booked.
A dynamic, cloud-based platform, the STAAH channel manager allows accommodation providers to make updates easily and in real time across multiple OTAs, reaching millions of potential guests with very little effort. Following a user-first approach to technology, clients who use STAAH products love them for its ease-of-use. You don’t have to be a geek to master it!
STAAH’s online distribution marketing repertoire doesn’t end there. Included in its product suite is a website booking engine, gift voucher management system and an online reputation management tool. Together, or used in parts, each of these are designed to enable properties to unleash their online potential.
STAAH has turned digital disruption into an opportunity to scale its business. Its agile approach to technology development with an objective of adding value has made its products invaluable for accommodation providers of all sizes. In addition to its cutting-edge technology, affordability, reach and a stellar service has made it a preferred choice for many. In less than 10 years, STAAH has managed to partner with more than 4000 properties across 60+ countries, handling in excess of 700,000 room nights every month (4.5 million bookings annually!).
STAAH was recognised for developing effective and long-standing partnerships in India with NZTE’s Innovation Showcase Award in 2016. In the same year, it was also chosen as one of the finalists in the Westpac Business Innovation Awards.
For more stories about Kiwi innovators click here. For more information about STAAH click here.
Members of the Northern Arena team celebrate after winning Westpac North Supreme Business of the Year and Employer of the Year.
As kiwis, we love the water and as a nation surrounded by water, learning to swim is an essential life skill to be learned as children. Research carried out by the Griffith Institute for Educational Research and Swim Australia shows that children who have attended swimming lessons have many advantages when starting school.
“While we expected the children to show better physical development and more confidence through swimming, the children were ahead of the normal population when it came to cognitive skills, problem solving in mathematics, language and following instructions.”lead researcher Professor Robyn Jorgensen said.
Based in the Auckland North innovation district, Northern Area operates a centre for fitness and well being.. During the last 5 years Northern Area has provided over 6,000 babies in the North Shore /Rodney area with a free term of swimming lessons.. Today 21 full time and 96 part time staff members teach 4,700 students a week, with more lessons under one roof than any other swim school in Australasia. This has been possible through developing an innovative programme and teaching system involving video analysis of teaching techniques – the only swim school in Australasia to use such advanced teacher development.
Northern Arena’s mission is to help Kiwis of all ages enjoy the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. They want to see as many children as possible become competent swimmers and gain the early development benefits uncovered by the Griffith Institutes’ research. And for Kiwi adults, swimming is the perfect way to gain and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Their vision is to produce twenty Olympian swimmers in twenty years and their highly motivated team continually improves the methodology that will make that vision possible. Outside of Auckland North, Northern Arena’s innovative swimming and teaching programmes are being used in Auckland Central, Tauranga and Hamilton.
This passion, dedication and their tight focus on their vision has seen Northern Area win 2016 ‘Best of the Best’ Auckland Westpac Business Awards, 2016 Employer of the Year, Swim School of the Year and Fitness Facility of the Year . Even the café in their Silverdale facility wins awards, most recently the Best Suburban Café, Auckland Region, in the Meadow Fresh New Zealand Cafe of the Year Awards . For more stories about Kiwi innovators click here. For more on Northern Arena click here.
EROAD’s journey is one of predicting the future and then backing themselves.
EROAD offers road user charging, safety compliance and fleet management services on one fully integrated platform. Key to its accelerated growth is its team’s ability to look forward and ask questions about how technology will transform the global transport sector.
EROAD’s purpose - solving complex problems, delivering intuitive solutions that help its customers succeed - is behind its strategy to invest heavily in R&D to ensure it can develop and deliver the solutions to problems facing the transport sector in the future.
Its vision and courage has positioned EROAD to seize big opportunities. “We looked at the world and reframed a problem in a way that allowed us to enter a new market through regulatory disruption,” says CEO Steven Newman. “We came up with an electronic solution for a hard-to-solve, real-life problem. People had never taken such a complete future-industry view before, so that immediately made the solution we developed different.”
The team at Albany developed and implemented the first nation-wide electronic road user charges (RUC) solution, effectively disrupting the existing system, which led to new government regulations.
EROAD’s focus on predicting, investing and transforming didn’t end there. Implementing disruptive technology led to uncovering more challenges and new opportunities, which required more skilled staff and R&D investment. This has led to a number of successes:
Back at their Albany HQ, EROAD’s 250-strong team continues to ask questions about what changes the transport industry will undergo in the future, and what the innovative solutions needed to respond to those changes will look like.
Straker Translations is a New Zealand business success story. In 2000 the company employed a handful of tech-savvy employees but after identifying a big worldwide opportunity, the company then experienced accelerated growth due to the development of a unique translation technology platform that is now disrupting the traditional translation industry.
Straker Translations’ translation technology surpasses legacy translation technology by automating time-consuming functions and simplifying the user-experience resulting in a drastic decrease in turnaround times, improved accuracy and increased profit margins. Now with 50 people in their Albany head office, the born and bred Kiwi company also has production centres in Barcelona, Denver and Dublin, further sales offices around the world and more than 10,000 customers. Employee numbers are expected to double again over the next 18 months due to Straker Translations’ rapid growth in the global translation industry.
Straker’s unique Kiwi approach has created business opportunities for this North Shore company. The company has recently acquired two businesses on different sides of the world and converted them to the Straker Translations platform. There is an opportunity to acquire more legacy businesses throughout the world and to build a highly-effective global translation platform that creates a new standard for millions of translation customers.
The company's innovative efforts have not gone unnoticed. Straker has claimed a spot in the top 60 of the huge $40 billion translation industry and have set their sights on the top five. The company has won national innovation awards. They have been finalists in the special categories ‘Excellence in Innovation’ and ‘He kai kei aku ringa’ for Maori Excellence in Export. The CEO of Straker Translations, Grant Straker, has founded the company on Kiwi values and believes that Straker Translations’ success can motivate other Maori to choose technology as a valuable and rewarding career path.
Grant and Merryn Straker at Straker Translation's head office located in Albany within the Grow North innovation district
Grow North articles are written by those who work closely with businesses, incubators, accelerators, academics, investors and business interest groups within the Auckland North Innovation Corridor.
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