Morgo Bay of Islands blew our minds!

Blockchain, artificial intelligence, a very human robot, avatars, the square kilometre array. Wow! What were these all doing at Waitangi in the beautiful Bay of Islands? They were all at Morgo, the annual get-together for people building high growth companies going global from New Zealand.

And who better to bookend two days of excitement than Rod Drury and Ian Taylor? Rod kicked us off: his first line, “Xero was a Morgo baby”. Thanks Rod. And Ian had us finish on a high note with his talk about “A Nation born of Sailors”, celebrating the can-do attitude and the pushing the limits including tales from the Americas Cup.

In between we heard from the most amazing variety of New Zealand companies: fintech start ups, Sarah Perry bootstrapping to 1.5 million paying users in 75 countries, Kirsti Grant talking about how to scale the people, Ben Gleisner’s social venture, Sarah Kennedy’s new natural compounds, Aaron Ward with a great new investment round — that everyone wanted to be in, Grant and Merryn Straker’s Straker Translations surging ahead, Syft revitalised by Doug Hastie, Garth Sutherland on Adherium. Morgo is the place where these people share their stories and learn from each other. Get a whole lot of entrepreneurs together sharing their stories and it’s an exciting place to be.

There’s a serious purpose to Morgo: building companies out into the world can be lonely. At Morgo we bring these people together to learn from each other, and for their annual re-charge. When you see what others can do, it inspires you to do more. Add to that some brain food and you have the magic that is Morgo!

This year in the Bay of Islands we blew people’s minds with lots of wonderful science. First, and it really is an amazing first, from Hanson Robotics we had Sophia, the most humanlike robot in the world, and their Chief AI Scientist, Dr Ben Goertzel. (You can see Sophia in the robot debate at RISE.) Plus we had a lengthy session on blockchain led by Arthur Falls of Consensys — we want an ICO (initial coin offering) to fund all the Morgo companies! And a wonderful talk by Melanie Johnston-Hollitt on the square kilometre array. If you don’t know what this is, google it. When it’s up and running, it will produce the same amount of data in a day that exists on the whole internet today …

On the business side, there was an incredible range of companies. Love the diversity. Would you dream up Conscious Consumers or Ask Nicely? And you certainly wouldn’t come up with Mark Sagar’s Soul Machines. Mark has spent much of his life writing the equations of the human face, with two Oscars to show for it. Now, he has partnered with Morgo stalwart Greg Cross to commercialise this in Soul Machines. Their first avatars are out. Stunning stuff.

Rod kicked off one of the big themes: MONEY. He talked about Xero’s early listing and how this gave them enough money to hire great people. Then we talked more about how companies are grown by the PEOPLE and the culture in the organisation. If you have money, you can hire great people. If you have great people, the money will follow. Round and round, backwards and forwards between these two key factors.

We all came away re-excited about being in business: lots of brain food, lots of business lessons, and above all knowing that we are not doing it alone — there’s a whole community of fabulous entrepreneurs pushing the boundaries and building an amazing diversity of new businesses out into the world.

Jenny Morel