MORGO Bay of Islands: Welcome to the Future
By Jenny Morel
Where would you see Manta5 bikes on the water and a Zerojet electric tender by the wharf? At MORGO, of course, where New Zealand’s leading tech entrepreneurs come together to share experiences and get re-energised for the journey out into the world.
MORGO aims to give high growth business leaders an annual charge and once again, it worked! The range of businesses was inspiring and the conversations wide ranging.
From shoplifting to crypto to edtech
Tom Batterbury and Phil Thomson told how they built Auror, an anti-shoplifting platform that has Walmart US as a customer! And Janine Grainger talked about how she built Easy Crypto exchanges around the world during Covid with business partners she had never met.
Kami’s software to connect teachers to their students’ screens is now used by 30 million teachers and students in 180 countries. Their aim is to have the product sell itself, and it seems to work! Teachers love them. And the company has just been named as one of Times 100 most influential companies in the world.
Then there’s Overdose
Overdose, a digital agency for online shopping now employs 450 people around the world, 220 of them in Ukraine. When the founder, Todd Welling, and CEO, Paul Pritchard, stopped talking about Ukraine, the room was silent.
And the inimitable Sir Ian Taylor with a wonderful story of continuing to build Animation Research during Covid – figuring out how to do at a distance what used to be done in a video truck at a sports game, and winning business from Major League Baseball with no in-person meeting.
REMOTE was one of the big themes for MORGO Bay of Islands. We all know how to work remotely, but do we know how to lead remotely? There was a workshop on Remote Leading, and one on Remote Selling. (I’m still not sure I know when to poke the bear, but I like the idea.)
Our electric future
This was the topic of the other workshop stream: electric boats, electric planes and hydrogen fuel cells. Did you know that running a 25 hp outboard through a full tank of gas gives out as much emissions as running your car for a year? So it’s great to have people like Bex Rempel of Zerojet doing something about it. Anna Kominik talked about electric planes, which are making great advances and could be very useful in New Zealand where the mountainous terrain and low population concentration don’t lend themselves well to trains. And Cathy and Andrew Clennett of Hiringa Energy introduced us to hydrogen fuel cells and their likely uses.
Trials and tribulations
Paul Trotter shared his story of building Author-it, a component content management platform that started from his frustration with the tools available for technical writers. Since then the journey has had plenty of twists and turns until it reached the good position it’s in now with a strong presence in biotech as well as technical writing.
Leon Grice shared the story of building Rako Science, delivering saliva-based PCR tests in New Zealand. We try not to mention the Government at MORGO – what does it have to do with building businesses? But impossible not to mention the Government’s obstinacy in not authorising this test which already had FDA approval. And thanks, Rako, for offering us all free Covid tests before we came!
It’s all about growth
Craig Herbison delivered some great lessons about growth. The perils of the universal soldier. I never heard that expression before, but it was instantly recognisable: that person who seems to be across everything and you think you can’t do without them. But they never document anything, aren’t training people to take over from them, and as the company grows, you realise they don’t fit well after all.
Loved Jamie MacDonald talking about building StoryPark, which connects pre-schools to the family at home. His great line: “I did it for Mum.”
Chris Rodley of SnapIT impressed us with the business and entertained us with stories of raising money in the US.
The Morgo Game
The Morgo Game consists of teams answering challenge questions drawn from our collective experience. Plenty of heated debate, incredulous comments of “Really?”, and lots of fun. Also a bit of chaos as we seemed to run out of bandwidth …
We took the opportunity of having all these successful tech entrepreneurs together to raise some money for another tech development in New Zealand: 3rd generation CAR T-cell therapy at the Malaghan Institute. David Downs was the cheerleader for this – all the way from Dubai via Zoom. And we’re pleased to say we raised over $70,000! Get someone to explain to you why a can of baked beans cost them $1,000 …
This year’s Morgo Bouquets went to Geoff Olliff of Portainer and Bob Drummond of Kami – two older guys with loads of experience who have thrown their lot in with young founders to help build the next generation of companies.
And maybe we have a Morgo band?
After two days of non-stop activity, we were exhausted but exhilarated – a good social and mental work out!