I read today in Stop Press that there are no Internet Entrepreneurs in New Zealand. To be fair the award criteria were pretty harsh:
Internet Entrepreneur of the Year – recognition for that rare breed who has put capital and reputation on the line and successfully contributed to New Zealand’s wealth.
That’s a standard, I would point out, that judges Sam Morgan and Rowan Simpson didn’t really achieve themselves – as they didn’t really spend any significant capital (aside from everything they then owned) into their businesses, and they were too young to have had any industry reputation to throw away.
Which begs some questions – does putting everything you own into a company really count as “capital” when you are about 20 and don’t own that much? Does working hundreds of extra-curricular hours also equate to a capital investment? Does quitting your high paying job to work on a business that doesn’t make any money equate to plonking down capital?
Meanwhile the second part of the award title is even harder – “contributed to New Zealand’s Wealth” means that Rod Drury, whose Xero has yet to achieve profitability, is out for now, and most likely the founders of Pocketsmith are out as well.
So I really struggle with that wording – the award seems to require that you go out on a limb with your reputation and spend lots of money on a start-up. I actually do not recommend either of these as necessary to succeed – rather you should avoid dumping your money or reputation until you know you are on to a sure thing.
The lack of candidates shouldn’t be an indictment on the state of New Zealand internet entrepreneurs. There are plenty of entrepreneurs out there – I’ve met many of them and read about them in magazines like Idealog. There are some who have identified a niche, designed and built a website in their own time and are making revenues. There are others that spent far too much on websites and ideas of dubious value, but are learning from the experience and looking for the tweak or new idea that will count. Plenty of people are developing websites and applications in their spare time, and let’s not forget that a NZ Government owned utility launched a world first – an online electricity marketplace. None of these would qualify for the award, but many deserve recognition.
And that’s just it – I’d rather we give recognition early, before a entrepreneur has succeeded, rather than when everyone knows all about them after they are successful. Let’s find them and give them the publicity they require as well as deserve early in their journey.
So let’s reward those that try, those that are willing to start something, those that inspire and support others to start, those that succeed and even those that fail – so long as they do it well.
Your arguments Lance could be extended further. In New Zealand current policy seems to be to pick a select bunch of winners, hoping they’ll be the next F&P, Icebreaker or Rakon. While this is an understandable and attractive option, allowing as it does for focused rather than broad scale funding and support, it totally misses the point that;
a) success often happens to outliers
b) Regardless of a) the fact is that if we create a handful of mega successful players in this country, we ultimately become a development house for multinationals who will invariably snap up the winners and shift them, their employees and their tax dollar generation, overseas.
The wording of the aware reflect the attitude, misguided in my mind, that prevails in this country. It’s the old “build 10, billion dollar comapanies” strategy that is inherently flawed. Much more sustainable is to pick the 1000 (or for that matter 10000) players who will scale to $10mill and in doing so likely remain domestically owned and keep contributing by way of tax and employment.
Oh but I forgot…. actually building a business that is modest but sustainable, under-the-radar but profitable, ambitious but not arrogant isn’t at all sexy these days…
I completely agree – I think we need to award those giving it a go. If all we ever do is award those that ‘have made it’ then knock them when they hit a speed bump how can we expect a prosperous entrepreneurial environment. Also doing so gives the subjects a real boost… which every entrepreneur needs at some stage.
re: “Oh but I forgot…. actually building a business that is modest but sustainable, under-the-radar but profitable, ambitious but not arrogant isn’t at all sexy these days…”
– Sexy fades, substance remains… Julian
Here’s to greater recognition and appreciation for those giving it a go. It’s vital if entrepreneurship is to flourish and inspire the next generation.
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