NZ "firsts" rocketing along

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NZ "firsts" rocketing along.

The PM's pregnancy grabbed headlines but maybe the real fuss should be over other Kiwi firsts.

I am as excited about the birth of the impending “first child” as the next person. But this weekend something else unique happened and, while reported, it didn’t get the full attention it deserved.  

There are other business and technology “firsts” we should be celebrating — and the great news, both as a Kiwi and an investor in innovative, growing companies, is there are plenty.

This weekend Kiwi entrepreneur Peter Beck and his Rocket Labs start-up put the carbon composite Electron rocket into orbit, launching a payload of [three] commercial satellites at the same time. 

This is a remarkable achievement. This been done, in space terms, on the smell of an oily rag, having raised just over $200m to fund development. Also, if you think of the list of world changing entrepreneurs in the space game — Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos — Mr Beck has become a member of an elite crowd.

According to the Wall Street Journal, which wrote a major piece over the weekend on the Rocket Labs launch, from 1990 to 2010 roughly two thirds of maiden rocket launches were unsuccessful — with newly designed rockets typically experiencing a failure in the first three launches. 

Fingers crossed ... but two successful launches from two looks to have beaten the odds.

It is not poetic licence to say that, if Rocket Labs continues in this vein, it will revolutionise the satellite launch business. The company’s achievements deserve a lot more celebration and more media coverage, even in a weekend dominated by news of a due date like no other.

That said, we have a lot more than just Rocket Labs to celebrate. New Zealand definitely punches above its weight in world-changing innovation and, as share investors, we are lucky to be able to join some of these companies for the ride.

While avid sharemarket followers will be well aware of A2 Milk’s 278 per cent share price rise last year, more impressive to me is the brand strength and distribution model the company has built in the Chinese infant milk formula market. 

In a few short years A2’s Platinum milk brand has taken over 4 per cent share of the market, is sold through more than 6000 retailers and is one of the most trusted brands in a hotly contested multi-billion dollar market.

Vista Group is not as well-known but, if you have visited the cinema in recent times, you almost undoubtedly came into contact with one of the firm’s solutions. Vista has become world leader in software solutions to the cinema industry, providing cloud-based ticketing and cinema management solutions as well as big data analytics to cinema and movie owners — helping the film industry improve returns. 

Yes, it’s a niche industry but Vista dominates it and is a Kiwi-born global leader you may never have heard of.

Xero is another Kiwi success story. Born “in the cloud,” Xero’s accounting solutions have changed the way small companies are run. The value of this innovation is demonstrated by the strong market positions Xero has built in New Zealand, Australia and the UK where it is the leader in cloud accounting solutions. Xero has over 1.2m subscribers.

Even more impressive is the breadth of the ecosystem the firm has developed with over 600 add-on applications and 16,000 accounting firm partners. This positions Xero at the heart of how a small business is run and gives it a wide economic moat. 

We are lucky to live in a country where we can invest in, and be inspired, by world-leading businesses like Rocket Labs, A2 Milk, Vista Group and Xero. There’s no doubt New Zealand’s next crop of entrepreneurs are following in their footsteps now.

Let’s just hope that headlines of future Sunday papers, or at least the online versions, shout these achievements from the treetops. It was a day to feel proud.


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