One Question Quiz
Soul Machines Xero business Figure.NZ tech week technology
Soul Machines Xero business Figure.NZ tech week technology

BusinessMay 24, 2018

The coolest Kiwi tech companies you need to know about

Soul Machines Xero business Figure.NZ tech week technology
Soul Machines Xero business Figure.NZ tech week technology

We’ve assembled a list of the most exciting startups and tech companies in New Zealand right now, chosen by some of the tech leaders gathered for Techweek’18.

It’s Techweek, and there are hundreds of events sprinkled around the country all highlighting New Zealand’s growing tech industry. With so many inspirational technology, and business leaders, keen to talk up NZ Inc we took the opportunity to ask them some burning questions like: what’s your favourite Kiwi startup or technology company? What is it about them that is so cool or making a difference? And with artificial intelligence being such a popular subject this week a bonus question; what is your favourite AI application?

Roxanne Salton, head of digital strategy and delivery, Mercury Energy

Soul Machines’ AI. (Image: screengrab)

Favourite Kiwi tech business/startup: I’ve met so many great startups over the years it’s hard to pick just one. Soul Machines really stands out for me though. What I like about this Kiwi company is they’re not only thinking about the technology, but how we connect with it. They’re bringing technology to life with AI technology based on actual people, which has massive implications. Imagine being in a customer service role, but instead of helping 20 customers a day, you’re helping hundreds or thousands. Or being a teacher who could help hundreds of kids who might not otherwise have access to the quality of education that a lot of us take for granted. The possibilities to do good are endless.

How great is it that this Kiwi startup is already getting international recognition and are only at the beginning of their journey? It’s a great reflection of the enormous pool of home-grown talent we have right here in our own backyard. I always admire Kiwi tech businesses that are solving real challenges as well as creating sustainable businesses for New Zealand, and globally. It may be that this will take a few more years before we can all feel comfortable with “machines” that can make us laugh or cry, but the potential to do good is too great to ignore.

Favourite AI application: I don’t think you can go past Amazon’s Alexa. It’s something I’m particularly invested in, having recently made it available to Mercury customers. For now, they can do things like ask Alexa for energy savings tips and information about their Mercury account – but what’s really exciting is where we can go further down the track. It’s fascinating to watch customer-centric businesses beginning to embrace this technology as it becomes an increasingly important part of people’s lives. More than 600 million people use voice-activated services at least once a week around the world – and with those numbers, it’s a choice we need to be offering to our customers.

Read the experts’ pick of the best of Techweek18 here

Te Aroha Morehu, innovation officer, Ngāti Whātua Orakei

Some of the data available on Figure NZ. (Image: screengrab)

Favourite Kiwi tech business/startup: Figure.NZ lead by Lillian Grace (full, disclaimer she is my partner). This organisation is democratising data in a way that it retells the situation as a meaningful story, rather than a wall of intimidating numbers and data points. The ambition to empower societies to understand their country is both refreshing and visionary. Part of its success is the desire to understand the meaning of data, without a commercial prerogative. This attitude was exemplified in the formation of its governance fabric, as the founder needed to ensure that their position was disposable. At the heart of the vision is a leader who was prepared to walk the talk and backed it up by ensuring accountability at the outset. It’s another reason why they are an innovation finalist at the Hi-Tech Awards 2018.

Favourite AI application: My favourite AI application at the moment are the Digital Corpii being created by Soul Machines. In a tribal nation where our culture has received scrutiny at all levels of society, including health. Now we have an opportunity to create a digital servant that has the familiarity of a Māori, the mannerisms of a Māori and can therefor instruct, advise or consult and have high energy at the end of the day. From a healing perspective this is highly valuable as the emotional state of our families are absolutely our concern as a tribal organisation. We can also leverage these tools to integrate our tribal nation into society in a more mana enhancing way.

Kristin Lunman, innovation director, Kiwi Wealth

Hnry. (Image: Supplied)

Favourite Kiwi tech business/startup: Hnry understands the gig economy and how it’s very much the future of work. And because of this they’re my fave tech start-up at the moment. I’ve recommended them to countless contractors because they save me so much time (and stress!): they do my invoicing, insurance, ACC, and most importantly, my taxes. They’ve just completed the Kiwibank Fintech Accelerator and killed it on Demo Day. I can’t wait to see where they go with their accounting-and-more platform. Watch this space.

Favourite AI application: FaceMe is the most exciting AI application in New Zealand. Why is FaceMe the future? Well, by 2025 more than 85% of customer interactions will be done online! As they continue to redefine customer experience, I have no doubt that they’ll be a New Zealand success story.

Pavan Vyas, CEO, Rush Digital

Image: screengrab Spalk

Favourite Kiwi tech business/startup: One to look out for is Spalk.Why? For three reasons. The team are super energised, deal with adversity well, learn fast and have pure hustle. They have vision – they see that the way new generations will consume sports content will change and are latching onto a massive mega-trend in the sports field. The third reason is their velocity – they’ve showed what they can achieve with very little funding.

Favourite AI application: I love what the guys at Halter are aiming for. They combine the internet of things with AI to create smart collars for cows. Impressive right? It could have huge implications for New Zealand if this startup succeeds.

Kerry Topp, associate director innovation and transformation, Datacom

Favourite Kiwi tech business/startup: I’m going off the tech wall on this. The founder and startup that is inspiring me the most at the moment with what’s possible for whānau, region, and for NZ Inc is Hikurangi Enterprises’ medicinal cannabis, a wonderful evolving story. (For more on Hikurangi check out this Spinoff feature).

Savannah Peterson, founder and chief unicorn, Savvy Milennial

Favourite Kiwi tech business/startup: Oh man…. So many! Cloud Cannon, Xero, Datacom, Air NZ, Serko, MTech Games, 90 seconds, Weta…

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