Business is Boring is a weekly podcast series presented by The Spinoff in association with Callaghan Innovation. Host Simon Pound speaks with innovators and commentators focused on the future of New Zealand, with the interview available as both audio and a transcribed excerpt. This week Simon talks to Shaveer Mirpuri about creating commercial ventures using artificial intelligence.
Last month we saw the release of the Callaghan Innovation white paper on the role artificial intelligence can play in leading innovation in New Zealand. One of the contributors to that white paper, and a leader in creating commercial ventures with AI at their heart, is Shaveer Mirpuri. He formed GOAT Ventures in 2015, which co-invests and co-creates companies with big corporates with the goal of growing the next generation of Fortune 500 companies.
Their ethos is that successful entrepreneurs who have exited can pass on that experience, as he has from his journey with Wooga, which grew to 300 staff and raised $24 million. He’s also personally consulted with the CEO of Walmart on artificial intelligence strategy and with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on innovation.
Shaveer joins us now direct from a flight from LA, where he is helping grow GOAT in America.
How did you go about taking the insight that AI had so much to offer industries other than the ones it was already serving, and bring that into business?
I read a lot of papers. A ton of papers on machine learning to figure out what’s real and what’s not. A ton of videos. What I decided to set out and do was not necessarily out of practice or born out of a blueprint or what have you. It was really simple.
We said ‘now, if we could create any knowledge or anything in the world, where would we go? What industry would we attack it with?’ and we thought that the industries which we felt were most protected my human knowledge were the ones where you’d find the most opportunity for disruption, perhaps even a lot of arrogance that they’ll never be disrupted.
The legal sector was one of those sectors which is why we joint ventured with MinterEllisonRuddWatts to go into that. It’s as simple as that. You pick a theme and then you say let’s create something of significant value using AI.
How did you come to be setting up GOAT Ventures in 2015?
I got back to New Zealand, met my business partners Jonathan Reid and Ray Thomson, and we got together and decided to start doing tech deals. We did a few and at some point a year through that journey we realised there is a bigger opportunity at play here, being in New Zealand, to pair up with others who are potentially viewed as competitors to create significant competitive advantage.
You spend time in a place like Silicon Valley and quickly realise there are really high calibre startups out there. VCs are funding some phenomenal companies.
How can we create that here in New Zealand? What is our advantage here? Why New Zealand? Should I just pick up and leave right now? The answer is obviously no. There is a lot of untapped talent here and businesses need to learn to harness those people who are educated and well experienced.
There’s also a very democratised environment in New Zealand around working with corporates. It’s unforeseeable that you could walk up to the largest law firm or retail company in the US and just knock on their door and say ‘let’s put a million dollars together into something to completely disrupt the business that you’re in’. It’s possible here in New Zealand.
I thank our democratised corporate landscape for informing why we started GOAT Ventures – which was to create a really unfair advantage and take a different track than the one that most venture capitalists go through, which is investing in six companies and only one, at very best, will pay off.