Where great ideas are good as gold

Jenny Morel founded Morgo nine years ago. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Jenny Morel founded Morgo nine years ago. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Jenny Morel may not yet have made a fortune by backing the Martin Jetpack. However, she has undoubtedly helped many others turn their ideas into gold, thanks to her annual conference for entrepreneurs, known as Morgo.

The former investment banker, and wife of Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard, founded venture capital firm No 8 Ventures more than a decade ago with another high-flying Kiwi, Andy Lark, who is these days head of marketing for Commonwealth Bank in Australia.

Although VC has been a tough business in recent years, Morgo is still going strong thanks largely to the support of sponsors such as Air NZ, Meridian, PwC, 2degrees, and Bell Gully. The Ministry of Science and Innovation, NZ Trade & Enterprise and the British High Commission also support the two-day talkfest, which this year was held in Taupo.

The powwow is New Zealand's answer to TED, the conference held each year in the United States and Britain which is renowned as one of the world's most stimulating events.

Billed as a forum for "ideas worth spreading", and also known for "riveting talks by remarkable people", TED originally focussed on technology, entertainment and design, but these days encompasses everything from politics to pollution.

Morel has kept a strong entrepreneurial focus for Morgo, with a distinct technological bent.

Attendees this year included the usual suspects, such as Trade Me founder Sam Morgan and Xero's Rod Drury, as well as a multitude of wannabes with astonishingly clever ideas.

There were presentations from several Americans at the cutting edge of the corporate world: David Hanson, a former Disney "imagineer" and one of the world's leading experts in robotics; Scott Yara, who helped found several successful start-ups at the forefront of internet trends; Damon Hernandez, who specialises in 3D applications for the web; and Richard Mander, a former Apple executive whose consumer electronics firm is the seventh fastest-growing company in the US.

Alongside a clutch of Kiwis with small companies and big ambitions, several expats also told their stories, including Darryl Lovegrove - the elder brother of comedian Brendhan Lovegrove - who accidentally founded one of the world's most successful corporate entertainment companies.

Morgo is not just intended to inspire: many deals are done during its coffee breaks and, as with many conferences, it is the chance to network that attracts many of its attendees.

Next year will be Morgo's tenth anniversary, and although attendance is by invitation only, Morel is keen to spread the word.

Twitter may help. The mood of Morgo can probably be summed up in a single tweet from this year's event: "Once in a while you meet someone who is actually changing the world," wrote @mandysimpson. "But at #morgo2011 they all seem to be in this one room."

- NZ Herald

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