If Sunny Bates was an expert in electricity networks there'd be no questions about what she does.
But the New Yorker -- who's on the board of Kickstarter and advises big corporations like GE and Proctor & Gamble -- is an expert in human networks and that can be harder to explain, she admits.
That Bates is a star is immediately clear the minute we sit down to chat in a quiet meeting room at the Tripartite Economic Summit in Auckland's Viaduct event centre.
She's charismatic, animated and speaks at a terrific pace -- even by New York standards.
She is also so deeply connected to the world of high-tech, disruptive change that our conversation is peppered with too many futuristic businesses and trends to keep count of.
"Have you heard of Quantified Self Labs?"
No, but I'm about to.
Bates throws me an elevator pitch for the start-up she is working with before I've even had a chance to clarify what she does.
"You've heard of fitbit right, we've all got all these devices measuring our personal data," she says. "Your personal data merges with your personal assets and they are being repackaged and sold by third parties."
That personal data has been estimated to be worth between $1 and $2 million over your lifetime, she says.
"So here's a company that can manage that for you."
Digital currency, alternative energy, crowdfunding, biotech, arts -- Bates rattles off a string of other fields where she is working, all focused on the edge of the future.
"We work with business leaders and connect them," she says. "So when a CEO needs to know about AI [artificial intelligence], and needs to know real quick, we pull together all the experts in the field and put them in a room for a few hours. My job is to know who is where and how to access them."
Bates says she gets paid for the strategy not for the introductions.
"People always ask how do you monetise these networks? You can't directly, yet they are huge assets," she says.
"When you talk about networks, in the same way that telecommunications or electricity networks are connecting us and allowing us to communicate and energising us, this is what human networks do as well. And that's how we grow and that's how companies grow."
Bates has been involved with Kickstarter -- now a global crowdfunding phenomenon -- since the beginning. It started "on my kitchen bench", she says.
The idea began with co-founder Perry Chen seeing that artists were living hand to mouth in New Orleans. Along with co-founders Yancy Strickler and Charles Adler they put together a website to fund projects in a new way.
The clever bit, Bates says, was overcoming the "loss aversion" of investors.
On Kickstarter people can give a small amount or a large amount but they were not committed until the project has hit its target funding.
When you talk about networks, in the same way that telecommunications or electricity networks are connecting us and allowing us to communicate and energising us, this is what human networks do as well. And that's how we grow and that's how companies grow.
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"The key part of it was that it was all or nothing."
Kickstarter has since moved from arts to tech and design, and internet crowdfunding is now taken seriously in financial circles as a new form of capital raising.
We go inside companies and we see how information flows and try to help them grow a network mind set, Bates says.
That means teaching them to look outside.
"Very little of what is happening that is new in the world is going to be happening inside your company. It's going to happen on the outside. The more you can see it and the more access you have to who is making this stuff happen, the more you can understand what your role in it might be."
We are getting better at understanding the science of networks, Bates says.
"The science is that all the really interesting activity is happening out at the very edges. It's those loose links we need to find and leverage," she says.
Bate's points out that her connection with local intellectual property company EverEdgeIP -- which brought her out to New Zealand -- was based on a chance meeting at a big entrepreneurship event -- in a hot tub.
"Totally random. But that's how my world is."