Retail, Innovation and Manufacturing reporter for the NZ Herald

Tech zeal keeps TIN man on task

Greg Shanahan says his annual industry snapshot is fired by his enthusiasm for NZ’s technology sector

Greg Shanahan has built up a wealth of knowledge about the NZ technology sector. Picture / Brett Phibbs
Greg Shanahan has built up a wealth of knowledge about the NZ technology sector. Picture / Brett Phibbs

Greg Shanahan knows a lot about the New Zealand technology sector. For the past 15 years, he has been following the progress of almost 300 of the nation's top technology companies and reporting on their successes.

His business, Technology Investment Network (TIN), produces the annual TIN100 report. Now in its 10th year, the report ranks the top 200 technology companies according to revenue growth and provides a snapshot of the industry including trends, company details and analysis.

Shanahan says his role is to help businesses connect and provide information on the sector. But since its launch, the report has become a key analysis tool for businesses and individuals alike and is widely used as a reference for government policies.

"Our first major milestone, when I realised it was getting serious, was when senior people in government said that they were looking at grant schemes or other interventions, targeted to TIN100 companies specifically," Shanahan said.

"That was a pretty amazing feeling."

Working at Fisher & Paykel Appliances in the 1990s, Shanahan said he increasingly found there was a gap in the connection of New Zealand companies.

Most firms were doing well, but were not sharing and discussing common problems and solutions.

"One of the things that really surprised me was that companies were all on their own journey and were often learning from the school of hard knocks individually, and that information wasn't being communally shared."

Shanahan started TIN by running networking events, inviting along leaders from larger companies to share their advice on business models that were working.

The events were a success, but Shanahan said this only raised more questions for him around how the sector was tracking, and so he began publishing the TIN100 report to quantify and document the industry's progress.

"I wanted to create some transparency around that and to quantify what was happening so that people could understand the sector in greater depth and do things that might support its growth," he said.

In the 10 years since the first report was published, it has more than doubled in size and the number of companies who are surveyed has risen from less than 100 to almost 400, as well as including a section on the top 50 Australian companies.

The number of events held by the company has increased, and the report has been used as a key reference for ministers looking at the industry, and where further funding needed to be allocated. "Established companies are getting more grants, they're on the radar of government agencies and more recently, the TIN100 report is being used internationally," Shanahan said.

"A lot of West Coast US venture capital companies use the TIN100 report and survey it to look at potential growth companies and look to engage with those companies, and Australia the same," he said. "So we're putting these companies on a map that increasingly an expanding number of international people are using."

Shanahan is passionate about the sector, and has built up a wealth of knowledge on almost any business technology topic. He said it was inspiring seeing the effect that companies based in New Zealand could have on the world economy far beyond their size and position.

It was this passion and enthusiasm that he said kept him in his job.

"There is rarely a case where I leave a meeting with a CEO or someone involved in the industry and I'm not inspired in some way or felt that I've [not] learned something."

He notes that a hallmark of New Zealanders is authenticity - something that appears true of Shanahan himself. It is clear his motivation is to help technology sector companies grow and reach their potential, and after 15 years of striving for this goal Shanahan and TIN can lay claim to their own success.

Top firms show strong technology sector evolving

New Zealand's technology companies on the move were named last night at an event attended by business leaders and Government ministers. The TIN100 Top Ten Companies to Watch and Hot Emerging Companies for 2014 included firms with revenues of $14 million to $1 billion, and $2 million to $14 million.

Revealing the two lists, before the release of the report on October 22, Technology Investment Network (TIN) managing director Greg Shanahan noted the positive movement of most technology companies in the last year.

"It's pleasing to see growth in the sector returning to pre-global financial crisis figures and I'm particularly buoyed by the re-emergence of companies manufacturing highly sophisticated products, such as Metalform in Dannevirke and Hamilton-based RML Engineering," Shanahan said.

This year, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare took out the top spot with revenue growth of $67.1 million, closely followed by BCS Group who Shanahan said had gone from strength to strength, increasing their revenue growth from 36 per cent in 2013 to 68 per cent this year.

Shanahan said this year's results had shown some positive trends in the sector, including the highest growth he had seen in the smaller companies. This is the 10th year of the TIN100 report, which will include an extra section on long-term trends.

"We want to look at how things have changed across the decade, not just in terms of the soft stuff but in terms of the types of companies.

"I think there's a re-emergence of manufacturing in New Zealand in terms of people looking at the models to operate a successful manufacturing business with a New Zealand base."

Shanahan said continued growth of a strong ICT sector was highlighted, as well as several successful business models that had emerged after the GFC and the high New Zealand dollar. The technology sector was evolving. "The second stream around that is successful companies are increasingly confident and bold, and articulating their vision in a very focused way. The third one is massive movement around companies listing, being bought or getting investment," Shanahan said.

- NZ Herald

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