Christopher Adams

The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

NZ tech firms 'missing out'

Too few Kiwi companies showing products at Las Vegas gadget fest, says entrepreneur.

The Intel booth in Las Vegas. Photo / AP
The Intel booth in Las Vegas. Photo / AP

Kiwi technology entrepreneur Sir Peter Maire says it's "disappointing" few New Zealand firms appear to have shown up in the US for this year's Consumer Electronics Show.

The annual Las Vegas gadget fest has attracted more than 3200 exhibitors from across the globe in 2013, from small companies to tech world giants such as Samsung and Sony.

Speaking from the event, Maire said that other than his own firm, Auckland's Fusion Electronics, he knew of only two other New Zealand companies that were in town for the CES - wireless charging technology maker PowerbyProxi and miniaturised wireless camera developer Teknique.

It was an expensive event to exhibit at, he said, with Fusion's attendance costing at least US$30,000 ($35,700). But Maire said it was worth the investment and Fusion - which makes automotive and marine stereo entertainment systems - had made valuable contacts with distributors from across the globe.

"You can't do much if you sit down there in New Zealand hoping customers will come to you," he said. "I think Kiwi companies never think twice about spending money on R&D but they don't think too much about going and selling it."

PowerbyProxi, which has developed wireless charging systems for devices such as smartphones and television remotes, is using a bit of Kiwi ingenuity to leverage the CES without having to wear the cost of exhibiting at the event.

The Auckland-based firm has set up a "demo suite" in a room at the hotel next door to the convention centre in which the CES is being held. With so many major consumer technology players in town for the event, PowerbyProxi is holding meetings with potential customers in the suite.

"It's just a much more cost effective and targeted way for a company like ours to get great results from an event like CES," executive chairman Greg Cross told the Business Herald from Las Vegas. He said the company had provided samples of its technology to consumer technology manufacturers over the past few months.

He said PowerbyProxi also took part in a major media event at the show, where it demonstrated its products to reporters from all over the world. "That was a full-on three hours of talking non-stop to journalists and we've had a number of them come back for further interviews."

PowerbyProxi, which has also developed wireless charging technology for industrial applications, hoped to have its consumer technology on the market within the next 12 months, Cross said.

Technology commentator Peter Griffin, also in Las Vegas for the event, said Kiwi firms had never had a strong presence at the CES.

"Since Navman [the GPS maker co-founded by Maire] was broken up we haven't really had a big consumer electronics brand coming out of New Zealand," he said.

Andy Hamilton, chief executive of Auckland business growth centre The Icehouse, said he was glad that at least three Kiwi companies were in Las Vegas for the show.

"I don't know whether we have that many consumer app-type technology companies, which is what [the CES] has shifted to," Hamilton said. "Should there be more [New Zealand firms] there? There probably should be but people just don't see the opportunity."

- NZ Herald

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