Virtual Expo chi' />

A Wellington company is about to start what last week's Entrepreneurial Summit ordered - a New Zealand Inc online shopping mall.

Virtual Expo chief executive Frances Manwaring's ears pricked up when one of the top ideas to come out of the summit was a "virtual mall" showcasing New Zealand's wares to the world.

Within two weeks her company will go live with virtualexpos.co.nz, a platform enabling Kiwi businesses to stage online interactive conferences, take part in virtual trade shows and job fairs, and sell products.

They will pay $12,000 a year for a 24-hour booth which comes with marketing and technical support and the chance to take part in monthly events.

Manwaring has been in touch with participants in last week's gathering of more than 100 entrepreneurs, whose aim was to produce five to 10 top ideas for lifting national productivity.

Manwaring said the technology had been pioneered in the United States, where large enterprises like IBM and Cisco Systems were moving towards virtual events as opposed to physical presences at trade shows.

"The recession has accelerated the migration to these programmes but the state of the technology means that it is a genuine alternative in a way that it hasn't really been before."

Virtual Expo had joined forces with one of the US pioneers, Steve Strickland of Expos2, who is now a shareholder and director of the Kiwi company. It had gone with Expos2 because it had a focus on the small and medium business end of the market, she said.

Manwaring said as far as they were aware no one else had set up an expo for a nation. "The fact that we are this small probably makes it possible to take a NZ Inc approach."

Manwaring said Virtual Expo had been in talks with Made From New Zealand, a business networking site for local enterprises and Kiwi expat businesses.

The two websites planned to cross-promote where they could, with the latter aimed at smaller companies and Virtual Expo taking it to the next level for companies that are close to, or already, exporting.

Made From New Zealand, which began a couple of years ago with a sand sculpture of a silver fern on Santa Monica Beach in California, has 2800 businesses signed up.

Founder Steve Adams said the site was about to move into its "connect" phase which meant building links into member businesses' profiles to allow them to be found easily by search engines such as Google.

Made From New Zealand works in conjunction with Kea New Zealand, an online community of expat New Zealanders set up by entrepreneur and Warehouse founder Stephen Tindall.

Between the two there was "a whole lot of social networking and connectivity functionality," Adams said.

It meant that a little Auckland company looking at getting into China, for example, would be able to see who in the expat community was plugged into the Chinese market.

Kiwis abroad were there because they were successful, and had good networks. "They've joined Kea because they strongly identify with being a Kiwi and want to help out," he said.

Businessman Tenby Powell who chaired the summit said those involved were looking at forming groups to work on the ideas generated.