I'm a big fan of pithy quotes and have been known to lace several together in one sentence.
Human beings are funny creatures and the fact is that we are drawn to short statements that sum up a point of view.
One at the top of my list is the old "if you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right." It's a perfect statement that sums up the huge part that confidence and "just doing it" has in success.
Of course, we would be stupid to ignore the fact that external situations (privilege, connections, money, education) play in delivering success but, notwithstanding that, if we take two identical situations, it is the one filled with people sharing a can-do attitude that will most likely succeed.
I've been thinking about self-confidence and its role in success recently and was reminded of the topic when I read the recent news about the sale of TradeGecko to US mega-company, Intuit. I've known of the TradeGecko guys since the early days of their entrepreneurial journey. Bradley and Cameron Priest, a couple of Tauranga lads, set up the company to solve the very real issue of inventory control for small and mid-sized businesses.
TradeGecko helps these companies keep track of their goods across warehouses, retail stores and e-commerce inventories.
In my role at Cactus Outdoor, I'm all too aware of just how hard that seemingly simple task is. With multiple retail stores, warehouse locations distributed around the place, and a huge number of different products and product options, keeping track of our stock is a real challenge.
Anyway, TradeGecko announced a sale to Intuit that sources suggest was well over $100 million. That's a pretty impressive number given the company had been going for less than the decade and is the latest in a growing number of success stories for New Zealand tech startups. As an aside, I can't help but mention that it's also not the first exit by a Tauranga tech company, I was lucky enough to be chairman of SwipedOn when it sold a few years ago to UK-listed company Smart Space. Maybe there's something in avocadoes after all.
Getting back to that TradeGecko aspect, however, and I was perturbed (but not surprised) to see all the wailing and gnashing of teeth about the fact that TradeGecko was sold offshore. There was also much discussion about the fact that the team at TradeGecko, early in their journey, obtained funding out of Singapore to fuel their growth.
These two facts were used to both fuel a perspective that suggests that selling companies overseas is a net loss for New Zealand and that there is some kind of structural issue here in New Zealand that means companies can't raise the money they need.
The first point is an old chestnut that comes up every time a company is sold. If I look at the SwipedOn example, since the company sold, there has been a large increase in the number of people employed here in New Zealand. In addition, the people who made a financial return from the sale have widely invested in other early-stage companies - the quintessential demonstration of the notion of cycling capital. "Rinse and repeat" is a notion that most in the startup world subscribe to.
On the second comment, that of the difficulties raising money here in Aotearoa, I have to say I despair a bit.
It strikes me that many people would rather blame their failure on external factors as an alternative to considering whether, just maybe, their own failings are at least partly to blame for the position they are in.
I'm not talking here about people who - through reduced opportunity, ethnic/gender or other factors have less chance to raise money - I'm talking about people who simply aren't that good.
It might absolutely go against the grain of today's "everyone can be a winner" mindset, but the reality is that some people have more of an ability to execute than others. And that's fine, we should recognise that people have strengths and weaknesses in different areas. What we should do, however, is be honest about that fact.
So congratulations to the Priest brothers. I'm sure there were plenty of ups and downs over the years, but you thought you could and you were right.
- Ben Kepes is a Canterbury-based professional director and businessman.