Innovation Changes Attitudes Says Rod Drury

By Bright Ideas Challenge 10/05/2010

Wellington is the innovation capital. The local software and design industry is flourishing. I’m often asked why we grow great software companies from Wellington. Geography and weather are the key ingredients. The compact nature of the city means that networks grow quickly. Put simply people in Wellington bump into each other more, at work, on the town, in the gym and walking around the bays.

With people working and socialising in the same area cross discipline friendships are created. For instance lawyers flat with computer geeks who play squash with their accountant who flats with the girlfriend of the designer who when to Otago with….

The weather means we spend a lot time with other people talking, hanging out and hatching schemes. Back in the early days the perfect Sunday for me was brunch with the flatmates, a windsurf at Plimmerton and then back to work for a few hours coding up an idea before catching up with mates for tea.

As a Government town many in the ICT industry have cut their teeth working on large scale projects, gaining their base experience before joining start-ups or creating their own businesses. When it comes time to build your team, linking up with people with a wide variety of skills is easier because they are already in your network. I often compare the breadth of skills we have in our team at Xero and think how hard it would be to build the same team in San Francisco as your network, and the people you see during the week, is likely to be more limited and often just your existing work mates.

Restaurants and café’s are world class in Wellington. That’s because we look out to see what is happening overseas and bring back the good bits then adding our own spin. In our digitally connected world we do the same.

One of our secrets at Xero is to seek innovation from within. While keeping a close eye on industry trends we make a point of really listening to our customers and encouraging staff to own features or take ideas and make them better. It always makes me proud when we brainstorm a problem and the solutions that come back are far better than we first imagined. And our team gets such a buzz when we hear that people now ‘love’ to do the books. Innovation changes attitudes.

Xero is a product of the culture of innovation growing in Wellington. Wellington is well poised to continue being the innovation capital and the opportunity is growing significantly as technology reduces the barriers to going offshore and using our distinct competitive advantages in larger markets.