MORGO 2022–20 years of MORGO!

Wow, 20 years of MORGO! How did that happen? From thinking that it would be good to get together people building tech companies from New Zealand into the world — which it was — to fuller and fuller programmes over the years to create this annual re-charge for them!

So many amazing people/stories/companies over the years: Sir Ian Taylor opened the first MORGO and came back to open this one; Rod Drury calls Xero a Morgo baby — I can remember in particular the three hour workshop with Jana Matthews on stages of leadership with Rod paying rapt attention. The Rakon guys decided to list at MORGO; Murray Holdaway of Vista Entertainment came for a few years in a row until they listed; Ralph Highnam of Volpara Health Technologies comes almost every year. Grant Straker has taken over the MORGO music … Deals have been done; friendships have formed. But most importantly, wonderful new people keep coming.

The originals — they came to the first MORGO

So privileged to have Bill Buckley there sharing stories with us. He’s an unsung national treasure. Buckley Systems make large precision magnets and particle accelerators. These are used in silicon fabrication lines, in making the flat glass for your phones and tablets, and in medical treatment machines. Think BIG! A long way from the weightless economy but what amazing technology and he’s built a large business. Whenever Bill wanted to talk there was a noticeable hush in the room.

Bill Day of Seaworks now has 18 ships around the world and submersible drones that go deeper than anyone else’s. He didn’t respond to my first email about MORGO this year but then he rang me, “Sorry I didn’t get back to you — I was in Fiji.” I’m thinking of sun and beach and lazing. Bill goes on, “Yeah, we had a great week: connected up a fibre optic cable to Kirbasi and collected a rocket from the sea.” Bill now calls himself Executive Chairman of his group of companies. He’s told his CEOs that he will only make five decisions a year: so don’t ask him to decide unless they really need him to as they’ll use up one of the five.

Sir Ian Taylor opened the first MORGO 20 years ago and came back to open this one. He’s always an inspirational speaker and this was no exception. His business is turning data into pictures that people want — a journey that has taken him from making some iconic ads to putting the lay lines on the water for the Americas Cup and tracking where the ball has gone in sports such as golf and now major league baseball.

Lifting our sights — thinking bigger

Hamish McKenzie, a kiwi founder of Substack in San Francisco, told us they set it up to empower writers and now lots of writers are now making good money (some over $1million p a) on the platform. Support from the legendary Andreesen Horowitz let them set it up at a scale it’s hard for young companies here to imagine.

Chris Bayley set up Cover Genius in Sydney for online embedded retail insurance. In 2019 the FT rated them the fastest growing tech company in APAC. Then, Covid hit, and in 2019 their business fell. But they’re up and racing again now after a good Series C raise.

Emma Lo Russo of Digivizer gave an inspiring talk about building the business: in 2010 there were 82 Australian companies in their area of SaaS marketing metrics, now there are two.

Inspirational New Zealand stories

Danny Ing (founder) and David Leach (CEO) shared the story of building Cin7 “on the coat tails of Xero”. Danny built the business to 1,800 customers and 140 employees. Then, three years ago, they took in a large investment and David came on board as CEO. The company now has 8,000 customers and 400 employees.

Jonny Hendriksen of Shuttlerock talked about making videos at scale with 300 people around the world, just 50 of them in Nelson. 50,000 videos so far!

Parking? There’s a market for booking parking places? Yes, there is. Toby Littin of Parkable talked about their journey to finding their sweet spot in the market — corporates managing work place parking spaces. Signing up some huge companies in the US.

Brain stretch anyone?

We always like to have some brain stretch at MORGO — get you thinking about something new. Matt Gerrie is a data scientist who has been working for booking.com for the last eight years and is now Director of Strategy for Booking Holdings Ltd. He’s come back to live in Wellington — we’re lucky to have him. He told us how booking.com practises continuous experimentation with everyone empowered to run AB experiments in real time on the platform.

Workshops

Dr Jana Matthews, author of eight books on leadership in high growth companies, ran a workshop on leadership. Who doesn’t need to know more about leadership? And who better to learn it from?

And there was a workshop on Offshore Partnerships led by Glenn Milnes of ikeGPS with Roger Sharp and myself supporting. Almost everyone needs offshore partnerships and almost everyone has had a bad experience. We talked about what made them work — guidelines for the future.

Celebration

Thursday night was party night — celebrating our 20th anniversary. Grant Straker took over the Morgo music a few years ago. And for this MORGO he wrote a Morgo song he sang for us!

Was it a re-charge? YES

Will we do it again? YES

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Jenny Morel

In the Morgo Podcast, Jenny interviews people building Australian & NZ tech companies into the world, & runs Morgo events for these CEOs. Previously a VC..