MORGO 2023 — AI with that?

Jenny Morel
4 min readOct 16, 2023
Howie Xu

Everyone is talking about AI these days and MORGO was no exception. MORGO is a two-day get together for the leaders of tech companies going global: two days away from the business to share experiences with other CEOs, make new friends, and above all get reinvigorated with new energy for the challenges ahead. AI was our MORGO theme this year — discussing what the rapid advances in AI mean for all our businesses and helping us all learn how to use it.

Setting us up with this AI focus, Howie Xu joined MORGO again to show us how AI is accelerating change in the tech sector. Howie is a modest rockstar — a founder of VMWare, with ZScaler for its meteoric rise, and now SVP Engineering, AI & Machine Learning at Palo Alto Networks. He also writes about what’s going on in the tech sector.

Right now, he’s writing about AI and how lucky he feels to be living through this tech revolution. He outlined the three crucial stages in the evolution of the tech sector:

1. The origins of Silicon Valley — the Fairchild Traitorous Eight and birth of venture capital

2. The widespread adoption of the internet and the role of the PayPal Mafia

3. And now the deployment of general AI which is accelerating change across the ecosystem

With Howie as our opening speaker, we were off to a great start.

More AI and something about the brain

Next up was Levi Fawcett of Partly, who was up to the task of following Howie by delivering a story of true start-up passion and perseverance: when he first went to work at RocketLab he was so engrossed that he slept only six hours each night — in the front seat of his Corolla in the company carpark! He left RocketLab to set up a new business with co-founder Nathan Taylor. Partly is their second iteration and it’s amazing: classifying the 150 million car parts in the world and providing a platform of information for trading platforms and the car manufacturers themselves. When ChatGPT came out, they implemented it in their business within four hours!

JD Trask of Raygun and Asa Cox of Arcanum rounded out the talks on AI. JD talked about AI week at Raygun — all their 120 people spent a week developing solutions using AI. And Asa led the whole room in a workshop on building an AI assistant. Everyone loved getting comfortable with AI, and it is fair to say everyone’s competitive streak came to play. The team at Arcanum heroically built one of the assistants overnight. Thanks!

To balance all the AI, Prof John Reynolds gave a presentation on how the brain works. Did you know that your brain has 150 billion cells? Of these, 70 billion are (hopefully) functioning neurons, and each of them has 1,000–10,000 synapses …

Great entrepreneurs

Tom Wallace of Released, told us a wonderful story about how he won his first customers — helping to carry a fridge up a flight of stairs pitching as he went. And he talked about the lengths they went to make sure the product really met the customer requirements. Will Barker of Mint Innovation, Milan Cooper of First AML, Tim Copeland of Runn — all amazing entrepreneurs — shared their stories, followed by Geoff Olliff and Neil Creswell of Portainer. Did I really hear 3 billion downloads of their software and 1 million active users? Yes, I did. And I particularly enjoyed their reaction on finding that Matthieu Aubry of Matomo was there at MORGO — “we need to find that guy!”

Working together

A panel discussion on sustainability followed, and a couple of great double acts. Selwyn Pellett and Steve Newman shared the story of merging Coretex and eRoad. They had two runs at this merger, and the talk was full of lessons for anyone putting together a complex deal. And finally, the legendary Dr Jana Matthews interviewed Greg Jarvis and Jono Jones about Greg passing the CEO role to Jono. It looks like they’re still close friends and the company is growing well so a very successful transition!

Finally, the stayers headed off for the beautiful walk to Haruru Falls with plenty of great conversations along the way.

What’s next? Time to think about MORGO 2024 in Queenstown at the end of August 2024! If you’re building a tech or other high growth company out into the world from New Zealand or Australia, we’d love you to join the Morgo Community and come along.

Haruru Falls



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..