New Zealand, the view from Silicon Valley

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Sean Gourley addressing the crowd at TechEd.

How does Silicon Valley view New Zealand’s technology start-up scene ?

I asked San Francisco-based New Zealander Sean Gourley after he gave the keynote address at this year’s Microsoft TechEd conference in Auckland.

Gourley says if I asked two years ago, there wouldn’t be an answer. New Zealand didn’t exist as far as those working at the sharp end of the technology business were concerned.

Enter Peter Thiel

He says three things changed that. First was Peter Thiel. Gourley says the entrepreneur has a huge influence in the tight-knit world of Silicon Valley.

Thiel’s Valar Ventures has a partnership with New Zealand Venture Investment Fund.

Everyone watches everyone else, so when Thiel started taking note of New Zealand so did other investors and entrepreneurs.

New Zealand’s second appearance on the Silicon Valley radar is thanks to Xero. The emergence of a cloud accounting software company from nowhere – or at least nowhere as far as people in the Valley are concerned – saw eyes cast across the Pacific. Now those eyes are looking at other New Zealand cloud computing ventures.

Hobbits help too

On a lighter note, Gourley says people in the valley also woke up to the creative digital movie work coming from Wellington. They see Peter Jackson and his team as genius-level creatives.

Physicist by training, Gourley is the co-founder of data analysis company Quid. He was a New Zealand athletics champion and a Rhodes scholar. At TechEd he told the audience how augmented intelligence can cut through complexity to improve decision-making.