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This article was published on 28 April 2021

Callaghan Innovation is proud to sponsor once again the NZ Hi-Tech Kamupene Māori o te Tau – Māori Company of the Year award. Ahead of the awards announcements on 28 May, we’re checking in with the five finalists – AgriSea, Jobloads, NZ Trade Group, MB Century and Weirdly – to find out how they’re making their mark as Māori innovators.

Forget the bells and whistles – the fundamental tool in a technology entrepreneur’s kit, reckons Andrewe Brown, is a good idea.

“It doesn’t matter where you’re from, how rich or poor, anyone can come up with a good idea. And from one idea we built a business,” says the co-founder and R&D Manager of NZ Trade Group (NZTG)

“To me that’s a really important message to get out – especially among Māori, who are underrepresented in the tech sector – to show that you can build a viable business from one good idea, because technology allows ideas to become scalable.”

Strength in numbers

An electrician by trade, Brown’s good idea was to band together with other electrical contractors, under the banner of NZTG, to provide members with access to software, suppliers and services – all with the aim of helping them run better businesses.

NZTG started 15 years ago with three members, offering a software system that would help electricians better quote for jobs. Brown says as they began developing the software, multiple benefits became obvious, such as being able to provide workers with labour targets, and gain group discounts from suppliers. This made it attractive for contractors to join – and the foundation for a viable business. 

Today NZTG’s Katipolt software system, which was developed with Callaghan Innovation Growth Grant support (now replaced by the R&D Tax Incentive), is a full operating system for electrical contracting businesses. Via a monthly subscription, NZTG’s 150 members also gain access to group buying power, and services, such as professional development opportunities.  

A year on

It’s the second year running that NZTG has been a finalist in the Hi-Tech Kamupene Māori o te Tau Award, and much has happened since. 

Amidst a building boom, NZTG members have been busy. This March, for example, wholesale spend among NZTG members almost doubled on the previous March, according to Katipolt data.

It’s been a time of intense change for the business, says Brown, including a restructure that saw him move from CEO (a role now shared by a leadership team) to R&D Manager, and a new strategic focus.

Pre-COVID-19, the business’s next plans were to expand into the Australian and plumbing markets. While those ambitions remain, the business is first focusing on further honing its offering for its core market.

Digging into data

In particular, it’s connecting with Callaghan Innovation’s Data Insights team to explore harnessing Katipolt’s growing repository of data to give members a better and more timely understanding of their business performance.

“Traditionally, tradies haven’t been able to get a good handle on how their business is doing until their end-of-year accounts are done, and if things aren’t going well that’s often too late. We want to provide that information back more incrementally to business owners, and hopefully use this data to create a framework that guides them towards positive change much earlier,” says Brown.

“We talk about this as a business, but we’re actually trying to make owners’ lives easier. If they have less stress and anxiety around how their business is doing, that has a positive impact for them personally, and for everyone around them. Technology enables us to help with this on a massive scale.”