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Seminar 1: Rod Drury and Nat Torkington

By Ruth
December 6 2006

Posted in Blog

Creative HQs Summer of Code series began delightfully yesterday. Room 206 at Victoria University was screaming computer geek with representatives from Wellington’s technology leaders, our Summer of Code interns, residents of Creative HQ and a few students from the university.

dsc_0039.JPGFirst Nat Torkington; from O’Reilly flew down from Auckland to share his experience, a prototype entrepreneurial dream. His idea of a brilliant idea is one that emerges from frustration; where the bounds of technology will not take you where you want to be and you just can’t let go, despite the apparent boundary.

dsc_0041.JPGProfessing to have “missed the boat” earlier on, he notes that “stepping out of the boat” altogether and taking risks is a necessary element for success. The best time he urges, is now – before you have kids to feed! This comes with a warning to get your priorities straight as “people of the opposite sex can take time away from your hacking.”

In an attempt to share his long-sighted determination, he advises that being busted ass poor can have serious benefits. Especially when it comes to investment – the angels are those who don’t give you too much money.” He notes its not really about the dollar signs as the money alone will not get you over the hurdles.

dsc_0042.JPG“Anyone can begin a start-up.” Location is important. Silicon Valley’s long history of supporting entrepreneurship means it has the co-founders and capital, which help brilliant ideas become reality. “All elements that make Silicon Valley great are here in Wellington.” Incubators help nurture the less fervent entrepreneurial spirit.

What are the traps? That one will be fulfilled in satisfying a Wellington audience and not strive internationally or that one will build the perfect-wrong-product. Its appropriate that Nat’s t-shirt has “make something that people want” scripted across the front. However all in all it is not an idea that makes or breaks an entrepreneur. Rather balls, patience, rind and grit!

dsc_0048.JPGRod Drury, Serial entrepreneur took a different slant, moving the focus from start-up companies and onto start-up careers, emphasising the benefits of beginning ones career in established companies such as Synergy or Optimation. The professional training, travel, team contribution, networking opportunities and salary all help to mitigate against the fact that you are developing someone else’s intellectual property.

dsc_0046.JPGRod then moves onto what he regards as core skills in the field. Database skills and a knowledge of XHTML are “absolutely key” in the future of technology. User interface design is a new but rapidly-evolving space. Equally useful are sound research and communication skills, enabling one to find solutions and then sell them to others. According to industry leaders you are in high demand if you are a “geek who can talk to people.” He notes the benefits a knowledge-base of technology. It is easier to start there and scale-up into social and political avenues, than to try and understand technology from a discipline of social sciences.
For Rod, higher education is more of a technicality than an indicator of success. He does however emphasise its importance and says that considering it is readily attainable through our democratic system, New Zealand needs a kick up the butt to bring itself up to international speed. In Rod’s eyes Blogs and RSS Feeds are a great way of keeping up with emerging technology and trends.

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With regards to money Rod takes a similar approach to Nat, having begun four start-ups before he made his first million and having been most successful recently. His advice; enjoy your career and be strategic about it “but don’t be in too much of a hurry to make money.”

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