New Zealand natives (‘Kiwis’) are pioneers.
While Australians were forcibly sent over to their new home as prisoners (who were clogging up Britain’s prison system), Kiwis were adventure-seekers who were looking for new opportunities in a new land. They came here willingly.
And to this day, it shows.
There’s a fun little phrase in Kiwi called ‘number 8 wire,’ which is usually used to describe a method of making something work using what’s at hand; the can-do mentality that people hereabouts tend to have.
You could say, for instance, that Joe has a number 8 wire mentality, which would mean that Joe is an industrious sort of fellow.
It’s this ingenuity — this ability to rig together anything that’s needed — that I believe will set New Zealand atop the online business side of the online world.
In 5 or 6 years, that is. Let me explain.
If you look at the kinds of people who are currently successful in the entrepreneurial sphere, you’ll find go-getters with big ideas who have found a need they can meet or a gap they can fill. They are problem solvers who are adept at identifying problems and solving them before (or better) than anyone else.
The kind of person who has this ability is few and far between in a country like the US, and yet we have one of the better success rates for establishing and incubating entrepreneurs to their full potential.
Just think if you had a whole country full of people like that. People who are problem solvers who have a knack for finding the right solution to problems and can rig together whatever they need to get the job done. Sound like anyone I mentioned above?
That’s right, the Kiwis have an absolutely ideal culture for the online world.
They’re innovative, they’re practical, they’re adaptable, and they are action-oriented. And they do all of this naturally, because it comes with the territory.
Not only that, but they have a relatively small, relatively isolated testing ground for any new product or application they come up with. There are a little over 4 million people in New Zealand, and they snatch up new products and trends as quickly as they arrive here. They’re behind when it comes to social media, but that will all change soon.
Until then, though, the big thing holding Kiwis back from their position on top of the online world is their crappy, crappy Internet service.
The Internet is mostly capped, here. For those of you who don’t know what this means (I didn’t, until I heard about them trying to do it in the States and swiftly being rebuked) is that you generally don’t pay a flat fee for unlimited Internet each month. Instead, you pay for, say, 3 gigs of downloads per month, and once you use that up you either get moved to a dramatically slower connection, or your net gets cut off completely (I, unfortunately, am faced with the latter plan).
The pricing is even worse for mobile plans. It’s been a while since I’ve seen such a dearth of smartphones; it’s just too expensive, and the network too unreliable.
It’s bad, people. Much worse than most of the 3rd world countries I’ve been to. And it’s a result of a competition-stopping duopoly and one old, crusty cable carrying packets of information along the ocean floor.
But this may be fixed in the next few years. There are plans making their way around the political circles in New Zealand that would lay an extensive amount of fiber-optic cable across the country. Further, some politicians and companies are hoping to stretch another cable from the US to NZ in order to speed up the overall amount of information they can transmit simultaneously.
The results of these two actions would be massive, and the only thing that could possibly make it better would be to have another Internet service provider in the country (which would likely happen, if these new plans became realities).
As soon as Kiwis have access to cheap, dependable, always-on Internet, their strong culture and pioneer roots will put them in an ideal spot to innovate the hell out of the online world.
Let’s just hope the politicians and business-people here see this for the opportunity it is and make the right choices.
Update: December 13, 2016
Having re-visited NZ just recently, I can say that 1. their internet is now quite good, and 2. they are doing well as entrepreneurs, though they still have some trouble escaping the gravitational pull of Oceanic culture.
Which is the same trouble Icelanders have in this space, I’ve found. Their local cultures are such great testing grounds, and it’s a culture they know, so they start there. Once they reach a scale that would allow them to expand outward, however, they find that their service is shaped to service their locality, but doesn’t do quite as well overseas, where there’s a lot more competition. This wouldn’t be as much of an issue if their business grew up in a bigger pond, but if that were to be the case, they also wouldn’t have the same early opportunities that they enjoyed while growing.
It’s a tricky situation that I feel they’ll figure out. But for the moment, there’re still a few hurdles left to overcome.