The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

Interview: SF local (by way of NZ), Catherine Robinson — December 9, 2012

Interview: SF local (by way of NZ), Catherine Robinson

This week, Auckland Curator Kim Lesch chats with Catherine Robinson, Director of Kiwi Landing Pad in San Francisco. Hailing from Manaia in South Taranaki, Catherine was part of the founding group at Xero and also at Aptimize,  and has lived in Seattle for seven years before recently moving to SF. She talked about how Kiwi Landing Pad (KLP) helps startups succeed and how important communities are to the startup ecosystem no matter where you are based.

Catherine Robinson

How did you end up in San Fran, working at Kiwi Landing Pad?

I moved to San Francisco after Aptimize was acquired by NASDAQ listed Riverbed Technology in late 2011. Previous to this, I was part of the founding team at Xero in early 2006. I left Xero to join ActionThis, an online project management tool which we pivoted in late 2008 to become Aptimize.

I joined as the Director of Kiwi Landing Pad in September 2012. This is the second time I have lived in the US. I lived in Seattle for seven years before returning to Wellington in 2005.

What does the Kiwi Landing Pad do to help Kiwi start ups? 

We help selected high growth New Zealand technology companies establish and grow their business in the USA. We do this through three key things:

  • A desk – get off the plane, take a seat and get started
  • An internet connection – no social security card, or US credit history required, we have all the core services a startup needs to start doing business
  • A social connection – the most important element. Companies need to quickly establish relationships and we have built a curated community of advisors, seasoned and experienced entrepreneurs, investors and companies at similar stages of growth

KLP Foyer

What are the biggest differences between Kiwi and American culture?

In business, I think of the US as 50 individual states – there are different time zones, levels of business formality, laws etc. to consider in each state. It’s important to understand and rationalize this as it can help make the transition easier because it helps to focus on one or two key geographical and cultural locations. The SF Bay Area for example has 8m people and a GDP of more than US $500 billion and the PST time zone makes the actual time only three hours difference during daylight saving.

For me there are three key differences between Kiwis and Americans:

  • Confidence: Americans believe their startup will be successful and that failure helps to build successes. They have the confidence to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and go at it again

Collaboration: The markets here are big and working with other companies through partnerships, building sales channels, marketing strategies are the most effective and efficient way to break through

  • Communication: Be concise, clear and straight up. Americans are very good at communicating what they want and they expect the same from you. No ums, yeah-nah-yeah’s or mumbling

What are your top three pieces of advice for those thinking about heading to the states with their startup?

Think in terms of building an ecosystem. Can you partner with companies in your market or where you share the same customer base? Can you leverage their partnerships and relationships? What about resellers? Co-marketing initiatives?

Marketing always works – but sometimes people confuse this with getting the levers and strategies wrong. Tweak, measure, pivot and constantly invest in ongoing initiatives until you get the formula that works for your business.

Always be prepared to pitch – a coffee is never just a coffee and catch up about the weather. Every meeting is a potential sale or opportunity.

Who do you feel you’ve helped the most? What made them successful?

Each company and entrepreneur is different; we customize the level of support to what people need. David White, CEO of IndieReign came over as part of a joint initiative between KLP and the Ministry of Business and Innovation. David spent one month here in KLP. He consciously worked hard at his pitch and focused on achieving his key objectives. We helped to accelerate IndieReign’s growth into the American market. David gained highly skilled advisors and secured partnerships that put him well ahead of schedule.

We did a case study of his time at KLP and it makes compelling reading because it is about doing the simple things right. Click this link to read the IndieReign case study.

KLP4

What does the Kiwi Landing Pad hope to achieve in 2013? 

2013 is going to be a huge year for us.  We have been here for 18 months and we’re expanding our premises, making our network and services stronger and helping kiwi companies find opportunities and successes.

What are your five favorite spots in San Francisco?

  • The top of Twin Peaks, my pick for the best view of the San Francisco Bay Area.  As you walk to the top, the city, valleys and mountain ranges open up in front of you.
  • Magnolia Pub & Brewery where they brew the beer underneath the bar, sell growlers of their finest ale and serve it with pig ears and aioli.
  • Union Square for shopping, people watching and ice skating in winter.
  • Elite Audio Café for great coffee: they have perfected the art of flat whites and their latte art is spectacular.
  • Marlowe is an institution in SoMa and is owned by a very talented kiwi named Anna Weinberg.  Mmm Brussels sprout chips.

Thanks for chatting to The Fetch, Catherine! 

Interview: Auckland local, Anna Rose Kerr — November 25, 2012

Interview: Auckland local, Anna Rose Kerr

Auckland Curator Kim Lesch recently had a chat with Auckland local Anna Rose Kerr. Anna is a co-founder of Nerd Soirèe, a monthly meetup created for women who love the internet. She is also an advertising veteran, curious traveller, accomplished dinner party host, and a part of the digital team at Saatchi & Saatchi in Auckland. 

Anna Rose Kerr
Anna Rose Kerr

What are your five favorite things about Auckland? What makes this city a great place to live?

1. The diversity of the landscape, we have farms, beaches, mountains, islands and even a wee bit of metropolitan life in the middle. I grew up in a very clean, green Auckland – we had a vegetable garden and chickens out the back of our Ponsonby villa – and at that time we were seen as one of the cleanest, greenest cities in the world. We need to work at regaining that title.

2. It’s a really small community so most people you meet here are connected to you in some way.

That makes networking events a whole lot less awkward, because everyone just assumes you’re a friend of a friend.

3. We do have some pretty great ads, which makes it a pretty great place to live if that’s your profession.

4.  I’ve always been fascinated by history. While Auckland doesn’t have very much of it I do like that most of our place names are very descriptive of how they came to be. I made an iPhone app a while back, which translates NZ place names for those who don’t speak Te Reo so you can find out the story behind the place you’re in. Auckland also played a huge part in the worldwide women’s suffrage movement. I don’t think we do enough to celebrate the achievements of those women, but every time I visit the Auckland Art Gallery I visit the commemorative fountain across the road, and leave white camellias there if I can.

5. I love Britomart, which is where I live. I remember when this place was absolutely desolate a few years back, and a group of passionate, young Aucklanders have completely turned that around. There are several great restaurants and bars as well as communal working places attracting startups and creative businesses to the area. For me this is an example of how much potential Auckland has, and how that can be fulfilled if we can convince our smart young ones to stick around for bit.

How did you end up in advertising and what do you love about it?

I wanted to work in advertising when I was a very young child. I saw the famous Saatchi & Saatchi geese ad on TV and knew the building in Parnell, I thought they must have a lot of important people working inside. When I was 16 I wrote a very nice letter to them and managed to get work experience there, and now after a few years of advertising I’m back there again.

Brands are realising that instead of telling people to like them, they should just become more likeable. This makes my job really fun.

Essentially we work out what our clients can do to help or entertain people, and do it. I also benefit from working for the best boss in the world.

The Nerd Soirèe Crew, from left: Alex Waskiewicz, Alice Hawke, Anna Rose Kerr, and Jen Flitter. Not pictured: Laura Justice.

Tell me a little bit of background on Nerd Soiree and what goals you gals have.

We like to think of ourselves as a “social network” in real life, it’s an opportunity for women who love all things nerdy to come and meet new friends. And we’re fortunate enough to have some kind sponsors who buy us drinks! Our goal is to create a community of women who can look to each other for support as their careers progress. We have developers, bloggers, tweeters, designers, creatives, marketers and all sorts who come along, and we’re connected by our love for (or in some cases addiction to) the internet.

We’ve been doing this every month since February 2012 and visit different venues every month. If you’d like to come along, we meet on the 15th of every month and you can check our FacebookTwitterTumblr or join our mailing list for updates on where we’ll be. We’d love to meet you!

What led you to the decision to make it only for ladies?

Jen Flitter has always been very passionate about Nerd Soiree being ladies only, and using our community to help more young girls become interested in technology. It’s not about women taking over digital industries it’s just about getting the gender balance a bit closer to 50/50! There are plenty of open technology events which men can go to, and usually end up dominating, so we don’t feel like they’re missing out. One of the major benefits of having a female only environment is people are a lot more comfortable and open, so strangers become friends a lot quicker. It also means that we can do fun girly things like host an event in a lingerie store!

What groups would you suggest to others to enable them to be part of their local communities? International as well as NZ based would be great.

Obviously if you’re a woman you should come along to Nerd Soiree! Girl Geek Dinners has recently rebooted in Auckland and they are running events with interesting female speakers. We love what they’re doing, and in 2013 we hope to join forces on a couple of projects to help females get ahead in their careers. Watch this space!

Internationally, I think SheSays is really valuable. Only 3% of advertising creative directors are women, so their focus is making that number a lot higher by giving women the skills they need to get ahead in advertising, as well as changing perceptions in the industry.

As you can tell I’m really passionate about creating more opportunities for skilled women, but there are plenty of other inspirational events in Auckland that I enjoy going to; Gather, TEDX and Semi Permanent are among those. Just be friendly when you see someone standing on their own and you’re bound to make new friends!

Thanks for chatting to The Fetch, Anna Rose! 

For upcoming events, subscribe to and check the latest The Fetch in Auckland.

Interview: London local, Laura Scott — November 23, 2012

Interview: London local, Laura Scott

London Community Ambassador Amanda Foley recently had a chat with London local Laura Scott. Laura is a passionate cyclist, vegan, longtime Londoner,  editor of  The Locals and social director at MEC. Here’s what she had to say about life, London and beekeeping!

You’re a Canadian expat who has lived in London for 5 years now. What draws you to the city and keeps you here?

There is always so much happening in London, it kind of sucks you in. It seems like there is a new exhibit or lecture every other week. In many ways London lets you make of it what you want… there is just so much on offer.

What’s your background, and how did you end up becoming at Social Director for a large agency like MEC?

I completed my masters at Goldsmiths, University of London in Media and Communication. It seems funny now, but I was really interested in the way that social would impact cultural production and the ways in which brands would eventually seek to appropriate online cultures. I guess I was studying what was happening online at the right time, and was lucky enough to get into digital strategy as brands were starting to use Facebook and blogs.

What inspired you to create your website, The Locals?

I had been writing for other publications for a number of years, but never felt I was getting the opportunity to write about the things I am passionate about. I had debated starting my own site for a while, and then all of a sudden it seemed like all my friends were quitting their day jobs to start their own companies, from coffee shops to furniture design. Seeing the dedication to their various trades, really inspired me to not only document what they were doing, but this cultural movement of creators taking place across the globe.

The Locals currently has writers in London, New York, Venice and California . Where else else would you like to cover?

I would love to cover the nordic countries. I have been to Iceland, Sweden, and Norway a number of times and have completely fallen in love with the landscape and the people. Not to mention the incredible design, fashion and passion for food.
I would also love to feature more about Toronto on the site – its my home town, and there are some really interesting things happening there from food trucks (they are a gourmet experience there – trust me) to nuit blanche, the annual all-night arts festival.

As a passionate Londoner and an even more passionate cyclist, what are your top three tips for cycling in our fair city?

  • Get a bike you love! It is so important to make sure you get a bike that fits you, and that you are comfortable riding. I cycle daily and can honestly say every morning when I go to get my bike out I get excited – its the best part of my day.
  • Don’t worry about holding up other traffic. They may honk at you, but being more visible and taking a primary position is the best way to stay safe. Only let people past when you feel safe.
  • Get a good waterproof jacket. it is London afterall

What’s next?

I am currently looking at bringing the Locals offline and running talks/workshops where we can start to showcase some of the interesting things local business and people doing. I want to find a way to bring people together to celebrate and encourage the maker culture that has been emerging over the last year.

On a final (funny) note, we hear you’re a “Wannabe Beekeeper”. What is it about Beekeeping?!

A couple of years ago I read an article which mentioned that there had been a drop of 54% in English honey bee colonies over the last 20 years. I remember reading this and becoming quite concerned as the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations estimates that out of some 100 crop species which provide 90% of food worldwide, 71 of these are bee-pollinated. In fact in the UK, the government have stated that “the value of pollination to UK agriculture is £440 million per year”. So basically bees are pretty essential to our food chain. The more I read about the global decline of bee populations, the more it made me wonder if this is our warning. Has the bee become our canary in the coal mine? Shortly after I took beekeeping courses as I wanted to learn more about bee conservation and how we can help protect the species.  Right now I have the beekeeping outfit… just need to find somewhere in London to keep them.

Thanks for chatting to The Fetch, Laura! 

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