Christchurch, New Zealand – “Your usual?” the barista asks, as the two customers who have just entered whip out their smart phones to scan the café’s QR code using New Zealand’s Ministry of Health contact tracing app. “Yes, and a to-go order for those back in the office. We’re celebrating! We just completed the launch of Comet’s new Disk Image backup software,” shares Joshua Flores.
“Good on ya mate!” Except for the cautionary yellow and black government-designed signage reminding people to wash hands, stand two meters apart and stay home if they feel sick, the scene is reminiscent of a pre-pandemic normality. Police officers and tech entrepreneurs alike grab a quick morning coffee and a scone before heading back to the office.
New Zealand, and countries like it who have taken decisive action on COVID-19, have seen business resume and a reversal in workforce trends as talent repatriates from other countries, flocking to the desirability of a lower risk place to live. Before 2020, many highly skilled Kiwis sought employment abroad to earn a higher income. Since March 14th, more than 77,000 New Zealanders have returned home. “We've seen an increase in the number of experienced Kiwis returning from overseas recently, plus skilled migrants of other nationalities who see New Zealand as a safe haven,” confirms Neil Hamilton, General Manager at Canterbury Tech, an organization which represents some of New Zealand’s most innovative companies and successful entrepreneurs. “Some of these people are choosing to run their own tech companies. We have great infrastructure, a thriving local tech community and a fantastic lifestyle — why wouldn't they want to live and work here?!”
While tech hubs, and business at large, in other countries confront the challenges that come with working remotely, New Zealand’s tech sector by contrast is poised for growth. “New Zealand is definitely experiencing a marked degree of increased interest from international investors who are noticing that the New Zealand startup ecosystem is at the start of its trajectory upwards, that our government is committed to driving innovation led growth, and that our startup valuations are more robust than in many other countries. Given that many of those startups are tech-based, this new money for growth means that our tech sector is humming in our COVID recovery period while many others are not,” noted Marian Johnson, head of the Ministry of Awesome, an accelerator for entrepreneurs and startups.
“Many companies have been shifting gears, pivoting directions, even developing entirely new products or commercial models. Many of the ideas will help in the current crisis situation as well as when we all make it through to the other side,” wrote Mitchell Pham, who leads the government’s Digital Council for Aotearoa New Zealand.
An example of this is Christchurch-headquartered Comet Backup who held a major product launch earlier this week. “With many businesses transitioning to flexible working environments, there is increasing demand for total system protection to ensure business continuity and minimal down time.
Rather than slowing down, we accelerated our development roadmap to deliver the capabilities needed given the current climate,” said Joshua Flores, General Manager at Comet Backup.
The software development company debuted their new Disk Image functionality during their launch webinars to an audience spread across more than 30 countries. “We’re confident this new capability will allow our clients to easily protect their customers from disaster while providing the full recovery options needed for everyday business operation,” said Mason Giles, Chief Technology Officer at Comet Backup. “This equips IT professionals with a modern, robust backup platform to ensure the protection of their customers. It also gives our managed service provider (MSP) clients a new tool to sell to their customers, helping their businesses to increase revenues during this period of economic instability.”
In June, when other industries were facing layoffs and hiring freezes, Comet Backup grew their team. The company has experienced more than 40 months of MOM growth, with no downturn during the market fluctuations tied to the pandemic. Tech hiring is an important segment of the economy to watch because “each new tech sector job creates five new jobs in other sectors,” according to NZTech’s Digital National Report.
“The accelerated drift towards doing business digitally is real — and New Zealand tech companies are well placed to take advantage of this,” observes Hamilton. “Covid-19 has further reduced the tyranny of distance. It doesn't matter whether customers are in New York, Shanghai, Sydney or London — they are looking for solutions to real problems. We have many smart and skilled companies focused on providing solutions to these challenges and expect our tech sector to grow significantly in the coming years.”
As the world continues to respond to the international health crisis, New Zealand can take advantage of being one of the most digital countries in the world. According to NZTech’s COVID-19 study, “Despite the devastating global pandemic, the tech sector is continuing to create growth in employment and exports for New Zealand. [The country’s] resilient technology, creative and digital sectors are not only weathering the global economic turmoil well, they are also shining a light on a future for New Zealand.”