As Kiwis, we punch well above our weight. We only make up 0.067% of global population, yet pretty much all of the world’s most successful companies have a Kiwi (usually more than one) somewhere in the ranks; generally pretty close to the top. This is what I love about New Zealanders. I’m not sure what it is, but I think it’s a mixture of our gumption, friendliness, inquisitiveness, boldness, and of course that special something we call “Kiwiness” (you’ll only get that if you’re from New Zealand) that just doesn’t seem to be matched by any other country (no, not even you Australia).
As a 19-year-old entrepreneur, travelling the world is a pretty epic thing to do, of course for all of the normal reasons (food, sun, girls, swimming, food and food), but also because there is a door open everywhere you go. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Sydney, New York City, London, Buenos Aires or even somewhere like Geneva, when you jump off the plane there will always be one of our 1 million Kiwis living abroad waiting to say “g’day mate, how’s it going?” In that way New Zealand is like a club. You only truly realise that when you cross oceans become saturated with the other 7.25 billion people around the globe (who are generally pretty cool people too!).
I’ve been travelling through the U.S. of A for the past five weeks scoping out a few new business opportunities, and have been incredibly fortunate to fully realise the power of the ‘Kiwi club,’ having had the opportunity to hang-out with some very cool Kiwis. Eric Watson and his 21-year-old son Sam are two of those Kiwis. I did an interview with Eric about two months ago, and he very generously invited me to stay at his amazing pad in NYC while we look into a few new business opportunities together. An amazingly kind gesture from an entrepreneur whose passion for business is inspiring. I’ve already learnt a lot from Eric through his mentoring, and have been humbled to be introduced to many of his friends around the world.
Although not in the case of Eric, one of the coolest things of all is that, generally speaking, our international Kiwis have relatively low profiles in New Zealand, so it’s literally like meeting a special breed of folk you didn’t even know existed.
The other day I was in San Francisco and did a post to my Facebook page about how I had just visited Google in Palo Alto to meet a friend of mine called Victoria Ransom (a pretty well known Kiwi!). One of my friends commented on the post letting me know that a Kiwi called Craig Nevill-Manning works for Google in NYC. “Sweet,” I thought, “I may as well reach out to Craig and introduce myself. It will be nice to hear the Kiwi accent again.” After a bit of guess work, I worked out Craig’s email and dropped him a line. One week later Sam Watson and I were sitting with Craig at Google HQ in NYC. Craig isn’t just any old ‘Googler’ either, he’s the guy who convinced Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google founders) to let him set up Google’s first office outside of Silicon Valley in midtown Manhattan back in 2000 when the company had about 150 staff. Today there are 4,500 Googlers in NYC, and another 50,000 around the world. Sam and I sat down with Craig and chatted business, New Zealand, sheep and Lord of the Rings. An amazing experience and a super humble guy.
After meeting Craig in NYC, I got on the phone to do an interview with a guy called Josh Bayliss. Heard of him? He’s a Kiwi with a pretty low profile back home, yet he’s doing the most amazing things globally. Josh, 40, became the CEO of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group at 38 (!), making him Branson’s second in command. How incredible is that?!
Or what about Chris Liddell, the former CFO of Microsoft and CFO of General Motors? Did you know that a Kiwi used to be in charge of the money at Microsoft? Yep, Chris is a Kiwi, based out of NYC, today leading an incredible life as CFO of WME-IMG and as a venture capitalist.
Sarah Robb O’Hagan is another awesome example. A Kiwi New-Yorker, Sarah is the President and CEO of Equinox, a company with 14,000 staff. She’s a Kiwi who started out at Air New Zealand and then went on to Virgin Atlantic, Gatorade and Nike – holding some of the most senior positions in the world in all of those companies!
One of my other favourite examples is a guy called Peter England. Peter came off a farm down in Canterbury and was educated at Christchurch Boys’ High School. He then went on to become CEO of a little company in the U.S. called Elizabeth Arden; heard of that?
I really could go on forever: Guy Horrocks, Brian Sweeney, Jack Tame, David Howell, Ian Wright, they’re all Kiwis out there on the global stage killing it.