Tag Archives: value proposition

Tourism and niche food – a powerful intersection to build on

After a full day travelling I arrived on the island of Bornholm and cranked into another packed day of meetings all over the island and yet again more productive discussions and outstanding people.  Bornholm and Taupo share a lot of similarities, including population sizes and dominant industries.  Bornholm is the same size as Lake Taupo.


Destination Bornholm and the Business Center Bornholm

First cab off the rank was tourism with Peter and economic development with Jørn.  Bornholm has encouraged people to purchase vacation homes out of the main centres, perhaps a solution for the Auckland housing “crisis”.  Bornholm is trying to extend stay to shoulder season and leverage off the growing outdoor tourism market.  There’s one main visitor centre open all year round with others only seasonally.  Economically there is a big focus on proactively working with existing businesses and providing a one stop shop.

There were both differences and similarities to NZ and the topic of collaboration surfaced consistently.  How easy is collaboration in tourism compared to other industries?   Do more accommodation or activities grow or hinder industry?  Does necessity drive people together or apart?

Bornholms Middelaldercenter

Next stop was Niller from the medieval centre and a great example of what happens when you mix passion with authenticity.  The centre blends historical and cultural tourism delivered in way where all ages can actively engage.



Then onto meet Mikkel at a food and culture house.  The food industry here is a outstanding showcase of adding value to primary product having developed from almost nothing 15 years ago to the place to be in Denmark for niche food.  Gaarden is a great intersection of regional food and historical heritage and an example of very collaborative industry in action where activities are as close to producers as possible…aka localism.  Like Oregon, there’s a lot of potential for transfer to NZ, and one that the Food Innovation Network is tapping into but I believe has considerably more scope in rural locations, especially to get away from price-taking commodity trading.  Here’s one bit of the Gaarden store selling local products, not bad for an island 588km²!


Go Bornholm and East Winds

Finally I spent time with Jonas, a local entrepreneur who simply gets on and does stuff.  In addition to the East Wind activity business he has recently launched Go Bornholm, and online booking plaftorm, I lost count of how many bookings flowed through during our discussion…the digital age is now the norm.  If destinations don’t offer bookings direct from their website, where is the call to action?  It’s like not being able to book a room on a hotels website.

So what?

Whilst tourism is “lower value” as pointed out by Sir Paul Callaghan, it’s still the starting point for many communities rather than simply trying to parachute into something new.  Combining tourism with adding value to primary produce, locations can move up the value chain, and then overlay technology to step up again – it just takes market focus, capital, time, persistence…


Independent, Insignificant and International

Independence Day

Over the weekend it was onwards to the East Coast to mark the halfway point with my sister and her husband in Maryland.  I had a great peek into the star spangled banner that is Independence Day which was full of red, white and blue and more fireworks than I’ve ever seen before.  I was also fortunate to have tour around a Camp/Retreat Centre, which Kiwis would know as a Summer Camp or Camp America.

Washington D.C.

Today is was onwards to Washington D.C, which is a stunning capital city.  There’s so much history here and it is made all the more accessible by the 17 Smithsonian museums being free.  Amazing what that does to enable tourism, the museums and the City were packed.  The Smithsonian museums came about through a gift from James Smithson, who had never been to the United States.  It took the US government of the time 10 years to decide whether to accept the gift and then decide what to do with it and another 9 years before the first building was completed.  New Zealand doesn’t quite make the cut on the world population map unfortunately, shows how insignificant we are.


International Economic Development Council (IEDC)

I met with the IEDC who provide a large range of services to over 4,500 members worldwide.  They have literally written the ‘how to guide’ on economic development.  As part of my visit I also reciprocated with a presentation of New Zealand, Taupo and my observations/comparisons so far.  Their office is just around the corner from the Whitehouse which was a little surreal.


Lynn, Scott Tatiana and the team shared some of their key learnings from dealing with organisations all around the world including:

  • taking care of existing business
  • understanding who you are as a location
  • developing a plan with clear priorities
  • how success is often a combination of things, economies work as systems (aka systems thinking)

Insights for smaller locations:

  • connectivity to broadband to enable home based businesses
  • the tension that sometimes arise from some in communities that don’t want growth but want good infrastructure – how do you afford that?
  • relationship between cities and rural areas – should cities subsidise rural areas given they are providing most of the food?
  • creating places where young people want to live

Many of the above have surfaced through other conversations, so some clear themes are emerging.

One thing that puzzles me is that remote working was supposed to be widespread now and it is still predicted to be in the future.  Is that really happening?  If so, cities wouldn’t be growing as fast as they are, so what is holding people back from doing it?

Inspiration from innovation

Back into Indiana today from Michigan and onto one inspirational place to another.  Here’s a view across Lake Michigan…it’s nearly 100 times bigger than Great Lake Taupo…


Northeast Indiana Innovation Center (NIIC)

Karl and the team raised the bar again as hosts, giving me the full tour and lifting the hood on what they do.  Karl is the past President of the National Business Incubation Association, so I had assumed it would be a day of incubation.

I was completely wrong.  Karl and the team offer a full range of services to assist entrepreneurs, which have been refined over 15 years.  As Karl puts it, entrepreneurship is a fourth leg in addition to the traditional economic development tools of retention, attraction and workforce development.  NIIC has the results to back it up, having helped over 100 companies grow at an average rate of 79% compounded annually, with 91% of businesses surviving after 5 years and 98% retention within Indiana.


Karl has authored a number of publications including the Four Levers of Success, which he defines as:

  1. Capital Access and Availability
  2. Knowledge Catalysts
  3. Human and Physical Infrastructure
  4. Entrepreneurial Climate and Values

Makes you think about where you live and if those exist.

Karl had some very insightful and pragmatic views:

  • Even though they have very clearly defined stages, the team “meets entrepreneurs at the stage you find them” and then assist from there
  • The best entrepreneurs are built out of opportunity not necessity, often we hear the opposite?
  • Workforce development (that phrase keeps popping up) is focused on training people to fit the demand for jobs.  But given the changing nature of work…what will that be in future and what about peoples passion?


Innovation Connector

Then it was a flying visit to see Ted at Muncie, a smaller rural town.  The Innovation Connector offers similar services to NIIC.

Ted and the team have and strong focus on relationships, collaborating closely with Ball State University (yet again education is a key component).  Ted’s view on smaller communities where knowing their value proposition and not standing still…Muncie lost a huge number of manufacturing jobs but are right in the middle of reinventing.

The closest thing I can think of to the these two organisations in New Zealand is The Icehouse…imagine a few more services like that supporting New Zealand…

It started in a garage

Huge day as I sit here after midnight.

Today was the first day of scheduled meetings, so the real start of the trip and a test of my logistical skills.  I started the day in San Francisco, before heading out to Silicon Valley and have finished up late in Sacramento.  In between meetings I managed to sneak in a whirlwind tour of the Computer History Museum, a visit to Googleplex, a peek at the campus of Stanford University and a look at the garage where HP started.


My original plan was to blog daily about the key insights from each meeting.  The problem with that is that the people I’m meeting with are so smart they could have a whole website dedicated to them (if they don’t already) which makes my original plan problematic!  So the revised plan is to give an overview of the organisation and share the most important insight.  Here’s my attempt to do it justice.

Working Solutions

Working Solutions provide microfinancing of between $5-50k.  Microfinancing is something many of us will have heard about, Kiva is a good example.  I see in NZ Lifewise has been at it for a while and Kiwibank has recently started.   Corinne explained how the key difference is that Working Solutions match the business up with a mentor for the life of the loan, which is usually 5 years.  They must be doing something right because the repayment rate is 97%.  The United States is similar to New Zealand in that the majority of their economy is made up of small businesses (note the size of businesses are classified differently in each country for obvious reasons).  Are there any bankers views on whether this has legs in New Zealand?

Kiwi Landing Pad

Pam is based at the Kiwi Landing Pad (KLP) and works for the New Zealand Consulate General West Coast, USA and is supported by Immigration NZ, NZTE and ATEED.  KLP is a great initiative, it is amazing how some workspace and great connected people can go a long way (thanks Sian Simpson for previous insights).  Pam identified an interesting intersection here for regions (especially outside cities) in how international talent can be attracted even just for short term stays, making it easy for people to invest and live, and leveraging existing and new international connections.

Computer History Museum

Marguerite has recently joined the Computer History Museum from Stanford University.  She is co-editor of three books, The Silicon Valley Edge (2000), Making IT: Asia’s Rise in High Tech (2006), and Greater China’s Quest for Innovation (2008)…so getting one insight from our meeting is tricky!

So I’ll try two insights instead.  The first was the distinction of two between innovation and entrepreneurship, where:

  • Innovation is creating disruptive technology and business models
  • Entrepreneurship involves starting, growing and scaling.

Would you describe your culture as one of Innovation and Entrepreneurship?  How would you score companies in your region?

The second insight is around how to enable regions to grow by:

  • Finding the unique competence or value proposition
  • Making this proposition dynamic over time, i.e. it will change
  • Balancing competition with being complimentary

Does your region have each of those attributes clear?

So, there we go.  As we all dream of replicating or having the next Silicon Valley in our region, remember it all started in a garage in 1938…