Dear minister,

It is no secret that 2020 has been and will continue to be a difficult year, but at Sharesies, we’re not one to get hung up on barriers – we look for solutions. We like to find ways to triumph that are both unexpected and thrilling, zigging where others zag. And so, that is the challenge we offer to you.
In times of crisis Kiwis don’t get down, we get cranking. We pull on that number 8 wire ingenuity we’re known for and spin straw into gold, making an impact across the world larger than other countries expect from us. You can see this now in our booming tech sector, churning out innovation after innovation that makes the ears of Silicon Valley bigwigs burn.
Covid-19 has rocked our country but we’ve come out on the other side better than most and we have a unique opportunity with this year's election to turn our ingenuity into a driving force.
Below are some strategies we think should be implemented to drive our tech sector and create exportable products that will both lead the world and bolster our economy.
Technology is New Zealand’s fastest growing sector and NZ Tech reported that in 2019 we employed 114,000 people, created 2,148 new jobs and created 555 new companies in New Zealand. We need to create an environment where tech entrepreneurs are given the right tools to build the next big innovation, which can then be sold across the globe.

Doing business
These tech innovations can help solve a raft of problems, especially in the face of a climate crisis. NZ scientists are world leaders in areas such as agricultural greenhouse gases, biodiversity, biomedical engineering and non-communicable disease and innovations in these areas are going to be vital in a post-covid, climate-affected world.
NZ already thrives as a bursting place to do business. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment continues to help local businesses grow and adopt digital technologies which supports our expansion overseas.
Governments also continue to be open to discourse with private business owners and this allows the public and private sectors to work together to create a better NZ. However, we do believe the government could do more to partner with private businesses to solve social issues. If a company is working on creating a cultural shift, we believe there could be funding placed within these businesses to support these efforts.
In June, the current government announced $401 million would be put towards maintaining research and development projects in the wake of covid’s economic impact. This secured jobs and ensured we were looking ahead and thinking about the recovery we want to build.

Drain to gain
This same support however is not regularly used to keep our best and brightest talent on our shores. Known commonly as the ‘brain drain’, often our best researchers and scientists leave NZ for the better funded and glitzier projects in Europe. And while they may have migrated home as a result of covid restrictions, there may not be many incentives to stay beyond the next few years, once the dust settles. By creating an environment that funds and supports these disruptors we can ensure those with the talent to change the world will do so from Aotearoa.
We also have an opportunity here to grow new talent through investment into STEM (science, tech, engineering and maths) programmes from an early age for our children. By inciting a passion in these areas for kids, we’re going to see a more technologically-liberated generation carrying us forward.
At Sharesies our purpose is to create a more financially empowered generation, so the stock market is no longer reserved for the wealthy, older generations in suits. STEM can be the same. What better way to ensure we grow technology into our main export than inspiring every New Zealander with the curiosity to challenge the status quo and innovate the world around them.
Technology as a product is our most valuable resource. It remains the only product that is truly scalable, with other exports tied to our finite resources. With a decisive, future-focused government we can capitalise on our relatively open and stable economy and catch a head start.
We’d love to see an investment in all technologies and start-ups, especially those that tackle the problems directly facing us such as climate change and the farming industry. 

The time is now for governments to be game changing in their principles and set our small but mighty country some massive targets for a new, better, normal.
Leighton Roberts is co-founder and acting CEO of Sharesies.