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5 lessons from Māori innovators

5 months ago

“Ko nga tahu a o tapuwae inanahi, Hei tauira ora mo Apopo” – “The footprints laid down by our ancestors centuries ago create the paving stones of where we stand today.”



What can we learn from our Māori innovators and businesses with those values at their core? Māori are enjoying a stellar year of innovation, and this year on Techweek TV, we were joined by Māori entrepreneurs as they discussed doing business differently, what makes a successful business, and how cultural values set Kiwi startups apart on the world stage. Here are a selection of lessons we learned – just in time for Matariki X this month!

Jesse Armstrong  Dig deep and understand your passion

Jesse of Vaka Interactive acknowledges the importance of understanding your brand and company values, and the impact that can have. "You have to really search deep within yourself and ask yourself, what are we the most excited about, most passionate about, what impact do we want to make?”

“My co–founders and I sat down and...we realised that in the world of storytelling we are most passionate about awakening the story. Finding stories that have amazing potential...and then using the right storytelling tools or mediums to draw the full potential of that story out. As soon as we worded it that way, [there was] a complete change across the mindset that we had, everybody's commitment shot up, our team got more excited, creativity started flowing…”

Maru Nihoniho – Māori values work in business

The founder of Metia Interactive, behind beautiful games like Guardian Maia based on Māori mythology, gives us the lowdown on applying Māori values to her work. "When you look at Māori values, and kaitiakitanga (guardianship) – that's about protection, or to preserve. What we're doing in storytelling, and using creative tech to do that, is to ensure that we do have a responsibility of care in how we tell those stories.”

“On the other side of that is how we work as a team together. So we don't just work with kaitiakitanga, we work with whanaungatanga – we're a whanau, we're in this together – and manaakitanga – we're sharing and caring."

Amber Taylor – Don’t go it alone

Amber talks about the path she has taken as the co-founder of ARA Journeys, and the tatou tatoapproach – which is all about working towards solutions and overcoming barriers together. “Talk about what you're doing and reach out to your networks, find mentors who can help you, people who can connect you to help you grow. Don't think that you have to do everything on your own! Find a team to wrap around you and wrap an advisory board around that – that can help bring your idea into the market.”

Morris Pita – Fail fast...but less 

Morris Pita turns the familiar adage on its head. "You can fail fast a lot less if you think first... really do your homework. Until you know the problem as well as you can, and you're confident you've listened to people who are going to be your users, stakeholders or customers to really understand it from their point of view, you're not ready to go. Because the risk is you'll build a solution that doesn't match their real needs."

He’s also a big proponent of tatou tatou. "In business you often hear terms like collaboration and integration. Our people have been doing that for generations, we don't have to actually learn that or apply a business tool – it's just who we are. That creates a massive advantage when you're looking to create long term commercial relationships."

Steve Saunders – Collaboration can help you scale

Speaking of commercial relationships, Steve Saunders of Robotics Plus says that collectiveness and collaboration played a big role in their success story. “We didn't need to raise capital – it was strategic, it was about how we go out to the world...it was really important to find money that matches our values. Taking something from an idea to a robust commercial product is quite a leap...so partnering with someone like Yamaha [with] years of experience in design and manufacturing really solved that next step for us."

He says the steps to building success are fundamentally simple. "Are you solving a global problem, have you got the team to deliver, what's the business model, and how will you sell your story – and if you can do that, the stars align."


Matariki X is back for 2019, with an exciting new programme to inspire and connect the Māori innovation ecosystem. This year there are over ten different master classes, and keynote speakers include Jesse Armstrong (featured above) – among many other rising stars!

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