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We're on to a good thing

The July Meetup featured a conversation with Racetech Managing Director David Black.

David builds the best racing car seats IN THE WORLD.

There are quite a few racing drivers alive today because they had the good sense to install a Racetech seat. It was a fascinating conversation, and I think everyone learned something about technology, business, and motorsport safety.

The most important points for me were: First, New Zealand automotive manufacturers can compete with anyone in the world; And second, my experimental meetup format does what I hoped it would do.

The market

David supports the message we got from Martin Simpson. There are lots of specialised areas within the automotive market that are ideal for small, intelligent, highly innovative, agile companies. David Black reckons there are about a million racing cars in the world. That's a good market for a company like Racetech, but way too small for the Toyotas and General Motors and Volvos. David sees considerable potential for Racetech to grab a much bigger slice of the racing car market.

Racetech can also grow its market by targeting track-day cars. Motoring enthusiasts in rapidly growing numbers are taking their cars to the local racetrack for car club track days. Which makes a lot of sense. What's the point of driving a Porsche 911 around the streets, where you can never go more than a hundred k? If you're gonna go wild on Manfeild you probably need some extra safety equipment. Like, a Racetech seat. F'rinstance.

The thing is. Between the mainstream market (120 million cars, trucks, and so on PER YEAR, with a total fleet of about 1.24 billion), and Racetech's target market (a million odd racing cars, in the world), there must be - Oh - I'd say hundreds of markets that would suit the kind of hardware and software manufacturers that thrive in New Zealand.

Darren Riches' Ford Popular at Port Road, Nov 2013These are fast-growing markets. I recently crunched the numbers for an article on renewable crude oil production. Here's how I worked it out. The US market pretty-much reached saturation in the late 1990s, at about 750 to 800 vehicles per 1,000 people. It's the same in New Zealand. Assuming the world population stablises at about 11 billion people, then the world car and truck fleet would grow to about 8.3 billion ~ 8.8 billion vehicles. (My paper shows that even then, when everyone has a car, there'll be no shortage of renewable petrol and diesel, just like a said in From Smoke to Mirrors, but that's a future blog post). To support the global fleet, the auto industry would need to be able to produce almost half a billion vehicles per year, just to support fleet turnover. I suspect they have their work cut out for a least half a century, just putting everyone into a decent family car and making sure there are enough trucks to go around.

No way will they even think about trying to compete with Kiwi companies building fire engines or track-day cars or 20% oversize '59 Cadillac Coupe de Ville replicas.

I haven't heard NZ Trade and Enterprise talking up any of these opportunities. Which is why every software and hardware company needs to be part of Technology Valley. We are holistic and inclusive. Where else could a sustainable energy developer get advice from an automotive manufacturer?

The format

This year's meetups were part of an experiment. I said I'd do it for a year and see if it worked.

I reckon the format works. I wanted to break down the barriers between entrepreneurs and technologists. The format seems to achieve that. I'm very happy about that because I think the key to achieving Technology Valley's core objective is to get everyone talking to each other. If we keep doing this, we'll start to see collaborative projects, perhaps even spin out new startup companies. Most importantly, though, I hope our guests will take away something concrete. Perhaps they'll meet their next new employee, or someone will make a comment that helps solve a problem.

We'll need to do this for a couple of years to see how it works out for everyone. But I think we are off to a great start.

If, by now, you don't know what I'm talking about, that's probably because you haven't been to a Technology Valley Meetup this year.

The next one's tentatively scheduled for late September.

Register on our Meetup page and you'll get invited as soon as we've organised it. 


Kevin Cudby is a Wellington-based Freelance Writer and Parametric Modelling Consultant who loves writing about cool new technology. Email him to discuss your requirements: hello {a}

We're on to a good thing

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