A summary of our roundtable discussion with American entrepreneur Craig Elliot.

By David Sorrenson

Some members of the First Cut Venture team sat in on a roundtable discussion with internet and startup veteran Craig Elliott. Craig started his career at Apple during the 1980s – famously being given a Porsche by Steve Jobs at the age of 23 when he was Apple’s top salesperson. He later progressed to working as Apple’s General Manager for Internet and Online services in the Pacific Region. After leaving Apple he took up the position of CEO at networking startup Packeteer, which he led for 8 years, though to its sale for $268 million in 2008. He has remained involved in several startups and is currently CEO of successful cloud-based networking startup Pertino.

In recent years, Craig has been heavily involved in entrepreneurship and startups in his adopted homeland of New Zealand. He is currently on the board of Xero, has served as a strategic advisor for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, and helped establish Kiwi Landing Pad to support NZ startups to enter the U.S. He was recently recognised with the Kea World Class Friend of New Zealand Award.

Craig had some interesting points to discuss, particularly in expanding to the United States, and NZ’s relationship with Silicon Valley. Some key takeaways:

  • Don’t expand offshore until you have your business model and product sorted. Once your product is well developed and you’re more established, then look for opportunities abroad.
  • When expanding overseas, try to focus on one small and more easily addressable market. For example, try to grab customers in San Fransisco first, as opposed to trying to reach the whole United States. This will keep you focused and effective as a small startup.
  • Outsourcing to Asian and Eastern European countries is more difficult and expensive than people think. Once the 12-hour time zone difference, quality assurance and on-location managers are taken into account, a small or midsized firm will struggle to save money.
  • New Zealand has a lot to offer Silicon Valley. We speak English, are close in timezone, and have a beautiful lifestyle to entice engineers and other talent. Craig hopes to see his home of Wanaka become a hub of outsourced engineering and user interface work.

–David Sorrenson is a second year BA/BCom student at the University of Auckland, studying finance and history.