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Having recently returned from Malaysia, where

he was an invited speaker to address the 2016

DIGI Malaysia SME® Congress, Scott Kington

conceded that he felt good being driven around,

seeing himself in posters, and talking on the

radio about THE umbrella. Yet it took him, and

his two partners, years of trying and enduring

multiple setbacks before they brought their

product and the brand to the spotlight of

Malaysia and more than 40 other countries in

the world. Their Blunt journey began in 1999

when one of the three, Greig Brebner, was

taking his OE (overseas experience) in London,

where he was constantly frustrated with the

poking and easily broken umbrellas he used

in rainstorms. His wishing for a tough and

“round edged” umbrella gave him the initial

idea and design of “Blunt”. Years later, at a

chance meeting back in New Zealand, he and

Scott, who remembered similar experiences

during his own OE in England, clicked over the

potential of perfecting standard umbrellas

sold on the market, and turning the project

into a revenue-generating business. Yet while

their science/engineering background enabled

them to work out their ideal product relatively

quickly, their aspiration to capture 1% of the

1.5 billion umbrellas sold worldwide annually

began to materialise only in 2008, when

they managed to get some private investors

on board and revamped their strategy from

marketing technology to building brand. Scott’s

advice to the audience on building a brand

was to challenge the normal, think differently,

recognise the environment, be a solution, and

be patient.

Chintaka Ranatunga is a first class honours

MCom graduate from Auckland’s Business

School. Since he was always interested in

business start-up, he went to the Silicon

Valley upon graduation, where he was greatly

impressed with the scale of both the industry

and the market. He then worked as a strategy

consultant in New Zealand, Australia and

Singapore. The corporate experience and

cultural exposure became a springboard for

him to begin his own seed and early-stage

tech fund, Global from Day One Fund II. He

noted that there were plentiful of potentially

competitive, niche companies in New Zealand

still under the radar; and he currently invested

two million dollars in some of them. He pointed

out that New Zealand’s per capita capital

supply level was comparatively low, about

ten dollars in 2015. He was therefore striving

to grow his Fund’s seed capital to ten million

dollars in the foreseeable future. Besides

increasing financial support to early-stage

Kiwi concepts and ventures, he also wanted

to expand the Fund’s business portfolio to

include more investments in Asia and the United

States. From his observation, New Zealand

companies often found Asian markets more

challenging and involving more trials and errors

than those of the US and Australia. Yet once

a company made an entry to Asia, it would

usually leverage on the highly competent, but

still relatively cheap labour in tech sectors of the

region. He concluded his talk by encouraging

interested participants to start early “when

your opportunity cost is still low” in terms of

personal commitments.