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9

IT company in 1993. Twelve years later, he

expanded his operation to Vietnam, and in

2015 his Augen Software Group won Vietnam’s

prestigious IT Excellence Award. Mitchell

explained that one important push factor for

him to “go global” was that New Zealand’s

small population meant that both its market

and talent pool were too small to scale up

and deliver tech innovations. Meanwhile, the

key pull factor that convinced him to invest in

the ASEAN region were its across-the-board

high GDP growth, golden demography, rising

middle class, increasing urbanisation, growing

consumerism, strong domestic and foreign

direct investment, expanding private sector,

increasing macro-economic and political

stability, trade liberalisation, and large and fast-

growing digital economies. He was particularly

attracted to Vietnam because it was the largest

digital economy in Southeast Asia, registering,

for example, an average of 1.5 smartphones per

person, and 20,000 people working in Quang

Trung Software Park in Ho Chi Minh City.

When working on growing his business in

Vietnam, Mitchell had also helped NZ Trade

and Enterprise, Kiwi local government agencies,

research institutions, ASEAN-NZ Business Council

and other associations in the technology sector,

to develop models for other NZ companies to

leverage already-on-the-ASEAN-ground assets

and capabilities in their efforts to enter Southeast

Asian markets. He was happy to see the initial

fruition of the effort: the official opening of Kiwi

Connection in Ho Chi Minh City on 7 June 2016 by

Minister of Economic Development Steven Joyce.

Mitchell hoped that this NZ technology hub

would create a space for the average Vietnamese

to build high tech into their imagination of New

Zealand, which was thus far typified by dairy

products, tourism and English education. He

also hoped that Kiwi Connection would help

NZ primary industries and conservation groups

to learn how their Vietnamese counterparts

developed and exploited IT technology in similar

lines of work. His ultimate goal was to develop a

NZ-Vietnam silicon valley.