There are a lot of people in New Zealand who feel passionate about ICT, but few express their love for the business with the same enthusiasm as Andrew Hunt.
The CEO of the Kinetics Group is also one of the board members of the NZICT industry representative group, which he co-founded about three years ago.
Hunt started IT systems integrator Kinetics a decade and a half ago. “I always had the expectation that I’d own my IT business. What stopped me from doing it? Nothing.” Fifteen years later, the balance is a positive one: “It has been a good 15 years. Technology is a great thing to be involved with in New Zealand.”
Hunt can vividly recall hearing about computers for the first time at the age of 13, and he saved all the money he earned from paper round to buy one.
“I wrote some software and someone took pity and sold copies of my games in Singapore. I made a bit of money,” he recalls. Hunt still has the games stored somewhere and admits the quality wasn’t the best, “but [they] still made money”.
Since then, technology has been a critical part of his life. “It is tremendous to be involved in an industry that contributes so much to New Zealand’s economy,” he says.
The NZICT group was founded about three years ago, with a governance role, to represent the needs of the industry. One of its purposes is to spread the word about technology’s contribution to the nation and this is something Hunt feels strongly about. “I’m really proud of it, I don’t take any credit, lots of people contribute, but I’m really proud to be a part of it.
“Technology is the nerve centre of all New Zealand businesses,” says Hunt, adding that the industry is one of the country’s three big sectors alongside dairy and tourism.
“There is a perception that IT projects always go over budget and that is wrong and we’re working on changing it. Those projects pay off every single day. This is largely invisible and taken for granted,” he says.
Hunt believes awareness needs to be raised about the vital role technology plays in the country’s economy. “It is not enough for us in the industry to know how good we are. It is all New Zealanders. They get excited about our movies but that is minimal in comparison.”
He says one of the industry’s weaknesses is not doing a good enough job of making itself understood by the public at large. He adds it is also difficult to show the value of IT beyond helping businesses.
“It is about helping people connect – grandparents connecting with their grandchildren via Skype, for example. There is a degree of social wellbeing involved.”
Hunt is excited by the fast pace of the industry and the constant change.
“Describe our cell phones to a man from 1995 and he would think you’re crazy,” says Hunt. “Our industry has this incredible level of change and it enriches businesses and personal lives, as well as the country’s economy.”
Hunt contends the technology sector is underestimated and he wants to help the sector win the recognition he says it has earned.
“Technology is where jobs are at.”
Hunt sees the vast bulk of applicants to jobs are from overseas and “quite a lot of them are under qualified”. But, as he says, “there was a bit of an upside to the recession and that was that many talented Kiwis returned home”.
Kinetics Group was set up in Auckland, where Hunt was born and bred and where he still lives. “I live in St Heliers, which I love. I love the parks, I love the beaches… it’s home for me.”
Married with “two lovely daughters”, Hunt makes family his absolute priority when he is not at work. “I love spending time with them. We get around a lot,” he says, adding that the family has just returned from a road trip around the South Island.
Seeing more of New Zealand is something Hunt enjoys doing and he is proud to be a Kiwi. “New Zealand’s the best place in the world to live,” he says.