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Kaupapa key for new ICT team

A new start-up software development company aims to be the No.1 Maori information and communications technology (ICT) provider for Tairawhiti.

The five-member team behind the business want to bridge the gap between Te Ao Maori (the Maori world) and custom software development by providing digital solutions, developed with kaupapa, te reo (language) and tikanga (traditional values) as the cornerstones.

Co-founder John Shortland says another factor which sets Piki Tech apart is that they are a team.

“There are plenty of individuals in software development but no teams.”

With their mixed skill sets, they can provide a rounded service and solve any ICT problems.

Aged between 21 and 42, with varying experience, the team is a “good melting pot” of skills.

And the new business has found a gap in the market.

“Many ICT providers do not understand a Maori organisation's kaupapa. Therefore, a lot of time is lost explaining why te reo and tikanga need to be part of the digital solution.”

The core services of Piki Tech are consultancy — motivating ideas from random thoughts into defined strategies; designing — transforming strategies from simple concepts into actual designs; and developing — delivering designs from mocks-ups into marketing solutions.

The genesis of Piki Tech was in 2018 when one of the five team members, Cameron Nepe, set up a business for contract work while he was still learning web development.

“Six or seven months later I bumped into John at Startup Weekend Tairawhiti (organised by Activate Tairawhiti). A few months later John shoulder-tapped the rest of the founders (Israel Baker-Rauna, Krisharn Ngamoki and Russ Walsh) who were all either doing or had completed study in computing systems at EIT Tairawhiti,” says Cameron.

Israel and Krisharn have both completed a Bachelor of Computing Systems degree with EIT Tairawhiti and Russ has nearly completed the same degree.

“We formed a collective and needed an entity, so adopted Piki Tech.”

That was April 2019 and in May 2019, Cameron and John took part in Hack Tairawhiti, another event for start-up businesses organised by Activate Tairawhiti.

From there Piki Tech became involved with Lily Stender and the Tolaga Bay Innovation Hub.

“This was our flagship learning project and we are still working with Lily on this. We built a web platform for grassroots businesses to promote themselves online.”

The idea behind this directory is that the owners and staff can get on with spending time on their business.

Working on this project confirmed for the men they can and want to work together.

Piki Tech's first paying customer was Candice Pardy, who won the Startup Weekend Tairawhiti in 2019.

“She engaged us to help her to automate the on-boarding process for her business Carloads. It is like Uber but gives a solution to transport workers for her family-owned orchard,” says John.

The men behind Piki Tech want to create employment not only for themselves but for Maori as well.

“Information Technology or technology in general is not traditionally a career path for Maori but we see it as a career path for our rangatahi (youth),” says John.

The beauty is that people can work remotely in ICT, which can give employment for whanau on the East Coast.

“In the long term we want to get our people out of forestry — it is not sustainable,” says John.

“We want to create alternative pathways for our people.”

The support of Trust Tairawhiti business adviser Malcolm Mersham is helping the men and their young business get all “their ducks in a row”.

“In reality over 70 percent of all start-ups fail, and we have learned lessons from that,” says John.

“The main reason for failure is failing to prepare. We are getting our business plan together, choosing the right business model, structure, the roles for everyone as well as learning the day-to-day business.”

The men say it is great to be their own bosses, “but at the end of the day it is all about customer satisfaction.”

With everyone spread out all over Tairawhiti, their meeting place is Zoom — a digital app where they can all go online and talk.

They also have periodic physical meetings in Gisborne.

Introducing the Piki Tech team:

John Shortland — Waikato Tainui/Ngapuhi

(Certificate in Business Computing, Diploma in Business Computing, Bachelor of Information Technology & Microsoft Certified Professional.)

A solution developer and a former research and development manager with 20 years experience coding business apps in New Zealand, Australia and China. He has a passion for developing software to support Maori kaupapa.

Cameron Nepe — Rongowhakaata/Ngati Porou/Waikato Tainui

(Bachelor of Iwi Environmental Management, Diploma in Forest Management, Diploma in ICT (EIT), and Enspiral Dev Academy Web Development Grad.)

A web developer and graduate of the Enspiral Dev Academy, recently transitioned to the technology sector from primary industries. Passionate about the need for tech solutions in Te Ao Maori, primary and other sectors, and desire to blaze a trail for Maori to enhance their digital literacy knowledge.

Krisharn Ngamoki — Ngapuhi/Ngati Porou

(Level 5 Diploma in Information Communications Technology, Bachelor of Computing Systems.)

Enthusiastic, loves meeting new people and working in a team. Has a high interest in coding and programming.

Israel Baker-Rauna — Rongowhakaata/Te Aitanga a Mahaki/Ngati Kahungunu

(Level 5 Diploma in Information Communications Technology, current student Bachelor of Computing Systems.)

Aiming to gain experience and knowledge in the app development field.

Russ Walsh — New Zealander/Kiwi

(Third-year student — Bachelor of Computing Systems.)

A realist with a sharp eye for detail. A deep thinker with strengths in problem-solving, maths and logistics.

Bridging gap: The Piki Tech team (from left) of Israel Baker-Rauna, Krisharn Ngamoki, Russell Walsh, Cameron Nepe and John Shortland want to bridge the gap between Te Ao Maori and custom software development. Picture by Liam Clayton