Doing business with Josh Comrie


Josh Comrie: 'Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something'


Name: Josh Comrie

Title: Director, Potentia and Aspire Executive Search and investor (10 current technology startups and one successful exit)

Twitter handle: @joshcomrie

How long have you been in your current role?

I started Potentia 11 years ago and co-founded Aspire three years ago; up until Q4 of 2015, I held the managing director role in both businesses. What’s changed? I have just completed a majority sell down of Potentia and Aspire (to the incumbent leadership teams). I remain a shareholder and director but no longer work in either business.

My responsibilities have changed over time and flex to meet the needs of the business. It varies between strategy, marketing, key account selling, writing and obviously leadership. Someone once said the role of the CEO is something that no-one else either can, or wants to do.

I have invested in others businesses for a number of years directly, in equities and recently as a founding partner of Flying Kiwi Angels.

What business technology issue is your organisation focusing on?

We have our internal focus which is on digitising the recruitment experience and then that of our clients which is in seeking to continue aligning IT strategy with business strategy – while business is changing at a rate of knot. In my mind, where technology is hosted or how it looks on mobile pales into insignificance when faced with the question of strategic alignment.

There are two levels of roles that we’re seeing a lot of and they’re both looking to achieve the same thing; the ongoing professionalisation of development environments. Josh Comrie

– this shaped my early business drive. And 'I’d rather have half of something worth $5 million than all of something worth $1 million' which has fashioned my thinking on company ownership and driven my investment pursuits.

Professionally, who do you admire most?

Without a doubt Elon Musk – he is THE entrepreneur of our generation. Smart, driven, a huge work ethic, astute and incredibly bright, Elon is nothing short of a phenomenon. In New Zealand Rod Drury has done it twice and I have a lot of time for Shane Bradley.

How long have you been working in IT? How did you get into IT?

In the late 90’s I was selling ERP systems and have been building technology businesses ever since then. I got into IT as I was contracting in the UK as an accountant and was involved in new system implementation driven by the Y2K Bug (I remember billboards with actual bugs on them!), and realised that this wave of spending and change wouldn’t end there. When I returned to NZ I focused on the career change into IT.

If you weren't working in IT, What would you be doing?

I would be pursuing my dream of being a full-time professional speaker and author (that’s the plan for my mid 40s). Or dog walking.

What are some of the emerging roles that you are seeing in ICT, and what are the business drivers behind these appointments?

There are two levels of roles that we’re seeing a lot of and they’re both looking to achieve the same thing; the ongoing professionalisation of development environments. They are called different things but tend to be focused on achieving the same thing.

At an individual contributor level, these are roles focused on driving ahead software development environments; continuous integration/continuous deployment – broadly captured in DevOps. This also bleeds into test driven development implementation - and may be delivered via a specialist or through new leadership.

At a leadership level, the new roles are around CTO/director of development/VP engineering. The common flavour of these roles is someone to bring order, structure and process to development outcomes.

The CDO role is just entering common vernacular and we predict it will gain rapid favour. Everyone is of course looking at a certain airline to see how they do it.

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