From corporate worker to entrepreneur

 From corporate worker to entrepreneur

New Zealand accountant, Israel Cooper CPA, has taken more risks and worked in more industries in his nine-year career than most people do in their lifetime. 

The 32-year-old has worked at a Big Four accounting firm, was Chief Financial Officer of a robotics company, co-founded a software business and a construction company, and is on the board of Parachute Music, which is the largest music festival in the southern hemisphere. 

Despite his impressive resume, being an accountant wasn’t Israel’s first choice. 

“I became an accountant by accident. In high school my intention was to make movies, so accountancy was never part of my thinking,” Israel says.  

It wasn’t until he had a chat with his parents that he decided working with numbers seemed like a good career path.

Accounting experience to establish your own company

So after completing a Bachelor of Business and a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Queensland, he was hired in an audit position at PwC in Christchurch. 

But Israel didn’t have to wait too long to realise his dream of working in the film industry. 

In 2011, he left PwC to help launch a new company called Massive Software, which uses software to create animated crowd scenes for movies.

The business had instant success, with the software being used in the blockbuster movie series - The Lord of the Rings.

“Wellington became the centre of the movie making business. Massive Software had just started and they were in desperate need of capital raising. I had a lot of experience in this type of work, so it seemed like a really good opportunity to start putting into practice what I had learnt at PwC.” 

Massive Software was eventually sold and Israel decided to start a new business called Trigger Happy, which creates animated software for tablet devices called Toon Hero.  

Starting a business

Around the same time as Trigger Happy was launched, Israel and his family were affected by the devastating earthquake that hit Christchurch, New Zealand. 

Israel knew he had to do something, so he co-founded a construction business with his father called Buildtech to help rebuild the city. 

“Seeing your home town devastated like that, your family, the people you love, all impacted me in such a powerful way. I’m an action person and I knew I had to be involved.” 

The company has so far re-built and repaired over 1,300 properties in Christchurch. 

When looking back on his impressive career, Israel believes one of the best moves he made was taking the risk of leaving the security of a big accounting firm and starting new businesses.

“At a big corporate company such as PwC it’s a great environment to learn but the best learning is when you’re on your own.” 

Israel believes being a good networker has played an important role and events such as CPA Australia Career Expo are a great place to start. 

“These events are a great opportunity to network, to meet other people who are in a similar field, especially in a place like New Zealand where there are two degrees of separation. We’re a small market, a small business community, relationships become even more important, so I would strongly recommend attending.” 

Israel Cooper’s career advice: 

1. Form strong relationships with people, so you can draw on their expertise

2. Have strong mentors from a variety of backgrounds

3. Have good governance – listen to other people’s advice 

As for Israel, his passion for helping the local community continues to grow as do his two businesses, Trigger Happy and Buildtech Holdings. 

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