Once a month we have a group of "friendly dragons" (aka Team Soda) that come together to hear pitches from startups and review the progress being made of those in a Soda startup programme. Over the next few months we'll be introducing you to this panel of knowledgeable business legends. This one's all about Simon Graafhius.

Simon Graafhuis is the CFO of Gallagher Group. He joined Gallagher in 2008 with solid experience in finance roles, system implementations and organisational change for large New Zealand companies and offshore subsidiaries. His key objective is to deliver financial solutions in a way the business will understand the complete picture and ultimately drive the right behaviour. Gallagher is renowned for its enduring partnerships and Simon says this certainly has its advantages in his role.

Simon has been one of our "friendly dragons" for Team Soda since 2015. He’s known to be quick, kind, and a realist. Get to know him a little better below.

Who inspires you?

Great people who are motivated by helping others and making the world a better place.

What’s the best concert you've ever attended?

U2 Zooropa – was back in my Uni days (a long time ago), a mate had a flat backing onto Western Springs. He arranged a grandstand in his backyard for us all to watch, and it was BYO – some people even jumped the fence to watch the show but came back because the view was better. U2 were ahead of their time in terms of the live stage spectacle.

If you could be any animal, which would you be and why?

One of my dogs – they are spoilt rotten, and have a great life doing whatever they want.

What’s your favourite business book/podcast?

Jon Krakauer’s 'Into Thin Air' - it's a great read.

What are you passionate about?

Life – we only have one chance, so we might as well make the most of it.

What’s your favourite movie?

The Silence of the Lambs. It was a great movie in its day.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

I’m not crazy by nature, but I love my scuba diving. I’ve still gone for a dive after I’ve had a mako shark at the back of my boat. My dive buddy decided he was going to stay in the boat. I did have second thoughts when I saw a flash of silver in the corner of my eye during the dive, but it turned out to be a couple of big kingfish checking me out.

What are you currently watching on Netflix?

The Last Dance – Michael Jordon and Chicago Bulls Documentary.

If you could visit anywhere in the world you’ve never been before, where would it be?

I’ve been fortunate to do a fair bit of travel for work and personal, so have been to most places. I've been to Nepal and taken a tourist charter flight to see Mount Everest, but I'd like to trek to Everest Base Camp one day (Bucket List).

Which four people, living or dead, would you most like to eat dinner with? What kind of dinner party would it be?

With the exception of my family – it would be great to have Nelson Mandela for a conversation about how he learnt tolerance and forgiveness, Billy Connolly to provide some entertainment, always thought Michael Jordon would be great, but after Netflix documentary, I think Dennis Rodman would be much more fun, and perhaps Lenny Kravitz playing some acoustic guitar in the background.

I’m a typical New Zealander – so preference would have to be a casual BBQ (cooked over charcoal) so no rush, with fresh crayfish and a few craft beers.

If you were a crayon, what colour would you be?


If you have an epic idea for a startup and want to pitch to our friendly dragon’s den, click here to find out how.