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New Zealand's Startup Genome Agora Dinner

Breaking Bread in New Zealand to Hack a Strong Startup Ecosystem
Dil Khosa
on August 20, 2019

Written by: Dil Khosa with contributions from Jackie Young

New Zealand’s first ever Startup Genome Agora dinner came together in under a week – with some quick moves by local ambassadors Dil Khosa and Jackie Young.

New Zealanders are renowned for their resourcefulness, and true to the Kiwi spirit, we mustered our resources and networks to bring together a cross-section of the startup ecosystem that included representatives from startups, investors, incubators, academia, government agencies and other entrepreneurial support organizations.

To kick off the first event, we hosted the dinner around the theme of ‘As an emerging ecosystem, what does it take for New Zealand to level up?’. Having a venue like Cassia, one of New Zealand’s best restaurants, made it an even better environment for conducive conversations over great food!

Jackie and I welcomed our guests with a toast. We gave everyone a brief overview of Startup Genome and also explained that the dinner was organized “last minute” after seeing a post about a visiting investors from the United States. We figured we could add a global dimension to our local gathering. Fortunately – everyone was up for it!

Highlighting some key elements of our ecosystem as captured by StartupGenome, we kicked off round the table conversations on our key challenges to growing our ecosystem and some ideas to up-level.

Key challenges unique to the New Zealand ecosystem:

  • Global connectedness
  • Local connectedness
  • Access to capital

Key areas we can work on despite these challenges:

Global Connectedness

  • Ensure we connect with our kiwi diaspora and use those connections in countries we want to export to. This can be done via the KEA network and New Zealand Trade & Enterprise for example.
  • On the flip side, we could use global experts to visit New Zealand and run meetings hosted by local / regional economic development agencies - connecting them to startups in the right industry who could benefit from the network
  • Travel, travel, travel!

Local Connectedness

Keep the network of government, industry, startups, incubators, tech transfer offices, and investors connected on a more regular basis - perhaps even via formal meetings regularly. As a small nation, this should be something we can get representatives of each stakeholder of our startup ecosystem to participate in regularly.

Access to capital

Venture funding has been in a better state over the last few years with increased capital for early stage startups via angels, a number of new funds, and $300M in government funding for Series A rounds recently announced. Access to capital is still not at the levels comparable to global investment into early stage to growth stage start-ups.

There has been a noticeable trend of overseas VCs and investors looking to New Zealand for the next big startups. It was noted that New Zealand is very good at building global enterprise software products vs countries like U.S. who excels in consumer software / products / services. We are starting to see more U.S. VC’s, Australian VCs (e.g. BlackBird Ventures recently setting up an office in NZ) and private investors visit New Zealand to check out our startups, as well as interest from Asia, with a goal of connecting New Zealand tech back to Asia, building healthy relationships in these regions.

All in all, the future was deemed to be optimistic. If we all worked together as New Zealand Inc, to ensure our talent, startups, and technology is exported to the world.


Read more about the New Zealand Startup Ecosystem in the latest Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2019.


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