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New Zealand’s Business Prowess Extends to Startups

In this member spotlight, see how New Zealand is fostering startups in Agtech, Life Sciences, and more.
Sean Ludwig
on August 12, 2019

When it comes to business, New Zealand has a strong reputation. It is rated as the #1 country in the world for ease of doing business, and on average it only takes half a day to start a business there. It’s also ranked #2 globally for corruption transparency, another strong feature for a productive business environment.

With these factors in mind, it may not surprise you to hear New Zealand has an emerging startup scene with global reach. Two companies that have grown from humble roots to huge success are Wellington-based cloud accounting software company Xero and Auckland-based Grinding Gear Games, acquired by Tencent in 2018 for more than $100 million. Looking at the overall picture in the New Zealand startup ecosystem, the specific startup sub-sectors to watch are Agtech and New Food and Life Sciences.

In Agtech and New Food startups, New Zealand is ranked among the top 10 ecosystems in the world. New Zealand is the largest dairy exporter in the world and a global supplier of meat and wool, it has a strong environment for innovation in this field. In fact, more 40 Agtech startups — representing 20% of seed activity by deal value in NZ — have been founded since 2013. Two notable startups to watch are Robotics Plus, an agricultural automation company, that raised $8 million in 2018, and BioLumic, a UV technology startup that raised $5 million in 2018.

When it comes to Life Sciences, new and exciting startups are expected to come out of the $7.1 million biomedical research technology hub that is being built at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research at Victoria University of Wellington. One notable startup to watch is Auckland-based Upside Biotechnologies, which is developing advanced treatments for severe burns and raised $1.7 million from Ice Angels and Tuhua Fund.

When it comes to up-and-coming startups that are gaining attention across all sub-sectors, The New Zealand Herald identified social marketplace The Social Club, student-focused banking company Jude, enterprise software startup Code Lingo, data storage software company Nyriad, investment company Sharesies, and consumer insights platform Ask Nicely as six companies to watch.

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Other New Zealand startup ecosystem highlights from the 2019 Global Startup Ecosystem Report include:

  • New Zealand is Top 5 global ecosystem for Bang for Buck.
  • New Zealand offers a 15% tax credit to startups investing in R&D.
  • Early-stage funding per startup totals $279,000, just under the global average.
  • The salary for a software engineer averages $49,100.
  • Total ecosystem value totals $1.6 billion.


Our local member in New Zealand is the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, which is playing a “central role in shaping and delivering a strong New Zealand economy.” The ministry has many responsibilities, including making sure businesses have access to skills and talent, ensuring science and innovation businesses have access to capital, and supporting the development of efficient infrastructure.

“There are positive signs NZ’s startup system is evolving and the pace of progress is picking up,” Erica Lloyd, General Manager for Market and Sectors) at Callaghan Innovation, said. “An example is the growing number of startups achieving ‘unicorn’ status.”

Do you want to help get the word out about the startup ecosystem in New Zealand? We’d love to talk. Please get in touch about becoming a Startup Genome ecosystem ambassador!


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