“Innovation doesn’t happen in isolation,” says Callaghan Innovation CEO Vic Crone, at the launch of Scale-Up NZ, an online platform connecting innovative New Zealand businesses with investors, incubators and other collaborators.
“We have to reach out to others for help,” says Crone, during the launching ceremonies at the GridAKL.
“That’s even more important when it comes to securing the capital required to take our innovations global.”
Scale-UP NZ was built using software from Startup Nation Central, an independent non-profit organisation based in Israel.
Crone says Callaghan Innovation has worked with around 2,800 businesses in the past year alone, and they range from precision irrigators to medical software makers.
She says Scale-Up NZ offers all of them, and the others in the innovation ecosystem, the opportunity to showcase their company and their innovations, so that potential investors and collaborators locally and overseas can more easily discover them and get in touch.
“We are still not as good at getting this right as some of the other small advanced economies we like to compare ourselves to,” she states.
“Too many ideas fail to translate because our businesses aren’t accessing the technical knowhow, management expertise or investment capital required to get them to the next level. Too often, we are still going it alone, following the ‘bloke in a shed’ mindset.”
She says innovators and entrepreneurs they have worked with tell them a key problem is they just don’t know who is out there that could lend a hand.
“We want to change that with Scale-Up NZ, a free and neutral online [platform],” she says.
“The logic behind Scale-Up NZ is that our ecosystem here is underperforming because it is fragmented, fractured, and isolated,” says Erica Lloyd, general manager, market and sectors at Callaghan Innovation.
Yet, she points out, research locally and overseas shows a highly networked connected ecosystem or a community doubles its return in terms of revenue and growth, produces more intellectual property, and attracts more capital.
“Our role at Callaghan Innovation is to solve the networking side of it, this is what this platform is about,” says Lloyd.
NZTech CEO Graeme Muller welcomes the launch of the platform.
“NZ Scale-Up will help our entrepreneurs access the funding and services they need to accelerate their growth,” says Muller.
“Similar systems have worked very well for US and Israeli firms, now we will have one place to showcase all of our best tech firms to the world.”
Ecosystem-building is not a fast thing, but it is cumulative if done well
“New Zealand’s tech and innovation ecosystem is expanding and maturing superbly,” he says.
He notes how a recent report from Callaghan Innovation called Growing the pie, details how entrepreneurs are creating a better New Zealand.
The entrepreneurs interviewed for the report share a strong view that New Zealanders should not fear overseas investment in the country’s best new businesses. They point out in almost all cases, the investment is a net benefit to New Zealand, helping to improve our business expertise, conquer world markets, and invest in more new businesses.
“As entrepreneurs exit from their businesses, they (and their now experienced leadership teams) tend to cycle their knowledge and funds back into new ideas in New Zealand,” says Muller. “Consequently, this experience is bringing more maturity across both the startup scene and the investor market.”
Muller, for instance, cites that the sale of Navman resulted in the establishment of, or investment in, nine other tech firms employing thousands of people, some of which have also been purchased stimulating the third wave of reinvestment into the New Zealand ecosystem.
He cites a more recent case. “When Power-by-proxi was purchased by Apple some commentators bemoaned the end of another Kiwi success story. But two years later, Apple has almost doubled the size of the New Zealand R&D team and shifted them into a swanky new Apple New Zealand HQ in the Wynyard Quarter.”
“Meanwhile the technology is being embedded into every single iPhone and Apple Watch,” he adds.
“I remember back in 2005 the Hi-Growth Trust was established to grow one hundred $100 million tech firms based on the inspirational words of Sir Paul Callaghan which was: ‘One hundred inspired New Zealand entrepreneurs can turn this country around. That is a challenge for all of us’.
“While the trust didn’t last long, the momentum continued and the Growing the pie report identifies dozens of firms now worth more than $100 million.
“Ecosystem-building is not a fast thing, but it is cumulative if done well, and New Zealand is doing it very well,” he concludes.
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