Start NZ Up — An Action Plan For a More Entrepreneurial Economy in Aotearoa New Zealand

A 20 year vision to put innovation and entrepreneurship into the hearts and minds of every New Zealand citizen

Dan Khan


As part of working with The Edmund Hillary Fellowship recently, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect upon my own journey of impact growing the startup community in New Zealand.

In particular, stepping back and surveying where I feel the biggest gaps are that still hold us back from building a truly transformative economy in New Zealand, especially in the face of so many catalysts for change right now.

So I took the opportunity over lockdown to collate these thoughts into a cohesive action plan that I’m officially launching today. It’s a plan focussed on investing in people and capability, which if thoughtfully implemented, sets us on a transformative pathway for the future based on digital capability, innovation, and world-class entrepreneurship at its heart.

And the timing couldn’t be better as each political party announces their own plans for how to rebuild and recover our economy, particularly as they look to lay out their visions of what a vibrant recovery and our economic future looks like.

So on that note, I’d like to introduce Start NZ Up: An Action Plan For a More Entrepreneurial Economy in Aotearoa New Zealand.

You can read the Start NZ Up plan in the embedded presentation below (best viewed full-screen), or read through the written version that follows.

Start NZ Up — An action plan for a more entrepreneurial economy in Aotearoa New Zealand

This high-level action plan calls for three core asks from readers:

  1. To feedback on the detailed actions and recommendations;
  2. To share and discuss the 8 Ecosystem Development Goals (EDGs) as laid out, especially if you’re already working on one or more of them;
  3. And most importantly, to help convince policy makers how important such a plan and a more entrepreneurial economy is for Aotearoa.

This last one is the biggest ask of all, and one we need a concerted effort as a community to land, especially since all of these recommendations require policy-level change to happen.

Covid-19 just blasted our economy years into the future

Adapted From Digital Transformation Quiz, Susanne Wolk (Twitter)

We can lean in and reimagine that future by putting innovation and entrepreneurship at the forefront of our economic strategy, or…

We can lean out, by rebuilding reliance on old industries and losing our future-facing competitive edge.

Whatever we do, our current global thought leadership shows us that the world is watching

The opportunity right now is to advance, not stay where we are.

The pandemic has spawned a raft of accelerated business model transformations in weeks not years

There’s no doubt that digital technology, entrepreneurship, and rapid-innovation has been at the forefront of the pandemic response efforts both at home and overseas, for example:

  • Small businesses like fitness instructors have delivered tutorials and workout programmes online, reaching new customers and increasing revenues.
  • Schools have rapidly developed and deployed distance learning programmes, including devices for those who do not have online access.
  • Vacuum cleaner technology was repurposed to create new medical ventilator solutions in just 10 days.
  • Supermarkets and retailers have created online delivery solutions, and contact-free queuing systems within weeks..

The silver-lining this pandemic has given us is the singular opportunity in our lifetime to diversify and enhance New Zealand’s economy in new ways.

Whilst we may never know where the next existential threat might come from, we can be more prepared by making predicting and responding to the future our norm rather than our reaction.

How do we leverage our current leadership in the world to brand ourselves not only the capital of tourism, but the capital of innovation and digital technology? As a place where future change makers want to be?

Why now is the time to build

A Global Perspective

Leading US Venture Capitalist, Marc Andreessen reminded us recently:

“Now is the time to build. Part of this pandemic has been the failure of foresight and imagination. We didn’t do in advance what would have prepared us for this event. You see it in housing and skyrocketing prices making it impossible for regular people to move in and take the jobs of the future; you see it in education and the inability [of universities] to support all 18 years olds coming out of school each year; you see it in manufacturing with [jobs] been off-shored to places with cheaper manual labor; and you see it in transportation — where are the supersonic aircraft? Where are the millions of delivery drones? Where are the high speed trains, the soaring monorails, the hyperloops, and yes, the flying cars? We need to demand more of our culture, of our society.

Building isn’t easy, or we’d already be doing all this. We need to demand more of our political leaders, of our CEOs, our entrepreneurs, our investors. We need to demand more from one another. We’re all necessary, and we can all contribute, to building.”

A Local Perspective

In a global recession with the world locked down and struggling economically to create new jobs, New Zealand could see a huge uplift in the number of people starting new companies:

  • 14,000 peopleApproximate number of young people aged 20–28 who leave NZ every year, who may no longer be able to go on an OE due to travel restrictions.
  • 40,000 people — Approximate number of unemployed young people aged 15–24, who could not find work pre-pandemic and who could see entrepreneurship as next step.
  • 50,000 people — Approximate number of ex-pats who typically migrate home each year, who now will be returning at a point where our local employment prospects take a downturn.
  • 11,000 people — Estimated net gain of NZ Citizens as of June 2020 as expats and others look to escape global pandemic hotspots, many of whom will need to work.
  • Source: NZ Stats — June 2020 figures as reported by NewsHub

The biggest opportunity for New Zealand right now is not just recovery and rebuilding, it’s transforming our people into a workforce that can create the jobs of tomorrow, not just today.

Why Startups?

What is a startup?

A startup is a young, high-growth potential company that is using technology and innovation to tackle a large, and most-likely, global market. They look for efficiencies of scale, so they can create repeatable, and scalable, long-term engines of growth and impact. They often have a big vision to positively impact the lives of millions of people or advance our understanding of the world in new ways.

Startups are not like small businesses

Small businesses usually provide less differentiated products or services than those already in the market. Startups on the other hand, start small, but have the capacity to experience massive growth and disrupt huge industries with new products, services, and approaches that have never been thought of before.

Why are startups important?

Because in any given economy, as startups grow, these high-growth firms account for 45–90% of all new job growth. As we’ve seen in recent years, the reducing cost- and increasing access- to- technology is creating vast economic opportunities as well as substantial disruption of mainstream economic sectors.

Startups present an opportunity for New Zealand to diversify its economy, and generate exports that aren’t tied to our primary resources or location, allowing our isolated workforce to connect to three billion other collaborators, customers, and other global leaders to make NZ an incubation nation of world-changing ideas.

What is a Startup Ecosystem?

A startup ecosystem is a complex set of economic support structures, policies, resources, networks, and people who provide the resources entrepreneurs and startups need to be successful.

What Makes a Successful Startup Ecosystem?

A successful Startup Ecosystem produces large numbers of startups that go on to create global breakthrough products and services, changing the lives of millions of people.

They often have the following 12 key ingredients:

  1. The ability to create large numbers of startups
  2. The ability to supply a large number of entrepreneurs and talent to staff them
  3. A strong culture of pro-entrepreneurship and measured risk taking
  4. A supporting culture of trying new things and encouraging people to try again when they fail
  5. High-quality mentors and investors who have first-hand experience in scaling companies globally
  6. Structured programmes like incubators and accelerators that support first time founders
  7. Investors willing to invest time and money in those people and ideas at different stages
  8. Collaboration by our largest companies to start, grow, and buy strategically-aligned startups
  9. Proactive regulation to help startups cut through red tape and reduce their costs & time to market
  10. Universities and schools actively exposing entrepreneurship as a meaningful career path
  11. High-quality advisors and suppliers who provide reduced-rate services or take equity to help startups succeed
  12. A Government willing to identify and meaningfully intervene in the above gaps.

Whilst we’ve done a lot to encourage the growth of the startup ecosystem in New Zealand, it is ultimately sub-scale, because New Zealand is sub-scale

Growing The Pie

Our current startup funnel is very ‘narrow’ and thus many support organisations are forced to focus down-funnel where companies are making more predictable revenues and are a more realistic ‘sure bet’. But this misses the bigger picture of what New Zealand could be if we focus at the very top of the funnel — by scaling the quantity and quality of people who create these world-changing companies.

It’s Simple Maths

As any venture capitalist will tell you, building breakthrough startups is simply a numbers game — by massively increasing our nation’s capability to generate world-changing ideas at the top of the funnel, and then, critically, better supporting them along the journey, we stack the odds in our favour by increasing the likelihood of creating many more transformative outcomes like RocketLab and Xero at the bottom of the funnel.

Source: The Icehouse, NZGCP, Angel Association NZ-led Submission to Government

Over the last 12 years, NZ investors have invested in 400 startup companies, at a rate of approximately 120 deals per year recently.

But we need to 10X that number to generate the critical mass required to create multiple $1B+ companies each year.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that if we can push more startups into the top of the funnel, support them with as much unfair advantage as we can through networks, capital, and support, then we’ll get more companies and potential breakout successes like Xero at the bottom of the funnel.

Corporate participation is still a huge missing part of NZ’s Innovation Economy

Whilst startups are the start of the innovation and entrepreneurship journey, the end point is often through acquisition into larger, strategically-aligned corporates, with their ability to create greater impact through larger-scale channels.

In more mature technology ecosystems, such corporates provide a critical piece of the innovation ecosystem not only as corporate venture partners for new entrepreneurs, but in providing a stream of industry-savvy corporate entrepreneurs themselves, incubating new products and spinning them out into new standalone ventures.

But this isn’t happening at scale in New Zealand yet. If we could work out how to get big corporates like Spark and Fonterra to seriously play in the innovation ecosystem, the knock-on benefits to the startup ecosystem in New Zealand would be huge. Startups would no longer be forced offshore to seek scale, venture capital, and exit pathways, meaning NZ can directly reap the benefits of local entrepreneurial innovation rather than taking it offshore.

Indeed, Simon Moutter, former CEO of Spark New Zealand, came to the same conclusion four years ago on a trade mission to investigate the Israeli innovation ecosystem, but we’re still yet to see significant impact from large corporates in the startup ecosystem.

Source: Unleashing New Zealand’s Potential — Faster! Innovation Mission to Israel June 2016

“New Zealand is at an important juncture. We can look backwards with pride at our long history of world-class success in areas including agriculture, tourism and sports. Now we need to look forward, and focus on ways that we can better use our competitive advantages.

We already have a solid foundation in place, but we need to accelerate our commercialisation of innovative ideas and ability to access capital to compete in the digital future.

As we progress into this era of digital business, with its accompanying reduced barriers to global competition, technological innovation and entrepreneurship will be the greatest catalyst for growth. To do this New Zealand will require more business risk taking backed with good access to investment funding and better collaboration within and across key industry sectors and indeed across private sector, public sector, academia and the rest of the innovation and start-up ecosystem.” — Simon Moutter, ex-CEO Spark New Zealand, 2016 (condensed).

New Zealand also has an opportunity to be *the* world-leader of a regenerative impact economy as more and more of our startups focus on sustainable innovation

It’s becoming increasingly important that the need to transform our economy and financial system must be done in ways that provide for a more just society and sustainable ways of co-existing with the planet.

How can we embed into every startup that this ecosystem builds and nurtures to not only be self-resilient, but future-fit in terms of environmental, social, and economic well being?

Pilot programmes like the Edmund Hillary Fellowship and the Government’s Global Impact Visa have already externally signalled that New Zealand wants to position itself as the centre of the impact economy. How can we amplify and scale this message to turn a sales-pitch into demonstrable action and scale?

Source: The Impact Economy Ecosystem, created by Rebecca Mills & inspired by Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics Model

If the future of NZ’s economy relies on innovation and entrepreneurship, then how do we double-down on building an impact economy at its heart?

We need to be bolder in our ambitions

To create a nation that has innovation and entrepreneurship at its heart requires us to think differently about how we raise our next generation of young companies and future corporates.

Whilst it’s increasingly accepted that emulating Silicon Valley or Israel is fundamentally flawed, we do need to take our manaakitanga and the values and of New Zealand: of being curious, kind, our sense of community, and our empathy for the planet; and crucially, marry them with the scale and growth mindset found in those more entrepreneurial centres.

But most importantly, we don’t yet have the critical entrepreneurial density to maintain the ‘engineered serendipity’ that makes these more mature startup hubs successful.

We need a coordinated long-term plan to organically achieve this level of critical mass, but also a plan to short-circuit this lack of short-term internal capability, by surrounding ourselves with the best in the world and getting them to intentionally give back to New Zealand by sharing that growth mindset and experience with all of us.

Introducing Start NZ Up

Start NZ Up is an action plan for a more vibrant and entrepreneurial economy in Aotearoa NZ

The plan is focused on 8 key ecosystem development goals and 24 policy-level recommendations, which, if thoughtfully implemented would have significant impact on the development of the startup and innovation ecosystem in NZ.

This plan was inspired by the format of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the content of the StartupAUS Crossroads report 2016. (Thanks Colin for inspiring me those few years ago).

Overview and Summary Recommendations

In my opinion, the top-level Ecosystem Development Goals (EDGs or perhaps, more appropriately pronounced ‘edges’) represent the biggest gaps requiring change to transform Aotearoa New Zealand into a more entrepreneurial economy — a nation that’s not just great at invention, but transforming it into a nation that’s world class in execution.

Each individual EDG consists of one or more policy-level recommendations which, if thoughtfully implemented, I feel would turbo-charge our entrepreneurial economy and create significant impact to our capability and future success.

Taken as a whole, this action plan would take New Zealand’s already envious thought leadership position in the world and jump that curve to position New Zealand as a place where world-changing founders are made, and where the best entrepreneurs in the world want to be.

EDG 01: NZ’s startup ecosystems need to be geographically concentrated and nationally connected


Following the success factors for successful startup ecosystems and given our lack of scale, engineering our missing entrepreneurial density is still a key factor in creating more successful entrepreneurs in New Zealand.

This EDG, therefore, talks to how we can create the critical mass required for ‘engineered serendipity’ at scale, and in particular, distributing that success, and cross-connecting into the regions through highly visible and connected startup, capital, and mentor networks.

High-level recommendations:

1.Establish innovation districts in each major city and centrally connected innovation networks in each region to help create critical mass and improve entrepreneurial density — provide physical space, ongoing entrepreneurial event series, and bring together corporates with startups to foster more innovation activity.

2. Fund startup community leaders/connectors in each region to support startup community development, network facilitation, and make connections for local entrepreneurs; use these super-connectors to help upskill local EDAs on the startup sector through the Regional Business Partner programme.

EDG 02: NZ needs a coordinated national entrepreneurship plan


Government’s current approach to industry transformation is currently on a sector-by-sector basis. Whilst this makes sense due to the specific domain knowledge and networks relevant to each sector, early-stage startups in particular, have very similar needs whilst they’re searching for ‘product-market fit’ before they scale up through high-growth.

It’s easy to think that startups fit under a small business portfolio, but the fact that startups operate so differently to small business still doesn’t do their needs and differences justice, and only compounds the treatment of startups as smaller versions of big companies which they inherently are not.

In each government department that I’ve spoken to there’s no consistent definition of what a startup is, so their specific needs and support is never called out particularly well. This is not helped by successful technology companies which were once startups, still calling themselves startups to feel relevant to potential hires, and to differentiate their culture from mainstream tech firms.

Thus it makes sense to have a coordinated plan, specifically for the ‘startup sector’, which caters to companies pre-market fit before they become ‘companies’ and can then more easily fit into traditional government support systems.

High-level recommendations:

3. Create a cross-sector national government ‘startup’ agency to reduce fragmentation, thereby bringing national policy for entrepreneurship into one place and with a clearer focus on startups versus small-business. This also creates a focal point and priority for transforming us into a digital-led knowledge economy.

EDG 03: NZ’s startups need capital to grow


New Zealand’s capital ecosystem has developed significantly over the last 15 years since I’ve been in New Zealand.

The explosion of early stage venture capital and angel investment activity, stimulated significantly through recent government co-investment matching schemes like NZVIF and SCIF has created significant traction in the venture capital markets in New Zealand. The investment activity has now begun attracting larger international funds like Airtree, Blackbird, and NZ’s own Movac Fund 4 over the last year or so.

I’m not intending to reiterate Suse Reynolds’ and the Angel Association’s excellent suggestions on shoring up the last remaining vestiges of the venture capital community, but there still remains opportunity for making it a little easier to preserve the earliest stages of startup capital for startup founders.

High-level recommendations:

4.Extend the ‘tech-led’ startup repayable loans scheme to ‘founder-led’ startups also, with a conversion to equity option to help seed more startup activity.

5. Allow Employee Share Schemes to be recognised on ‘capital’ account (rather than being treating as ‘income’) to allow external advisors, employees and other non-financial investors to reduce their taxation liability, and to make it easier and more attractive to create companies and reward early risk.

6. Extend R&D grants to support new products for ‘founder-led’ startups, allowing them to additionally offset their internal development costs — at the early stages, most startups still don’t have the capital to pay external contractors, but still need support to invest in new research and particularly development using their own resources (usually before investors are involved).

EDG 04: NZ’s startups need access to world-class expertise


The best people to advise startups are those who have built startups before and this is one of our bigger gaps in New Zealand.

For NZ startups to succeed they need access to people who have built the world’s best companies before — both as advisors, investors, and as new team members.

Whilst talking about Silicon Valley, YCombinator Founder, Paul Graham famously said:

“Startups beget startups. People who work for startups start their own. People who get rich from startups fund new ones. I suspect this kind of organic growth is the only way to produce a startup hub, because it’s the only way to grow the expertise you need” — Paul Graham

High-level recommendations:

7. Implement a premium national Startup Entrepreneur-In-Residence programme by Prime Ministerial mandate to attract some of the best minds to NZ and prioritise entrepreneurship — clearly embed outcomes around being hands-on, involved in the startup community, and upskilling our people over pure thought-leadership.

8. Pilot a new Startup Visa that allows international startups to come to NZ for a 3 year term with clear expectations about creating jobs, growing the startup community in NZ, and giving back to others. Use this to provide a pathway to permanent residency based on engagement and giving back to New Zealand. Use new innovations like digital e-citizenship which can provide favourable tax residency without the permanent residence option for those that do not wish to move here permanently.

9. Establish a Startup Chilé inspired programme to attract and fund promising international startups to NZ, moving from tourism to incubation and innovation as the biggest international attraction focus. Deeply embed structured engagement mechanisms to upskill the local startup community through mentorship, events, and education whilst here. In combination with the Startup Visa and international business development, this would attract talented companies and people to NZ and provide many opportunities for our people to upskill and join growing startups.

EDG 05: NZ startups need tech-savvy talent


Whilst we have lots of people with ideas in New Zealand, the difference in taking an idea, and working out the path to value and turning it into a high-growth potential business is a significant gap, especially in a future that will have technology at its heart.

Startups need entrepreneurial, and particularly digital talent, which are not useful just to startups, but to the future economy as a whole. It’s clear that the digital economy is here to stay, so whilst we’re starting to produce more digitally-savvy graduates and employees, let’s take the opportunity to fill them full of entrepreneurial thinking to allow them to not just have the ideas of the future, but the ability to execute on them too.

Whilst it’ll take time to organically build our internal capability, the most useful pool of this talent exists in more entrepreneurially-dense and active startups hubs around the world. How do we make it so easy for those people to join or start a startup in NZ that we can use them to upskill our own people in the short term, whilst we build the longer-term capability over time?

High-level recommendations:

10. Incentivise overseas tech workers to join a startup in NZ by providing relocation costs, and visas to support external talent with deep startup expertise and networks coming into NZ.

11. Create a cost-of-living allowance to counteract the high-cost of living for foreign skilled workers. This will help incentivise local startups to attract the best tech talent in the world to come to NZ and boost our entrepreneurial economy.

12. Make teaching computer science and entrepreneurship mandatory parts of the primary and high-school curriculums.

EDG 06: NZ needs more entrepreneurs


Longer term we need to produce our own entrepreneurs and create the conditions for their success.

Specifically, we need more entrepreneurs and startup founders versus self-employed or small businesses owners (who usually start businesses with no differentiation compared to existing businesses). Entrepreneurs and founders think differently, starting with big visions and aiming for high-growth and global change from day one — these are the people we need to be farming en-masse to help us create and weather the future.

We’ve started this already, but now need to shift gears to create the critical mass required for the previously discussed ‘engineered serendipity’ to happen without intervention.

High-level recommendations:

13. Create a national founder wellness support network and programmes to create more resilient and capable entrepreneurs, counteracting the huge demographic of 72% of entrepreneurs who have mental health issues and who rarely seek support.

14. Fund existing entrepreneurship clubs and founder education programmes within universities to allow those outside of entrepreneurial degrees to gather, cross-pollinate, and support each other to create startups.

15. Create/fund/support national startup education programmes, funding students and retraining workers to learn the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial mindset, encouraging a more skilled workforce to create/join startups.

16. Create a STEAM startup scholarship to encourage high performing STEAM students to form or join a startup within the first 3 years of graduation.

17. Create a Start NZ Up Future Fund — a grant programme providing $5K — $15K (e.g. $5K for up to 3 ventures over 5 years) for anyone in NZ to start a business with support and mentoring from a business mentor. This makes it easy for anyone to start a new business, encourages a culture of entrepreneurship, and supports the fact that the second or third venture often leads to success.

EDG 07: NZ needs to reduce the cost of doing business with the rest of the world


One of the biggest barriers I’ve seen startups have to deal with is our location in the world. Whilst NZ is great for incubating new ideas, our inherent lack of scale means that New Zealand is rarely a meaningful target market.

By the time your startup has carved up it’s total addressable local market in NZ into a total serviceable market (smaller), and then into a serviceable obtainable market (smaller still — often called TAM, SAM, and SOM in startup terms), you’re usually left with so little scale that these startups are forced offshore just to reach profitability.

And when those startups reach those new markets, they often realise that their competitors, having grown up being surrounded by super-talented employees who have worked for some truly massive technology companies; who have had access to the best minds, and venture capital in the world; and who have grown up with far-reaching and deep networks, just have a huge unfair advantage compared to a new Kiwi entrant.

In talking to startups who have made the ‘flip’, it’s also apparent that looking at the market as a remote observer versus being in it and often the scale of different thinking, means that Kiwi startup products and customer segments often need to be entirely re-validated when they land in those markets.

How can we get our best and brightest into those markets sooner to give them an equal footing on the ladder to local incumbents, instead of starting many rungs down?

High-level recommendations:

18. Immerse our most entrepreneurial university students in Silicon Valley and other startup hubs to inspire them to come back, share their learnings, and be entrepreneurs by building stronger in-market networks, insight, and awareness of global trends.

19.Provide in-market immersion loans to early-stage entrepreneurs allowing them to offset the cost of being in-market from future earnings. Allow any startup access to this programme, particularly at earlier stages than current Government support programmes allow. This provides a way for our entrepreneurs to compete on the world stage sooner, make advantageous connections earlier, and reduce the competitive advantage of others who start in more connected and established tech hubs.

20. Provide remote-working grants to support startups to be set up fully remote from day one and able to do global business. This would help NZ startups attract the best staff from around the world without requiring them to be physically present.

21. Build/support go-to-market programmes for key market destinations outside of New Zealand (or piggy-back off existing programmes like Austrade). These programmes would provide pre-market-entry preparation, and in-market crash-courses for Kiwi entrepreneurs to get up to speed, connected, and culturally fitted into those markets as they scale.

EDG 08: NZ Needs corporate participation in the startup ecosystem


And the final piece of the puzzle, is how to stimulate more corporates to start looking to our startup ecosystem for inspiration for their own R&D, or to see it as a huge resource of entrepreneurial talent ready and waiting for partnerships, to develop new products and services a year or two ahead of where they are now.

Looking at startups who have exited to large companies offshore, this is exactly what happens in more mature technology ecosystems — when a large corporate is looking to diversify into adjacent markets are they going to build from scratch or just acquire the technology, team, or IP of the already emerging leader in that space?

If we can engineer that locally, so that both corporate and ‘community’ entrepreneurs are solving the problems of our biggest local companies, or our most pressing national social, environmental, or economic problems, then not only do we create a corporate venture capital and acquisition pathway for those companies, they never have to leave this market, thereby keeping the talent, capital, IP, and mentorship for future generations in New Zealand.

But as we discussed this isn’t happening at scale yet, and whilst we have a lack of competition and no burning platforms in sight (although maybe the pandemic gives exec teams pause for thought around future resilience…?), I still contend this needs intervention to stimulate action.

Arguably, solving this part of the puzzle, could be more impactful than many of the other EDG’s combined if done right!

High-level recommendations:

22. Increase the R&D tax-credit for large companies who work with smaller, strategically-aligned startups to support those R&D activities, thereby intentionally providing positive incentives for growing our local startup economy. (Stimulate)

23. Fund EDAs to better help their largest companies showcase their innovation domains, challenges, and opportunities to the startup community, to create a better bridge for strategically-aligned innovation partnerships. (Facilitate)

24. Provide an increased R&D tax-credit for large companies who create structured startup partnership programmes to offset those costs — provide central access to education, global mentors and experts, and matched co-investment in those startup programmes. This would not only incentivise more corporates to support localised innovation efforts, it also provides an additional funding pathway for startups solving strategically-aligned local challenges. (Participate)

A High-Impact Approach For The Long-Term Sustainability and Defensibility of our Economy

A solid blend of complexities, but each providing high impact on NZ’s entrepreneurial economy

Whilst this isn’t an exhaustive list of initiatives and represent my personal views, any one of these, if thoughtfully implemented, could have significant impact on our entrepreneurial economy in NZ.

The cost, time, and complexity of some of these initiatives cannot be understated, it will take twenty years and unwavering leadership to nurture New Zealand’s nascent entrepreneurial economy and ingrain this thinking into the hearts and minds of every future generation.

But I believe this action plan presents a much needed, and coordinated plan to ‘hack’ the long-term growth of a more entrepreneurial economy. It incentivises the best in the world to come to New Zealand and incubate their ideas here, and embeds an active culture of paying-it-forward by upskilling and bringing our citizens on the journey in the process.

In this way, we build the policy, mindset, and national self-belief to organically do this ourselves over time, whilst surrounding ourselves with the best teachers to help us get there now.

To create transformational results requires transformational thinking. The opportunity ahead of us needs us to take risks, to think big, and to reimagine New Zealand as a place where world-changing founders are made, and where the best entrepreneurs in the world want to be.

The world’s eyes are upon us. Let’s lean in together New Zealand.

How you can help?

The recommendations and initiatives presented here are intentionally high-level to give an idea of the broad initiatives and impacts rather than the low-level implementation details which need thoughtful consideration and collaboration with those already doing some of this work on the ground.

It is clear, however, that this action plan requires policy change, big vision, and alignment from senior Government, thus we’re looking for supporters:

  1. To feedback on the detailed actions and recommendations;
  2. To share and discuss the 8 Ecosystem Development Goals (EDGs) laid out here, especially if you’re already working on one or more of them;
  3. And most importantly, to help convince policy makers how important such a plan, and a more entrepreneurial economy is for Aotearoa.

This last one is the biggest ask of all, and one we need a concerted effort as a community to land, especially since all of the recommendations require policy-level change to happen.

If you’d like to publicly support or endorse this plan, please email me at and we can look at the best way to do that.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to your support.

He pai te tirohanga ki ngā mahara mō ngā rā pahemo engari ka puta te māramatanga i runga i te titiro whakamua // It’s fine to have recollections of the past, but wisdom comes from being able to prepare opportunities for the future — Māori Whakatauki

About the author

Kia ora, I’m Dan.

Like many, I’m passionate about building a stronger entrepreneurial economy in New Zealand.

Why? Because most people believe that you have to be a genius to invent world-changing products and services that touch the lives of millions of people. But I strongly believe that everything ever created in this world has been created by ordinary people no smarter than you or I.

Given the right education, the right tools, and the right opportunities, I believe that everyone has the ability to create the future, instead of being constrained by the rules and work that others want them to do.

After an early career building high growth, venture-capital fuelled global startup companies from idea through to scale and eventual exit, I’ve spent the last 15 years giving back to New Zealand by leading the national startup community in thought and action, creating numerous key pieces of missing entrepreneurial support infrastructure here. This has allowed me to inspire, educate, and unlock the entrepreneurial potential of over 4,000 future kiwi leaders.

I want our future generation to not have to look overseas to find the world’s best companies or to create the next world changing innovation. I want them proudly to do that here in New Zealand, by joining or creating a local startup with world-changing ambition, and with the networks, people, and resources to do it. I want our young people to grow as future leaders with strong values, a culture of caring for people and the planet, and with a strong desire to pay-it-forward by giving back to others along their journey.

I strongly believe entrepreneurial success is all about timing, and that New Zealand’s time is now.

Aroha nui, Dan.

Note: There are a number of groups that I’m aware of focussing on collating their views of similar gaps in the community which I’ve contributed these insights into, so this is obviously an important conversation to many of us. I hope for my personal thoughts to inform and provide a framework for these as their own ideas develop further — I’ll link them to them here once they’re collated and published.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it with your networks and leaving one or more claps below so others can find it. The full presentation and action plan can be found here, please do share and discuss.

The complete presentation is embedded again for your reference below and at

Start NZ Up — An action plan for a more entrepreneurial economy in Aotearoa New Zealand



Dan Khan

Experienced startup CTO/CPO based in New Zealand; Built startup community & accelerator space in NZ; Passionate about helping Kiwi founders go global from NZ.