Over the past twelve months, I suspect that a good 90% of my focus has been on building up Wharf42’s capabilities to support start-up tech companies in both New Zealand and Silicon Valley.

In New Zealand, Callaghan Innovation’s announcement last July that WNT Ventures had been selected as one of three new tech-focused incubators consolidated an emerging collaboration between entrepreneurs and investors in the Bay of Plenty. It was and is great to be part of that. We have an amazing opportunity to create twelve new technology businesses by commercialising IP from Universities and Crown Research Institutes over the next three years. These opportunities do not came around that often.

In January, we announced the launch of the Meteoroid Program. This will see Wharf42 supporting several early stage NZ tech companies start their journey in the US market in July. That process is well underway. The flights have been booked and the summer shirts have been ironed. The recent visit to New Zealand by Adiba Barney of SVForum and Bill Reichert of Garage Technology Ventures has significantly raised the profile of the Program in the Valley and ensures a very responsive reception to those startups in Meteoroid.

Can New Zealand embrace Corporate Venture?

Can New Zealand embrace Corporate Venture?

When I look at the New Zealand innovation ecosystem, there has however always been one fairly significant omission when I compare that ecosystem to Silicon Valley. It is the absence of corporate venture. Given our relative market size and relatively few ‘major’ corporates, I guess there have not been enough local role models to spread the message. In the Valley, the converse is true. Corporate venture plays an increasingly important role in the Valley’s investment ecosystem as it makes strategic investments in emerging, potentially disruptive, technologies. This in itself reflects an increasing willingness by these corporate to embrace disruption, rather than be fearful of it. As Adiba pointed out several times during her time in NZ, companies like Lego and major breweries are now investing in the Valley. The range of corporate venture is expanding beyond its traditional tech, Fintech & HealthTech space. Today you will find Innovation and M&A centres in the Valley for auto, telco & banking groups. It’s an exciting place to be.

Since Bill & Adiba’s visit to New Zealand, I have had the opportunity to speak to one or two of our own corporates. I detect a change of mind-set in the offing. There is, at least at the most senior levels, a sense that the 5,000 mile gap between New Zealand and many of our major global markets is no protection from disruption. Digital transformation does not recognise traditional national boundaries. Instead it provides new opportunities to reach out and connect with those markets. And visa-versa. That is the challenge.

I posted a blog in July last year about the importance of corporate venture to New Zealand. The message has not changed. Over the coming weeks, I intend to spend a bit more time in this space. It offers not only great opportunity for these corporates but provides another great platform for our emerging tech start-up sector.

The Valley will be a great way to learn best practice. NZ8 cannot depart soon enough.

You can follow our journey on Twitter at @Wharf42HQ