Over the past few weeks, I have posted several articles which have identified traits in the build of Boulder’s startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem that are reflected in Tauranga.

I have talked about the role of Local Government, the role of a University and the role of the Investment community. Today, I want to begin to tie in some of these comments to reflect on what is actually happening in Tauranga and the wider Bay of Plenty.

Perhaps it is because Wharf42 is now based at the new Ignition offices in Tauranga’s CBD. We moved in yesterday. The co-working environment enshrines everything that is happening in the Bay. Start-ups and entrepreneurs keen to share their experiences, trials and tribulations in a collaborative environment with other entrepreneurs. And it is an environment that is getting bigger.

Tauranga, Bay of Plenty

Tauranga, Bay of Plenty

Two weeks ago, the team at Venture Centre announced the launch of Basestation. Scheduled for opening in September this year, Basestation is a new large 750m2 ICT-focused innovation hub that will become home to a number of local tech companies, as well as offering hot desks and 6 shared areas for entrepreneurs to meet. Throw in Studio64 on Devonport Road and Tauranga suddenly has a significant cluster of co-working hubs from which entrepreneurs can connect and grow.

And it is not just ICT. On Friday, Heilala Vanilla opened its new processing plant at the Newnham Park Innovation hub in Te Puna, Tauranga. Newnham Park is home to a number of highly innovative companies engaged in AgriTech and horticulture research. According to this morning’s Bay of Plenty Times, the key theme that came through a succession of speakers was of the need to increase innovation and collaboration among Bay of Plenty technology businesses. It is happening.

According to Norman Evans who represented Callaghan Innovation at the event, he is quoted as saying that “We’ve got a very good perception of what’s happening in Tauranga and around the world. You guys are hitting the sweet spot. You’re really starting to build an innovation system that I think is going to take your economy to a new level.”

It’s not just ICT and AgriTech. The Titanium Industry Development Association (TiDA) are applying hard science and creating world leading high value manufacturing solutions out at the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic campus in Windermere. The Coastal Research Field Station and INTERCOAST, both based at Sulphur Point are engaged in marine research that is seeing collaboration between scientists from both the University for Waikato and the University of Bremen, in Germany. Their experience of the long-term impact of the Rena sinking will provide authorities around the rest of the world with best practice process for managing similar marine disasters.

Wherever I look around the City and the region I see yet more and more examples of exciting, innovative ventures being established by entrepreneurs.

In my title to this article, I talked about the Role of Leadership. What I am seeing in the Bay is a large number of entrepreneurs taking on this role. Each is building an important piece of the emerging ecosystem that Norman Evans describes as the ‘sweet spot’. It is not the leadership of one. It is the leadership of many.

The entrepreneural ecosystem is growing across the Bay

The entrepreneural ecosystem is growing across the Bay

In Brad Feld’s book, ‘Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City’, he talks about how the ecosystem’s ‘leadership’ in Boulder is made up a number of entrepreneurs. Part of its continual evolution is generated by the ever growing number of new entrepreneurs emerging and taking an active part in the different aspects of the eco-system. This version of Rinse and Repeat is bringing in new ideas and new thinking.

I see that happening in Tauranga today. There is an increasing level of entrepreneur collaboration across not only the City, but across its different and growing number of innovation hubs and sectors. The growth of co-working spaces is helping drive this collaboration. Open plan offices hosting a number of different start-ups builds the energy that is needed to sustain most entrepreneurs. I can feel it at Ignition.

In Tauranga and the Bay, there is still some way to go however before we can fully claim to be replicating Boulder. We still lack the city centre University campus which will bring the graduates, the teaching staff and the research units that we know will add to the transformation of our local economy. This campus will, eventually, provide the ecosystem with the new generation of graduates and entrepreneurs it requires to continue the build.

As a City, we need to address the issues affecting so many other New Zealand cities such as affordable housing. That is where local Government and other agencies have such an important role to play. Supporting and facilitating the continued growth of the ecosystem requires the ongoing commitment and support of our public sector partners. Innovation hubs, a great climate and fantastic beaches are only part of the story. People have to be able to afford to move to and live in this piece of New Zealand paradise for the ecosystem to grow.

This is my final piece in the series: Can Tauranga replicate Boulder? I believe Tauranga is now at the point where it has reached a tipping point and both can and will build its own variation of a sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem.

It will not be exactly the same as the Boulder model. That is not important. We have reached a level of entrepreneurial scale and collaboration where we can build a model that reflects our own vision and our own environment.

It will become the Tauranga model. It is an exciting time to be part of that story.