When you think of New Zealand you might not think of a burgeoning tech scene. Historically the New Zealand has focused on agriculture and food exports to sustain its economy and more recently the film industry has put New Zealand on the map. But cities such as Wellington contain thriving tech scene which is characterised by startups that have as much to offer as those in larger cities.

Startup successes include TradeMe, New Zealand’s answer to eBay and online accounting software Xero. There’s even a company working to make space exploration a reality for more people,  Rocket Lab. Gaming and animation have an important presence with companies like PikPok and Aurora44.

Why move to Wellington?

Deutsche Bank named Wellington the city with the best quality of life in 2017, beating 47 global cities to the top spot. Pollution, traffic and commute, property price to income ratios and purchasing power were considered to determine the rankings.

Wellington has more sunshine hours than London and less rainfall than Auckland and enjoys around 2,000 sunshine hours a year. Whilst most of us don’t get paid to visit the great outdoors, Wellington has a diverse range of landscapes including 50,000 hectares of regional parks and forests and large back-country areas for hiking and camping managed by the Department of Conservation.  Most people live within 3 kilometres of coastal areas.

As far as the startup scene goes, it’s small but diverse with less segregation between sectors and a community vibe. It’s said that people are more likely to have a DIY ethos and take risks and see what happens. There’s lots of need for corporates also, an international campaign was recently run called LookSee Wellington to fill up to 100 mid to senior tech job vacancies in the fast-growing digital space. The response was, predictably huge, with more than 35,000 applications.

Help for Startups

There’s lots of help for startups. Government agency Callaghan Innovation, a mix of about 300 researchers, engineers, scientists, technologists, designers, entrepreneurs, advisors, and administrators, delivers self-help and on-demand services and tailored programs. They even offer R&D grants. They work with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, economic development agencies, business incubators, universities, polytechnics, Crown Research Institutes, the venture capital community, industry associations, local industry and global industry experts specialising in multiple industries and sectors.

There’s a TechStars startup incubator and virtual programs like ZeroPoint Ventures, a remote incubator that provides up to $180K seed funding for eligible companies. There’s also Creative HQ that offers incubation and acceleration programmes as well as grassroots entrepreneur initiatives and innovation services. hackathons, bootcamps and accelerators such as Lightning Lab.

There’s also lots of meetup groups including Startup Garage, Women Founders NZ, IoT WGTN andMakers NZ and a number of coworking spaces such as BizDojo, In Good Company and SubUrban Coworking.

The downsides

For anyone who lives in this part of the world, there’s always the tryanny of distance. Travel to other countries outside of SE Asia and Australia isn’t cheap and takes a while. Whilst there’s a level of support for startups and plenty of good will, the reality is that the VC funding is far less than in other tech hubs with many foregoing it for crowdfunding endeavors like PledgeMe. Inevitably you’ll be focused on promoting yourself and your business internationally if you want to scale.

It’s worth adding, if you’d picturing yourself lying in the summer sun, the average summer temperature is 20c.

Visas

There’s two visas specifically relevant to the tech sector:

Entrepreneur Work Visa: This visa is for people who want to work in their own business in New Zealand. To apply, you’ll need to provide a detailed business plan, have at least NZ $100,000 to invest in your business and be able to claim 120 points on our points scale. If you’re granted this visa, you can buy or set up a business without living here permanently, or as a first step towards New Zealand residence.

With this visa you can come to New Zealand to buy or set up your own business, work in your own business in New Zealand for up to 3 years in total. Include your partner, and dependent children aged 19 and under, in your visa application.

If your business is in the science or ICT sectors, shows a high level of innovation or export potential,  waiving the NZ $100,000 capital investment requirement may be considered.

Global impact visa

The Global Impact Visa (GIVs) provides up to 400 individual pioneering entrepreneurs and investors to create and support innovation-based ventures and startup teams from New Zealand.

It’s a partnership with the Edmund Hillary Fellowship (EHF) to deliver an innovative new immigration product for high impact entrepreneurs, investors, and start-up teams. To be eligible, you must be enrolled in the EHF.

5 Wellington start-ups to watch

Melon Health Digital health solutions for the specific management of various chronic diseases including teleconferencing with health professionals, peer support, online resources and integration with connected wearable tech.

KotahiNet built the first real commercial platform for the Internet of Things (IoT) in New Zealand with a nationwide LoRaWAN network.

2Shakes: 2Shakes enables bookkeepers to get recognised by government and private organisations, so they can act on behalf of their clients straight away. The 2Shakes platform provides a fast, easy, and accurate way to set up client services, digitally capture client approval, and automatically create agreed authorities.

Publons, a website that enables researchers to effortlessly track, verify and showcase their peer review contributions across the world’s journals. It’s all part the companies plan to speed up science and research and give the experts involved in peer review the recognition they deserve.

ThunderMaps ThunderMaps enables businesses and governments to crowdsource hazard locations, and then let employees and citizens know when they’re in danger in real time.

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