Blog // Exploring the Tech Start-up Scene in NZ

Exploring the Tech Start-up Scene in NZ

Aren't we lucky to be living and working in a land of tech entrepreneurs? From Xero and RocketLab to PushPay and Immersive, the NZ start-up market is one of the strongest in the world. Pretty good for a tiny nation that makes up just 0.06% of the world's population.

With the number of New Zealand tech start-ups ever-growing, our director, Jamie Blackwell, shares his thoughts about the sector, as well as key insights into hiring strategies for tech start-ups.

Boom Times In The NZ Start-Up Scene

Jamie says it was not that long ago that the NZ start-up scene was just finding its feet. 

"The ecosystem was small with budding entrepreneurs relying heavily on a few resources. Now, like a kid growing into a teen, the scenes matured, displaying remarkable growth."

New Zealand loves to shout about and adopt new tech, so it is really no big surprise we are at the forefront of this innovation. This is epitomised in the fact that NZ hosts one of the largest tech events in APAC, the NZ Hi-Tech Awards. This event celebrates New Zealand's most successful high-tech companies and highest-achieving individuals by recognising the best in tech NZ has to offer. 

"Our entrepreneurs have a history of bootstrapping tech solutions so they can validate their products or services with real customers, and start generating revenue that much quicker. It gives them the advantage of being able to re-invest those gains to fuel growth onwards and upwards", says Jamie.

It does not hurt that New Zealand has a stellar business reputation, with high levels of transparency and low levels of corruption, not to mention a fantastic quality of life.

The government has also played its part, pouring more than $200 million into over 130 start-ups each year. Angel investors have forked out the same.

Such investments have resulted in huge success stories, like fintech giant Jasper and retail management software company Vend, just to name two.

So what does the NZ start-up scene look like today? Pretty healthy! According to the government's Startup Advisors Council, New Zealand has around 2400 start-ups with close to 60% based in Auckland, 15% in Wellington and 8% in Christchurch.

Given these numbers, it makes sense Auckland is deemed as reaching "maturity" in the start-up ecosystem, right alongside Sydney and Melbourne. But our other cities are also making good headway towards maturity.

As for NZ start-up founders:
1. At least a quarter are female (higher than the global average of around 11%)
2. Nearly 10% are Maori (compared to 17% population base)
3. Less than 2% Pasifika (compared to 8% population base)

Where To From Here?

According to Jamie, there is no doubt the government has come to the table when it comes to supporting the NZ start-up scene.

"They have invested a great deal into the sector over the last few years, from funding like Callaghan Innovation and the Aspire NZ Seed and Elevate NZ Funds to R&D tax incentives", he says.

"They have even created specific marketing support with the "See Tomorrow First" initiative. Essentially, it is a consistent "story" the entire tech sector can use to grow awareness of the amazing tech capabilities we have here in NZ. It includes a bunch of free tools businesses can use to support their marketing efforts, which is super helpful in that perpetual quest to attract overseas talent."

But even though the NZ start-up market is thriving, Jamie sees plenty of opportunities for further improvement.

"There is still a barrier to the funding required to meet global start-up growth, as the market consistently needs a further financial injection", he explains.

"While we are doing quite well in terms of female founders, there is more work to be done on diversity, particularly when it comes to investing in Maori and Pasifika talent and increasing their access to tech."

"In a similar vein, there has to be a better focus on the younger generation. They are the digital natives who are the future of innovation in this country, but there is a distinct lack of awareness of the start-up sector and what it offers them."

That being said, there are also fantastic initiatives like Digital Future Aotearoa that are helping to overcome these issues by providing and delivering high-quality digital technology education that is accessible across financial, cultural, and geographic lines.

Advice for Hiring Top Talent into Your Start-Up

One in six start-ups fails because they do not have the right team. And like just about every other market right now, the fight for talent is real. The kicker for start-ups is that global companies have more cash to splash, which is pretty enticing for top-tier talent.

"Another unique challenge is that while we might have the personnel you need to get going here in New Zealand, a lot of experience resides overseas that can help your company grow. That is where you need to get creative in attracting talent", says Jamie.

Luckily, there is plenty of advice about hiring tech start-ups to help you get ahead:

Market your difference
While you may not have the big bucks, you do have plenty of growth opportunities and challenging work with big impact and equity options. That is what you can focus on when recruiting. Understand that your USP is your mission, so wherever possible emphasise the long-term goals and milestones along the unique journey of navigating a start-up environment. While some might find the ambiguity intimidating, some will take these unforeseen challenges in their stride and use them to get catapult their careers in the right direction.

Expand your hiring definition
Be open to hiring for potential rather than experience. Junior to mid-level software engineers will grow with you. As such, they are the employees that really "get" you, which is imperative for true success when hitting the market.

Look further afield
Unfortunately, there is a severe lack of awareness about the NZ start-up sector as a career option. Consider reaching out to schools and universities to raise your profile. You could exhibit at events, hold short talks about your work, or even provide real-world work experience opportunities.

Connecting with professional online communities is another great way to get the word out there about your work. These have a bunch of committed and passionate professionals, many of them passive talent who are not necessarily looking for a new role, but are open to opportunities.

Getting yourself listed on websites like Wellfound can be helpful to showcase what you do and what it is like to work at your start-up.

Help With Hiring In Tech Start-Ups

The advice about filling open jobs in tech start-ups is just the tip of the recruiting iceberg. Given this, you are probably thinking "How do I have the time to do all of that?" and the answer is you probably do not.

That is where forging a partnership with an NZ tech recruiter, like us here at Digital Garage, can be your competitive edge.

We can support you in developing a recruitment campaign that highlights your differences and tempts top talent. We also have a broad and ever-expanding network to draw upon, so we invite you to use us - we really do not mind!

Feel free to get in touch to find out more about how we can help you fuel your start-up with tech talent.

We'd love to connect!

When you need the best digital talent in NZ, whether for urgent temporary support or a long term strategic value, we have the expertise to help. Our depth of experience as digital recruitment specialists combined with a range of proactive and innovative sourcing solutions means that the people you want are already talking to us.