The geographically remote island country has become a hotbed for start-up talent and tech investment dollars.
It’s too early to call it “Silicon Valley Down Under,” but thanks to high-profile investments and job programs, New Zealand is an attractive place to launch a technology start-up.
The country’s fledgling tech scene got a jump-start in 2010 when billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel invested roughly $4 million in Xero, a Wellington-based accounting software start-up that’s now valued at more than $1 billion and boasts nearly 2,000 employees. (Thiel, for his part, later became a Kiwi citizen and continued to tout New Zealand’s business climate.)
Since then, the number of Americans applying for work visas in New Zealand has exploded, growing 78 percent between October 2012 and October 2017, according to Wired magazine. The gorgeous scenery and reasonable rents help, as do recruitment strategies such as LookSee Wellington, which in 2017 offered free trips to techies willing to interview with local companies and attend a job fair. The program received 48,000 applications.
A diverse range of companies greets those who do end up relocating to New Zealand. There’s Rocket Lab, an outfit developing space launchers for the commercial satellite industry. Latipay has developed a cross-border payment platform that’s already received $3 million U.S. in funding. LazyAz, founded two years ago by then-19-year-old Aryaman Taore, provides on-demand delivery of goods from local restaurants and stores — many too small to land on the larger UberEats’ radar. And Wherewolf taps New Zealand’s deep roots in tourism, billing itself as a “digital waiver app for adventure tourism operators” looking to streamline the booking process.
On the investment side, outsiders looking for a change of pace might consider applying for the country’s “investor visa,” available to those willing to put their hard-earned millions toward a New Zealand start-up. And as long as you’ve got one eye on your new business, you might as well train the other on those breathtaking vistas. It’s no wonder Thiel once described the country as “utopia.”
PHOTO ABOVE: Wellington, New Zealand