Convoy tour guide: What’s next for New Zealand’s burgeoning tech sector?

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By in International PR
On March 3, 2022

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New Zealand – famed for its fine wines and even finer landscapes – is undergoing a tech revolution. In 2021, the country’s top 200 tech exporters grew their revenues by an average of 11.5%. And the tech sector now employs 5% of the workforce, contributing over 8% to GDP.

Given these impressive figures, is New Zealand set to replicate the tech sector success of other small nations like Israel? We asked our New Zealand-based international PR partners for their take.

Is New Zealand’s tech star rising?

According to Paul O’Leary, Director of Auckland’s Pursuit PR, we’re currently experiencing the beginning of New Zealand’s rise to global tech stardom, “New Zealand has already created two stand-out successes, accounting software firm Xero and small satellite launch provider Rocket Lab. But we’re also home to many more exciting high growth companies in sectors including film, gaming, agritech and medtech”.

But why now? Bob Pinchin, CEO of integrated PR and marketing agency Swaytech and organiser of the NZ Hi-Tech Awards, attributes New Zealand’s recent success to the rise of SaaS, “When you’re selling software, the tyranny of distance is removed, right? You can plug your software in anywhere, anytime to anyone around the world.”

The global pandemic has – of course – also played a part. But whilst many tech companies benefited from increased digitalisation and a booming US stock market, there was an additional benefit for those based in New Zealand. As Bob puts it, “Covid has created a much more level playing field for New Zealand tech companies. In the past, they had to jump on a plane for 12 hours to go to the big trade shows in the US. And of course, they could never afford to put up a massive stand and compete with the global players, so they always looked like second rate citizens. Whereas obviously during the pandemic, everyone is on the end of a Zoom or Microsoft Teams call.”

Show us the money – the rise of overseas venture capital

A longstanding challenge for New Zealand tech start-ups has been accessing funding. The country’s own pool of venture capital is relatively small, with a group of high-net-worth angel investors and two to three domestic VC companies. This means that New Zealand start-ups traditionally had to work much harder than their Australian, North American or UK counterparts to attract funding.

Until now! According to Bob Pinchin, “Three or four years ago, you had New Zealand tech companies beating the streets to try to get meetings with VC companies locally and overseas – just to get a slide deck in front of them. Nowadays, you have several Australian VC companies actively pursuing New Zealand tech, as well as a considerable number of VCs from The Valley and SE Asia looking eagerly at opportunities in New Zealand.”

Creating an enabling landscape for tech companies to thrive – with PR, marketing and sales support to boot!

Building a strong tech sector depends on having the right government support in place. Many countries focus on providing tax breaks for start-ups or offering citizenship and visas to investors. In a more unusual move, the New Zealand government is also offering international PR, marketing and sales support to homegrown companies looking to export their tech, with a new initiative known as ‘We see tomorrow first’.

The initiative is designed to build New Zealand’s international reputation as a tech innovator and attract international investment. To do so, it leans into the global trend of values-led marketing – capitalising on New Zealand’s reputation for strong corporate governance and its track-record as an early adopter of new technology to attract tech talent and investment.

Can New Zealand attract international tech companies?

New Zealand’s homegrown tech success stories like Xero, Rocket Lab and F&P Healthcare are just one side of the coin. Does it have what it takes to attract established tech multinationals?

Quite possibly! In previous decades, the country’s remote location and limited internet speeds acted as roadblocks for international tech businesses. But given today’s digital-first work environment, and New Zealand’s much-improved internet speeds (27th fastest in the world) both limitations have evaporated. What’s more, New Zealand is now ranked first in the world for ease of doing business by the World Bank. The country’s low compliance tax system and government funding for tech R&D and training are particularly appealing to international tech companies.

In many ways, New Zealand is also the ideal test bed for new technologies developed internationally. According to Bob Pinchin: “New Zealand is a great test bed for tech multinationals to do product testing and marketing launches. We’re small, technologically advanced, and the country is nucleated to three major cities. So, you can easily and cheaply launch products, test them in the marketplace, test messaging – before taking it to a bigger market.”

All in all, the future looks bright for New Zealand’s tech scene. If you’re one of many homegrown b2b tech companies looking for support launching an international PR and marketing campaign – or a tech multinational looking to expand into New Zealand – drop us a line at hello@rlyl.com or visit our contact page.

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