The angel investment market in New Zealand is maturing and playing an important role in growing the economy, reports Tim McCready

The latest Young Company Finance Index, compiled by the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund, shows that angel networks and funds last year invested a record $61.2 million into 94 New Zealand companies across 132 deals.

Software and services received 39 per cent of the amount invested, followed by pharmaceuticals/life sciences (15 per cent), technology hardware and equipment (11 per cent), and food and beverage (8 per cent).

More than two-thirds of the investment last year were follow-on investment, indicating a maturing of the market and demonstrating that angel investment has become an important component in the patchwork of the New Zealand capital markets.

Angel investment often fills the gap in early-stage company development before venture capital kicks in. In addition to funds, angel investors can provide advice, introductions and access to networks and markets that would otherwise be unavailable.

Angel investors typically invest from a desire to help the country, the industry or an innovation they are passionate about — and hope that at least one will turn out to be the blockbuster that makes good on their investments.

“After I arrived in New Zealand I wanted to do something that would help the country grow long-term,” says Chris Sattler, lead investor with the ICE Angels and now active with the Flying Kiwi Angels.

“Property is one asset class but I strongly believe in investing in ‘more productive’ assets to provide interesting and high-value jobs for the future,” he says.

“Angel investment is a driven environment and it’s energising to work with the founders.

“Plus, it’s a great way to build a network of interesting, like-minded people.”

New Zealand can now point to global success stories — most notably Xero, Trade Me, and Orion Health, which provides confidence that world-leading companies can be developed from New Zealand.

Chris Twiss, Investment Director at the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund, says New Zealand is increasingly on the radar for international investors looking for opportunities.

“We are now seeing angel-backed companies successfully raising capital from overseas investors — including venture capital firms, angel groups and equity crowdfunding,” he says.

“Offshore investment brings capital and access to networks and markets, and widens the shareholder base.”

There are now eight crowdfunding operators licensed by the Financial Markets Authority in New Zealand. Alongside angel fund investment, four of those crowd funders Snowball Effect, PledgeMe, Equitise and CrowdCube — raised $14.9 million of retail investment for 27 companies.

“Crowdfunding platforms demonstrate the efficiencies that technology can bring to what has historically been a clunky and time consuming business, corralling multiple individuals into a single early-stage company investment,” says Twiss.

“In addition, the crowdfunding platforms in their own right have opened up this form of investment to entirely new audiences.”

Since the Young Company Finance Index began measuring activity in 2006, $414.7 million has been invested into young companies by angel groups.

Although the average deal size last year was $464,000 — down slightly on 2014 — the total amount of angel investment captured by the index in 2015 represents a 9 per cent increase on the previous record in 2014, and is certainly a jump from the $21.4 million invested back in 2006.

Although the index demonstrates that angel investment is growing, it is important to note that it only measures investment made through angel networks and funds.

The index reports that 76 per cent of deals last year were syndicated across angel groups.

These networks help shortcut the investment process, by linking start-ups with investors and providing access to deals, shared research and pooled investment capital.

Rowan Simpson, who was the third employee at Trade Me and is now a seasoned advisor and investor through his family office Hoku Group, says the flipside of these groups is that they can dilute the impact an angel can have in a company.

“If you have invested in 50 early-stage companies then the money, and much more importantly, the attention you can give to each one is unlikely to make any material difference,” he says.

“Risk is essentially broken down into smaller and smaller chunks, with no significant individual investors, and therefore no one with any real skin in the game.

“As activity by individuals and those outside formal networks isn’t recorded, an important question is: What portion of the market does the index capture?

“In our experience the best ventures choose their investors carefully — because they can,” says Simpson. “By just including those ventures Hoku Group are invested in directly that raised further capital last year, the numbers would increase significantly.”

Regardless of the number, it would be fair to say that significantly more capital is needed to create the number of globally-competitive businesses New Zealand so desperately needs. Investment figures have doubled in the eight years since 2007, but New Zealand only invests around $13 per capita through angel investment. Compare this to the United States, where some estimates of angel investment are north of US$70 per capita.

There is a lot more to do to develop and broaden the investor base in New Zealand, particularly outside the main centres.

“New Zealand needs to be one unified market for both starting and funding young technology and innovation companies,” says Twiss.

“The relatively recent formation of new angel investment networks in Canterbury, Taranaki and Southland is a step in the right direction.”

But the most important driver to take angel investing to the next gear will come from the demonstration of investment success.

“Active angel portfolio management and the development of tools and expertise to improve investment returns — both the number of exits and the quantum returned — for angel backed companies is definitely top of mind now for the industry,” says Twiss.

While angels understand that their investments are particularly high risk, it is without doubt essential to see financial returns for the ongoing health and development of the angel market — and ultimately of course, the New Zealand start-up sector.

Tripartite Summit: Infrastructure, housing, and transport – We can learn a lot from each other

  • Auckland, Guangzhou, and Los Angeles have strong and long-standing sister city relationships.
  • Auckland Los Angeles share similar challenges, particularly in transportation, the economy, international trade and innovation. Eric Garcetti believes these challenges come from our cities being “victims of our own success”.
  • Over the next decade, autonomous vehicles are expected to revolutionise transport. People won’t need to own their own cars, and cities won’t need the carparking infrastructure they have today.

“We have a lot to learn from each other, and we decided to formalise that relationship to improve the economy and the quality of life in each of the three cities.” – Eric Garcetti

While in Auckland, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke of the strong and long standing relationship between the cities in the Tripartite Economic Alliance, the similar challenges Auckland and Los Angeles are facing, and the opportunities that can come from our longstanding relationship as sister-cities.

Los Angeles has been a sister city with Auckland for 45 years, and with Guangzhou for 35 years. “Two years ago in Guangzhou we realised there was so much we could share with each other, especially in transportation, the economy, international trade and innovation,” Garcetti said.

He believes that local governments are where the rubber hits the road and innovation takes place. “We have a lot to learn from each other, and we decided to formalise that relationship to improve the economy and the quality of life in each of the three cities.”


Although Garcetti acknowledged Auckland and Los Angeles share similar challenges, he believes they come from our cities being victims of our own success. “Both cities are learning from mistakes of the past, and undergoing massive transformation in infrastructure, housing, and transportation,” he said.

“Rents are going up, traffic is increasing. But on the other hand, we have a booming economy. People love Los Angeles – it is the northern capital of Latin America, western capital of the United States, eastern capital of the Pacific. In so many ways, people want to be there because it is such a creative place. We just have to solve what that does to people, so they can have a decent place to live, and not be stuck in traffic.”

Both Los Angeles and Auckland’s current housing affordability problem is driven by a lack of supply. Garcetti has been heavily criticised for removing historic buildings in order to build apartments, however he believes that city planning requires a careful balance of urbanisation and preservation.

Neighbourhoods can be preserved, as long as we put intensification around areas we have put public transportation in place. “It’s a supply and demand issue. You have to put buildings where you’re investing in transit, and in your downtowns,” Garcetti said.

Even more so than Auckland, Los Angeles is defined – and criticised – by its roads, and its transportation problems. Both cities removed their tram and streetcar networks in the 1950s and invested heavily in roading infrastructure.

“We want to have cars and we love cars, and we need to improve our roads, but there’s no space to build new freeways. What we have to do is lay down rail that allows people to get around,” said Garcetti.

Los Angeles residents are strongly supportive of increasing public transport. The city requires two-thirds of the population to vote in favour of tax increase, and yet eight years ago the city agreed to tax themselves a quarter-cent on every dollar of sales to initiate a US$35 billion construction programme.

“We literally have five lines underway, connecting the airport, and you will now be able to go from the skyline to the shoreline – Downtown to Santa Monica, for the first time in sixty years, just like our grandparents used to do,” said Garcetti.

Over the next decade, Garcetti believes that autonomous vehicles will revolutionise transport. Although Los Angeles has excellent roads, in Downtown Los Angeles, 81 per cent of space is taken up by car parking spaces. With autonomous vehicles, people won’t need to own their own cars, and won’t need carparking infrastructure.

“96 per cent of the time, cars are not driven – we own too many of them,” Garcetti said.  “Even at peak traffic – which is only 5 per cent of the day – 10 per cent of the roads have cars on them, 90 per cent don’t. It’s a spacing problem, and we’re right on that brink.

Infrastructure, housing, and transportation are challenges that Garcetti believes our cities can work with each other to share ideas and learn. The formal relationship that our sister city relationship and the Tripartite Economic Alliance provides means Los Angeles, Auckland – and Guangzhou – can innovate, grow, and solve these challenges, together.

Tripartite Summit: E-commerce – a world of opportunity

  •  The e-commerce industry is rapidly evolving and transforming the retail sector faster than ever before.
  • Although the customers might differ in their buying decisions, e-commerce is becoming an important player in all markets around the world.
  • China saw the opportunity New Zealand can provide to their e-commerce industry – many of the country’s largest e-retailers were present at the Tripartite Economic Summit in Auckland, seeking out products that would be in high demand.

“E-commerce is a very simple topic.” -Rob Freelen

“E-commerce is a very simple topic,” said Rob Freelen, Los Angeles Market Manager of Silicon Valley Bank at the Tripartite Economic Summit. “It boils down to connecting a product with the customer, including how you market and sell to the customer, and how you transact with the customer.”

While the customers might differ somewhat between Los Angeles, Auckland, and Guangzhou, the e-commerce industry is rapidly evolving and transforming the retail sector faster than ever before.

Freelen noted that the United States is seeing a large number of e-commerce companies operate in very specific niche sectors.

Thrive Market sells ‘the best healthy, natural, non-GMO, organic, vegan, raw, Paleo, gluten-free, and non-toxic items from the top-selling brands at wholesale prices’ – effectively a hybrid between Whole Foods and Amazon. They deliver specifically to those demographics that don’t have an easily accessible Whole Foods, and it’s a market that is growing very quickly.

Club W is a wine discovery platform targeted to 21-31 year olds. It has been designed to introduce younger consumers to new tastes they might like. The Dollar Shave Club sells very cheap disposable razors. Both of these business spurred a multimillion dollar business based on a couple of YouTube videos that went viral.

The US economy often leads the world in industries like e-commerce. Freelen has seen the industry rapidly shift from an information economy to an experience economy. “These companies are expected to not only go internationally, but to go after customers in a unique, innovative way, that will drive much faster sales increases,” he said.

Recognition of the transformation to an experience economy was even echoed at the Tripartite Summit in a panel discussion on virtual and augmented reality. “The importance is not discounting; it’s about upselling experience,” said Dr Roy Davies, Founder of Imersia.

“The importance is not discounting; it’s about upselling experience.” -Dr Roy Davies

The Guangdong Cross-border E-Commerce Industry Association (GCEIA), an industry body that was formed by many of the leading Chinese e-commerce industry players reiterated China’s e-commerce interest in New Zealand.

GCEIA actively promotes New Zealand as a region and a source of products among its membership. When asked what they aimed to get from their attendance at the summit, GCEIA said “the Summit is a great opportunity to explore potential local suppliers. Many of our association members are interested in the opportunity for New Zealand products in China. We are here to seek out those goods that will be in high demand through our platforms.”

China’s E-mall platform provided by ICBC now has 680 million subscribers, which at more than the population of the European Union, ranks it as the largest e-commerce platform in the world. The internet industry has contributed to seven per cent of China’s total GDP, and this is expected to continue to grow.

China has seen such rapid development of the e-commerce industry because it corresponds to the growth of the middle class. China is being further and further urbanised, customers demand for better quality products is growing, and disposable income continues to increase. By working with top quality businesses, ICBC have established a solid brand in the marketplace, and are achieving a very good word of mouth reputation among customers and businesses.

ICBC’s New Zealand E-mall was launched in November 2015, and allows ICBC’s small and medium sized businesses to sell directly into the Chinese market through a secure sales channel. In the three months since the New Zealand E-mall went live, ICBC facilitated 4000 transactions on the platform. Leveraging the increasing demand from Chinese consumers for high quality, safe products, the majority of items on the New Zealand E-mall are personal health care and cosmetic products, and New Zealand made snacks.

“The next step for ICBC will be to expand their product lines into new products, including tourism and studying in New Zealand.” -Xiaoyan Chen

“The next step for ICBC will be to expand their product lines into new products, including tourism and studying in New Zealand,” said Xiaoyan Chen, ICBC Director. “We plan to provide information and solutions for people looking to visit and study in New Zealand. ICBC wants to become a strong bond. One that can link trade between our countries together, and provide a one stop cross-border solution.”

Vipshop, a Chinese ecommerce giant, is another Chinese company capitalising on the ecommerce shift. Working with around 18,000 brands, many of them at the premium end of the market, the company now has 180m registered members, including 13 million daily active users, with an 80% repeat purchase rate.

“You can really see how ecommerce is shaping the whole China retail market.” -Hillary Wang

To put the shift into ecommerce into perspective, 46% of all pairs of shoes sold in the Chinese market in 2015 were sold online. “You can really see how ecommerce is shaping the whole China retail market,” says Hillary Wang, Senior International Director at Vipshop.

E-commerce platforms like Vipshop are able to provide the suppliers whose products they feature with access to an increasingly large pool of data about buyers. For example, Vipshop can provide suppliers with information about where merchandise has been delivered to and who has been buying. New Zealand companies can then use this information to make strategic decisions when entering the Chinese market in a physical, offline sense.

These innovations open New Zealand retailers up to a potentially enormous customer demand, especially now that China has overtaken the US to become the world’s largest e-commerce market, and this is only anticipated to continue, with China’s strong domestic consumption and rapid urbanisation.

Tripartite Summit: The Economic Power of Arts and Culture

  •  The creation of networks of people is an important driver for economic development and can help to fully unlock creativity.
  • It can be argued that China is millennia ahead of the rest of the world in terms of understanding the role of networks, and cultivating them.

“The economic driver of the future isn’t a factory or a piece of technology or software. It’s actually networks.” – Sunny Bates

 Sunny Bates is CEO of Sunny Bates Associates and a director of Kickstarter and Creative Capital, an advisory board member of MIT Media Lab, and a Brain Trust member of TED Conferences. She advises big corporations including GE and Proctor & Gamble.

Bates is also an expert in human networks, and although she spoke at the Tripartite Economic Summit about how she spends her life with a fear of missing out, it seems she does everything but. Bates joked – though only half-heartedly – that her keynote address was organised thanks to a chance meeting in a hot tub on a boat with a New Zealand executive. Opportunities like these don’t seem all that uncommon in Bates’ life.


Networks redefined

Bates insisted the economic driver of the future won’t come from factories, technology, or even software. But it will instead come from networks – networks of people.

“The most important thing anyone can do to drive economic development and fully unlock creativity is to create networks of people,” she said.

Bates pointed out that art and culture are critical economic drivers. The cities and regions that understand this are consciously creating conditions to attract and retain people and support their networks. They will be the winners this century.

The Tripartite Alliance was highlighted throughout the Summit as an example of where cultural cross-pollination is occurring, with tangible benefits resulting. “There is a beautiful cultural exchange going on,” said Melanie Higgins, US Consul-General in Auckland. “Culture transcends the boundaries and the Pacific connects us.”


What are networks?

Guanxi is a Chinese word originating from the Chinese social philosophy of Confucianism, stressing the importance of mutual obligations, reciprocity, and trust with others in order to maintain social and economic order. It describes the importance of connections and networks that are formed between individuals – and the way that people find each other, and the way in which capital and ideas move.

Bates argues that China is millennia ahead of the rest of the world in understanding the role of networks, and cultivating them.

Most people think of a network as being something physical. But instead, Bates’ thinks of Rome.

In contrast to other big cities – particularly London’s Thames and the Seine in Paris – Rome has been strangely disconnected from the Tiber river. The river, although running through the heart of the city, has been neglected over the years, and people don’t use it.

For the revitalisation of the river, Rome didn’t build a stadium or a factory. Instead, they commissioned a massive art project. William Kentridge created a 550 metre frieze – Triumphs and Laments – running along one side of the embankment between Ponte Sisto and Ponte Mazzini. Rome’s largest piece of public art since Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel wasn’t painted on the walls. Instead, large, figurative stencils were placed on the river’s embankment and the wall then power-washed around them – a process referred to in the industry as ‘reverse graffiti’.

This revitalisation of the heart of the city, although only opening last month, has already made the waterfront a place that people want to visit. Rome has become the go-to European destination this summer.

How did this happen?

We often talk about things ‘taking a village.’ But the modern day equivalent is that it takes a network – and often a global one.  Allowing arts and culture to flourish and become an economic driver requires funding, public policy, and infrastructure. You need support not only from government, but from the public.

The project in Rome was created by a South African artist, commissioned by a Roman arts organisation, with funding through the US crowdsourcing website Kickstarter. The project raised over US$95,000 – easily surpassing the goal of US$80,000. Most backers for the project were based in America and will likely never see the artwork. But it doesn’t matter – because as Bates points out, networks know no borders. That is their power.

What is culture in an economic context?

Today, networks are immaterial. Moving beyond goods and services, networks still produce values and products – they just look different. Experiences, intangibles – a conference – these are all cultural products. They have intellectual property, a location where these experiences happen, and a process that leads up to them.

The recent hoverboard craze is another example of a network in action, Bates explained. They were born out of social network magnification and are now a global phenomenon. China’s Shenzhen has become the world capital of meme manufacturing – 600 manufacturers started producing hoverboards in the first six months of 2015. This idea of meme manufacturing typically starts in the west – an idea spreads through an elaborate social network. Tweets, likes on Facebook, and photographs posted onto Instagram have the power to shape the lives and economies of people and places on the other side of the world.

The economic power of culture and networks was also evident in a panel discussion on the ‘influencer economy’. “A lot of people underestimate the power of culture and how that actually impacts people’s buying decisions,” says Angelo Pullen, founder of 3BlackDot. Increasingly, YouTubers are “driving forces in culture for young men and women around the world.”

3BlackDot is essentially a network itself; the company has a number of YouTube stars under its umbrella, which Pullen describes as “a network of YouTube influencers.” Between them, these 22 influencers have some 70 million followers and receive around 700 million views each month.

Other examples of culture impacting economics that Bates spoke of included:

  • The Gates in New York were a group of gates comprising a site-specific work of art by Bulgarian artist Christo Yavacheff and French artist Jeanne-Claude. They installed over 7,500 vinyl gates along pathways in Central Park. Although this was initially rejected in the 1980s, it ultimately attracted many people, and helped to boost the arts scene in New York.
  • After a struggle spanning the seventies, eighties and nineties in Berlin, the wrapped Reichstag was completed in June 1995. For two weeks the building, the former centre of the German Empire, was shrouded in silvery polypropylene – highlighting the features and proportions of the imposing building. It helped shift Berlin into a celebratory mood with crowds gathering day and night and marking the beginning of the city’s twenty-year ascent to become the cultural mecca of Europe.
  • The 798 Art zone – or the Dashanzi Art District in Beijing – is a 50-year-old decommissioned military factory with a unique architectural style. It has been transformed into a thriving community for artists. The building brings together an eclectic mix of people that would otherwise not have an outlet.
  • The Lord of the Rings is a great New Zealand example of culture driving economics. The films helped to grow tourism by 40 per cent from 2000 to 2006. Six per cent of international visitors cited the films as their primary reason to visit New Zealand. The films continue to boost the New Zealand economy, estimated to be worth NZD$33 million a year.
  • The film and television industry in Los Angeles accounts for a significant amount of the US GDP, and is a critical mass for cultural migration. Furthermore, business in Hollywood tends to be done over drinks and a meal – which was fuelled a great culinary scene in the city.

Bates concluded her talk with an inspirational message that set the scene for day two of the Tripartite Summit.

“Networks are the structural basis for globalisation and for modernisation,” she said. “Networks know no boundaries, and cultural networks are powerful. They should be consciously created for the benefit of everyone. They can’t be violated, abandoned or ignored. Networks have power that can’t be explored without consequences.”

Tripartite Summit: Guangzhou – a hub for innovation

  • Guangzhou is China’s third-largest city. It has a GDP of similar size to Singapore and Hong Kong, and is undergoing massive transformation.
  • The city is moving away from low-cost manufacturing and exports and towards innovation, science and technology, and services for domestic consumption.
  • There are various opportunities for Los Angeles and Auckland to be involved in China’s new economic blueprint, and to access Chinese government funding where there is an alignment with the development priorities of each city.

“It is lucky that China has managed to tie all these things together. Seemingly by sheer luck, China has got the mix of timing, location, and people right.” – Derrick Xiong

Delegates to the Tripartite Summit will not have left uncertain of the scale of the opportunity offered by Auckland’s sister city status with Guangzhou.

China’s third-largest city economy is transforming. Even if it wasn’t, the size alone would be opportunity enough: at US$275bn, Guangzhou’s economy is almost the size of Singapore’s and Hong Kong’s in terms of GDP.


Importantly, in the face of growing fears of a slowdown in the Chinese economy, it’s a city which grew 8.3 percent in 2015. That made it the fastest growing of China’s three largest cities, outpacing Shanghai and Beijing by 1.5 and 1.6 percentage points respectively.

As outlined by Rebecca Needham, New Zealand Consul-General to Guangzhou, the Chinese economy as a whole is undergoing a transformation, but Guangzhou is “structurally one of the most advanced cities” on this path.

“What I mean by that is moving away from growth dependent on low-cost manufacturing and exports and moving very much towards growth based on innovation, science and technology, and services for domestic consumption,” explains Needham.

A Chinese government plan in 2008 confirmed plans to make Guangzhou an international hub for science and innovation. That goal is also prominent within the Guangzhou city government’s own five-year plan. Now, eight years into the original plan, and with four years left, Guangzhou has arguably already achieved that goal.

A hallmark of that process has been the development of the Guangzhou National Supercomputer Centre which holds Tianhe-2, the world’s fastest supercomputer. The result of USD$400m of investment by the Guangzhou, provincial, and central governments – and built in an impressively quick 18 months – the Centre offers a huge amount to the city.

“Now, we talk about a new industrial revolution,” said Professor Yuan Xue-Feng, the Centre’s Director. “Characterised by digitalisation, information, networks, intelligent prioritisation.”

Tianhe-2 has fast become the centre of the city’s innovation, with more than 1000 user groups. Applications include material engineering, computational biology and personalized medicine, digital manufacturing, energy-related activities, astronomy geoscience and environmental engineering, and smart-city activities.

The ultimate goal is to “create an ecosystem for research and innovation.”

There are various opportunities for NZ involvement in what Needham refers to as “China’s new economic blueprint”. These have included biomedicine, information technology (with scope for collaboration with the Supercomputer Centre), or even creating a virtual landing pad in Guangzhou through the Innohub connections Auckland has forged of late.

Rapid prototyping is another high-level sector where Guangzhou’s capabilities represent an opportunity for Auckland’s businesses. The Callaghan Institute is currently exploring this, along with scaling-up possibilities around manufacturing, as an option for young New Zealand companies.

“There are also possibilities for Auckland and Los Angeles to access Chinese government funding where there is an alignment with the city’s development priorities,” says Needham.

“There are also possibilities for Auckland and Los Angeles to access Chinese government funding where there is an alignment with the city’s development priorities.” -Rebecca Needham

This new wave of economy for China was reiterated in the Advanced Manufacturing and Automation panel at the Tripartite Summit. Derrick Xiong, of Ehang Inc. referred to the Chinese saying throughout his presentation – “timing, location, and people”.

“It is lucky,” said Xiong, “that China has managed to tie all these things together.” Seemingly by sheer luck, China has got the mix of timing, location, and people right, which has allowed companies like Ehang Inc. to be part of the new era of made in China”.

For New Zealand businesses to be a part of this emerging opportunity will require looking beyond Guangzhou as simply a market for exports, but instead seeing it as an area to form innovative partnerships that add value.

Tripartite Summit: High Value Foods – Mega Trends & Opportunity

  • The food industry is undergoing massive change. Farming systems and sources of food are being transformed around the world, new retail models are emerging in the food sector, and consumer demand is rapidly changing.
  • Reinvention of New Zealand’s food industry is critical to the country returning to the forefront of exporting and developing food and agribusiness products.
  • The global challenges in the food industry are so urgent that it is no longer alright to focus on research for research sake – there must be a connection between research and the adoption routines of the marketplace.

“It is a fast moving world and no longer alright to focus on research for research sake. The problems we face are so urgent that there must be a continuing connection between research and the adoption routines of the marketplace.” – Rohit Shukla

The challenge faced by New Zealand

Since the 1970s, New Zealand’s economic performance has drifted, and we are no longer at the forefront of exporting and developing food and agribusiness products. Over the last fifteen years, New Zealand has doubled exports in food and agribusiness – but that is largely down to increasing volumes of commodity products, which are currently more volatile than ever.

“What got us here will not get us there – reinvention is critical,” said Buckley, Executive Chairman of KPMG New Zealand. The New Zealand Government has set a target to double our exports in food and agribusiness through until 2025. “If we are going to succeed with that goal, the help of America and China is essential to make this happen,” he said.

New Zealand produces enough food to feed 20 million people – around five times its population. A real challenge for us is that we must not rush off to feed the first 20 million people we come across, said Buckley. “For New Zealand to get the best returns, we need to look at the top 800,000 affluent customers, and feed just a portion of their diet.”

The food industry is undergoing massive change. Farming systems and sources of food are being transformed around the world, new retail models are emerging in the food sector, and consumer demand is rapidly changing. New Zealand needs to be aware of this evolution in order to leverage it.


Changes in farming

  • The use of drones for precision agriculture has made crop management explode around the world. Drones can provide live data, with a range of sensors, to provide in-depth information.
  • The Climate Corporation was founded in 2006 by two former Google executives. It examines weather data to farmers, who can then gain insurance and lock in profits in the case of droughts and adverse weather conditions. Monsanto acquired this business in 2013 for US$930 million.
  • Farmers are using data for ‘smart farming’. Sensors are being integrated into irrigation systems that can provide ground water information.

Reinventing our food source

  • Wayback Burgers in the United States offered customers the chance to increase their protein intake by offering the Oral Mud Pie Cricket Protein milkshake, with 24 grams of protein – or 96 crickets.
  • Impossible Foods is producing plant matter that is made to look like beef, taste like beef, bleed like beef – but is not beef. The Impossible Burger is promoted as having the look, feel, smell, sizzle and taste of a great burger, but made from plants.
  • Fearlife provides milk products with superior nutrition, less sugar, more protein and calcium, and no lactose. It is owned 50 per cent by Coca-Cola.
  • SmartFish source their fish from Mexico, and deliver to top restaurants in California and Texas. The company places emphasis on quality, efficiency and responsibility, with a focus on sustainability and social, economic, and environmental returns.

Emergence of new retail models

  • Food wastage is a big issue worldwide. Wefood is a charity-based organisation operating in Denmark, and has opened the first ever food surplus food market. Although it is 30 – 50 per cent cheaper than normal supermarkets, it is not only aimed at low-income shoppers. A large number of shoppers are those who are concerned about the sheer amount of food waste. The charity hopes to reduce 700,000 tonnes of food that Denmark wastes each year.
  • MyFoodBag is a homegrown example from New Zealand, which was formed three years ago. Weekly dinners are ordered ahead of time, delivered on Sunday with innovative, healthy recipes. This business model avoids typical supermarket supply chains, and has already grown from $0 to $100 million in turnover.
  • Eat My Lunch is a great success in New Zealand. People order a healthy lunch for $12, and at the same time Eat My Lunch provide a free lunch to an underprivileged child who would have otherwise missed out.

Consumer demand

  • There is increasing consumer awareness, and demand for traceability and transparency of food and the way it is produced and distributed, and yet the frequency of food contamination is increasing. This is just as important for large economies as it is for those rapidly developing countries.
  • Consumers are becoming more aware of what they are eating and there is a growing trend for organic products. While the payout for dairy farmers is less than $4 per kilogram milk solids, Fonterra – New Zealand’s largest milk cooperative – has just offered $9.20 per kilogram of milk solids if farmers can provide organic milk.
  • Sugar levels in food is a big issue dominating headlines at the moment. As a result, people are changing their diets, and some economies are imposing sugar taxes. Nutritional facts is a trend nowadays. Consumers are spending considerable time looking at labels and nutrition levels before buying a product.
  • Driscoll’s is a very large producer of berries in the United States. Their supply chain innovation strategy is built around delighting their consumers. As soon as berries are packaged, a unique barcode is attached to each box that can be used by the consumer through a smartphone app to report on their level of delight with the berries. Through this, Driscoll’s can track the field the berries were grown in, and the time it took for the berries to go through every step of the supply chain before reaching the consumer. Driscoll’s has begun rewarding individual growers that produce the best berries and create delight for their customers. This simple connection with traceability of foods has reduced input costs by significant amounts, and an increased level of ‘delight’ for their consumers.

New Zealand must protect its natural resources, Buckley told the audience. He used Ireland’s ‘Origin Green’ as a model. Origin Green is a sustainability programme that operates on a national scale, and unites government, the private sector, and food producers through the Irish Food Board. It sets targets for farmers and food producers to meet on sustainability, resulting in a positive impact on the environment, local communities, and Ireland’s natural resources.


Rohit Shukla, chief executive of the Larta Institute in Los Angeles agreed with Buckley, and believes New Zealand could – and should – be a truly global player in the high-value nutrition sector.

“The great thing about New Zealand is that you can collaborate on a research basis,” he said. “New Zealand is a small country which allows for shared facilities and research. This is unlike in the US, where universities and research institutions tend to be very proprietary about what they develop, which stifles collaboration.”

Shukla threw down a challenge at the Summit. He urged the audience to consider what we could do as three world-class cities, and suggested the creation of a tripartite working group that would be dedicated to food safety, reliability, and innovation in high-value foods. “I imagine this would involve a combined research effort across the three cities, and must include the collaboration of universities, public health bodies, and regulatory agencies,” said Shukla.

“By creating a grand challenge for collaboration, the tripartite alliance could create high-value foods that are good for our economies, and good for our planet,” he said.

Shukla emphasised how important it is that the applications of research are understood and framed in the context of what is happening in the world.

“It is a fast moving world and no longer alright to focus on research for research sake,” he said. “The problems we face are so urgent that there must be a continuing connection between research and the adoption routines of the marketplace”.

Tripartite Summit: Innovation from cross-pollination

  • Cross-pollination between Auckland, Los Angeles, and Guangzhou brings the prospect of exciting innovation.
  • Erez Morag believes when culture, expertise, insights, and ranks come together and are cross-pollinated, it is then that truly successful innovation can happen.

“Cross-pollination between these three cities will bring exciting innovation,” said Dr Erez Morag, former Nike Innovation expert speaking at the Tripartite Economic Summit about Los Angeles, Auckland, and Guangzhou.

Morag studied bioinformatics at university because he liked the idea of solving human problems. Soon after presenting his PhD on the structure and function of the foot, he was recruited by Nike executives to join their team.


During Morag’s time at Nike, the company created the ‘Nike Maxims’ – 11 rules that all employees at Nike need to work to:

  1. It is in our nature to innovate
  2. Nike is a company
  3. Nike is a brand
  4. Simplify and go
  5. The consumer decides
  6. Be a sponge
  7. Evolve immediately
  8. Do the right thing
  9. Master the fundamentals
  10. We are on the offense – always
  11. Remember the man

Morag found eleven maxims difficult to remember, and decided to focus on just four:

  • It is our nature to innovate: Nike saw innovation as one of its core organisational competencies.
  • Simplify and go: Nike products have short life-cycles in terms of technology, and in fashion. The company believes that making quick, insightful decisions is the key to its success.
  • Do the right thing: Nike sees itself as a responsible global citizen and embraces the importance of corporate social responsibility.
  • Remember the man: The late Bill Bowerman – an Olympic track and field coach and co-founder of Nike – continues to be held in high regard at Nike for being a motivator, a dreamer, and an innovator. In 1962, Bowerman came to New Zealand to meet Arthur Lydiard, who is credited with inventing the concept of jogging. After meeting Lydiard, Bowerman published the book ‘Jogging’ in 1966 – popularising jogging in the United States. “Invented in New Zealand, commercialised in the United States, and a great example of cross-pollination,” said Morag.

During Morag’s keynote address, he shared his secrets to innovation success, and in particular focused on the importance of cross-pollination. “When culture, expertise, insights, and ranks come together and are cross-pollinated, that is when truly successful innovation can happen,” he said.

Good idea, act now

In general, life presents us with great ideas. They might be on the way to work, or when we’re going to sleep. Most often, it happens when we exercise. But Morag lamented that so many of us put those ideas out of our minds.

“We get a phone call, a text message, a tweet – and forget about the great idea,” he said. When Morag has a great idea, he forgets everything else until he has written it down.

Listen to everyone

Morag learnt this lesson from tennis great Roger Federer. He listens to everyone with the same level of attention – every opinion counts, and counts equally. This is true in science as well. Nike learnt that it is not just the major muscles that count in sport, but all muscles have a contribution to make to speed.

Morag has always given freedom to his employees to innovate. “So often,” he said, “the highest ranked officer speaks, and everyone else rephrases what was said.” Instead, Morag recommends that businesses encourage employees at all levels to share innovative ideas. When he is the highest ranked officer in the room but wants to get really great ideas, Morag speaks last. It is the cross-pollination of ideas across ranks that means that those teams who share the most ideas, produce the best results.

Control the ball – control the game

There is a ‘ball’ for every business, and for every individual. For Nike, the ball is running. Running is the biggest category that any sports and fitness business needs to protect.

Sulfur hexafluoride is an inorganic, colourless, odourless, non-flammable gas that was used extensively in the footwear industry for cushioning. In the 1990s it was recognised as a greenhouse gas. When this happened, Nike decided to control their ‘ball’ – remove sulfur hexafluoride from their product range, as well as change all their solvents to water-based.

Designers and biomechanics needed a cross-pollination of expertise to make sure the shoes would still function well without those harmful molecules. The work took five years to complete, but Nike has now become one of the global leaders in multinational sustainability due to the company’s ability to collaborate.

Chase the insights – not competition

Morag used the Cooper’s hawk as a metaphor. Most hawks hunt in open fields, but the Cooper’s hawk has carved out a market for itself, hunting in various types of mixed deciduous forests and woodlands. “In business, we need to follow our insights and not the competition,” said Morag. “Doing the same as everyone else isn’t necessarily the right thing to do – however hard that might be.”

Going into the 2006 Football World Cup, the two biggest football brands – Nike and Adidas – were facing their own battle. Nike was betting on speed and developed a 200-gram shoe that was considered to be faster than any other shoe available at the time. On the other hand, Adidas was developing shoes that were individually designed for players. Four years later, Adidas switched to lightweight football shoes, which proved to the industry that Nike was on the right track from the start.

Play bigger than your size

In 2008 Nike went through an organisational change and shifted from being operational-centric to consumer-centric. Morag was asked to join the football leadership team and was tasked with finding a way to cross the chasm and bring innovation to the mainstream consumer.

Morag and his team decided that instead of delivering a stand-alone product, they would create and deliver a product alongside a training programme. Bringing together digital marketing, brand, and product teams, he developed a shoe alongside a training programme – combining the physical world with the digital world. This meant that every consumer was able to buy shoes and receive a training programme from the best coaches in the world, free of charge.

Passing insights quickly and accurately from one person to another was the reason why Nike has succeeded where others have failed. During his time at Nike, Morag worked with over 80 of the world’s greatest athletes and is a true believer that the best innovation comes from cross-pollination.

“This Tripartite Economic Alliance can be a great tool to allow cross-pollination to occur, and bring exciting innovation to these three cities – if you take advantage of it,” said Morag.

Tripartite Summit: Māori economy – becoming a significant economic powerhouse

  • Several decades ago, there was a common perception that all Māori were factory workers, truck drivers, or cleaners – Maori success in business was only ever seen as the exception.
  • Māori are quickly becoming significant economic powerhouses, owning an estimated NZ$40 billion of assets in New Zealand.
  • Māori are spiritual people, and their motivation in business reflects their world view: that long-term sustainability is more important than profit.

“Māori are a people of the land, and everything we do relates to the environment around us. Though that said, we also have a significant interest in digital, IT, education, and tourism.” – Te Ururoa Flavell

“It is only several decades since there was a common perception that all Māori are factory workers, labourers, truck drivers, or cleaners,” said Paul Majurey, senior law partner and of Ngati Maru/Marutuahu descent at the Tripartite Economic Summit. “Success in Māori business was only ever seen as an exception.”

But for many centuries, Majurey explained, Māori flourished in New Zealand. In the 1850s, Māori still owned the majority of land in New Zealand. All of this changed in the 1860’s, and yet they continue to have the skills and the integrity to flourish in the industrial age.

Despite adversity, Māori are again becoming significant economic powerhouses. Majurey predicts that in another decade, Māori will be one of the cornerstones of the New Zealand economy.

Auckland Māori own more than $23 billion of assets, contributing more than NZ$4 billion to Auckland’s GDP. New Zealand Māori assets account for an estimated NZ$40 billion, including 40% of New Zealand’s export forest land, 40% of our fishing quota, 10% of kiwifruit, and a high percentage of land production. “As further settlements occur, the value of the combined Iwi asset portfolio is expected to grow significantly,” said Majurey.

Te Ururoa Flavell, co-leader of New Zealand’s Māori Party, spoke at the Summit about the legend of Māui fishing up the North Island with the jawbone of his grandmother.

“The fish that was pulled out of the ocean was a traveler and an entrepreneur. He may have made it to China and Los Angeles before his final destination of Auckland,” he said.

Flavell explained that to Māori, economic development translates to jobs, enterprise, land development, and infrastructure in cities and towns. While private enterprise is required to answer to shareholders, Māori business has to answer to Iwi and they must balance economic returns with social and environmental concerns, to ensure it remains in place for future generations.

Māori are not new to international markets, innovation, and enterprise, Flavell told attendees. “Māori can trace their DNA back to China over 6,000 years ago. This demonstrates that Māori people have historically been resourceful, resilient, and adaptable.”

“On the other side of the Pacific, some of our ancestors spread to the Americas. We have strong links to groups in North America, and Māori people are now seeking partners to unlock land productivity in that market,” he said.

Māori businesses have a strong desire to move up the value chain, participate in international markets, and use the tradition of storytelling to carve out a point of difference to global markets. The future will look different for Māori business as they differentiate into new sectors.

“Māori are a people of the land, and everything we do relates to the environment around us,” said Flavell. “Though that said, we also have a significant interest in digital, IT, education, and tourism.”

“Māori will never lose interest in the primary sector, but they are looking to diversity and form partnerships with government, private companies, and foreign investors all over the world in order to grow their asset base in New Zealand.” -Paul Majurey

Majurey agreed with Flavell – “Māori will never lose interest in the primary sector, but they are looking to diversity and form partnerships with government, private companies, and foreign investors all over the world in order to grow their asset base in New Zealand.”

Both Flavell and Majurey emphasised how important relationships are. For Māori, relationships are about mana, and of significant importance. Māori are spiritual people, and agreements are based on trust. Their motivation in business reflects their world view: that long-term sustainability is more important than profit.

“Māori want to hear your heart, not just slick words,” Flavell said. “If there is no connection to your heart, then there can be no deal – because it will be doomed from the start.”

Tripartite Summit: Liveable Cities – Britomart as a common ground

  • Until the early 1900s, rail in Auckland came right into the bottom of Queen Street. It has recently returned to Britomart – albeit underground – and has been integral to the evolution and revitalisation of Auckland’s CBD.
  • Britomart has become a gateway for Auckland and is helping to remove barriers and hurdles between cultures.

“Britomart creates bigger opportunities every day in front of our eyes… so don’t blink.” – Daijiang Tai

Jeremy Salmond, from Salmond Reed Architects provided context at the Tripartite Economic Summit on the history of Auckland’s Britomart precinct. Up until the early 1900s, rail in Auckland came right to the bottom of Queen Street, until the reclamation of land drove rail out of the city centre.

“The manner in which a community deals with historical remnants varies considerably,” he said. In Auckland, this has largely been an accident of timing. Britomart is one of a number of well-preserved precincts in New Zealand that has found a new use, and is now widely regarded as a historical asset with significant commercial potential.

The return of rail to Queen Street – albeit underground – could be seen as a virtuous circle. Britomart represents a remarkable tale of survival in Auckland. The structural and geopolitical history of Auckland’s streets and buildings remain relevant and integral to the evolving city of the future.

Daijiang Tai, from Cheshire Architects, spoke about the current function of Britomart in Auckland, and used its development as a case study about Auckland’s engagement not only with businesses and the local community, but with the world.

The values that New Zealand has been known for historically have been strongly recognised recently with Chinese audiences: clean water, fresh air, quality products, friendly people. The Chinese market is a recognised pathway for New Zealand businesses to grow, largely due to the sheer size of the market and ongoing growth and rapid urbanization in China.

Auckland – like many cities – has seen these two cultures living side-by-side for a long time. But the two worlds have only recently started to collide. It is important that Auckland curates the collision as it takes place, in order to ensure it comes together in the best possible way, maximising the opportunity.

Britomart was used as a good example of a ‘common ground’. Tai explains that hospitality is something that everyone can appreciate – regardless of their culture or the language they speak. When hospitality is delivered to the highest standard, it brings people together, and provides a solid base for engagement. “This is the foundation for Britomart, and was at the core of its transformation from a commercial wasteland to one of the city’s most successful precincts,” he said.

Tai hopes that people think of the Britomart precinct as a gateway – “it is an access point for the best resources and professionals in the city,” he said. “Britomart can help remove barriers and hurdles between cultures, which is critically important, as we must engage with the wider world and improve ourselves through healthy competition.”

On a higher level, Tai emphasised that we must deconstruct and rebuild our perceptions. China is growing at a massive speed, and so fast, that it is very hard to get a grasp on it. We have to look at the Chinese market with fresh eyes. It is changing so quickly, that we need to do that every day.

For the first time, said Tai, we can say the same thing about Auckland. The city provides much more than just clean water, fresh air, and quality products. Britomart is the most successful precinct in the city – because it is adaptive. It is ready to change and becomes something new every minute, constantly creating space for more to happen through old businesses and new courtyards. This mentality is shared by council, architects, and operators, and gives the precinct the speed and ability to collaborate across all disciplines and sectors.

As Auckland is so small, and at the same time culturally, technologically and socially adaptive, it can react and change faster than almost everywhere else. It is the perfect global test tube for urban change.

Britomart created a common ground before anyone realised it. The injection of different cultures will open opportunities the city never knew existed, which in turn allows us to become a complex and vibrant city. New spaces will create new forms of cultural entertainment and allow the cross-pollination of ideas to take place.

Tai’s closing statement to the Summit summed this notion up: “Britomart creates bigger opportunities every day in front of our eyes… so don’t blink.”

Tripartite Summit: Liveable Cities – good for the environment, good for business

  • Green buildings in Los Angeles are demonstrating a higher average occupancy level, increased occupant satisfaction over the general market, as well as higher rental rates.
  • Watt Companies was one of the first major property companies in Los Angeles to introduce sustainable practices in its properties.

“Ultimately, green buildings demonstrate a higher average occupancy level, and increased occupant satisfaction over the general market. They also show higher rental rates.” -Nadine Watt

Nadine Watt, President of Watt Companies, oversees the company’s commercial investment activities. This includes acquisitions, development, and asset management for a 6 million square-foot portfolio of industrial, office, and retail properties.

Through Watt’s 15 years at Watt Companies, one of her most notable achievements has been to transition the company to become a leader in sustainability. Watt persuaded her grandfather that if Watt Companies do sustainability – and do it well, by creating livable cities that leave the city better than how they were found, other companies would be forced to follow their lead.

This formed the basis for her talk at the Tripartite Economic Summit in Auckland – managing a successful business, without compromising the future of the environment.

Watt was responsible for a multi-million-dollar renovation program at Watt Plaza – a 920,000 square foot, Class-A office building in Century City Los Angeles, that was instrumental in securing the building’s Platinum LEED certification in 2013 and a TOBY (The Outstanding Building of the Year) award in 2011.

Some of the sustainable practices Watt Companies have implemented in its properties include:

  • Building management and contractors are continually tracking sustainable practices to ensure the best management practices are being maintained.
  • Integrated pest management programmes are being followed, where less toxic pesticides are used as a first line of prevention. When more toxic products must be used to maintain the health and safety of occupants, proper measures are taken to ensure chemicals have limited contact with building occupants.
  • Nearly 40% of occupants utilize an alternate mode of transportation (including carpooling, public transportation, green cars). To encourage the use of alternate fuels, Watt Plaza has installed four electric charging stations, and plans to install six dual charging stations over the next year.
  • Over 90% of car parking is under cover, which limits the amount of asphalt surfaces and lowers the ‘heat island’ effect in the surrounding area.
  • The roof is coated with a white polyurethane topcoat in order to limit the amount of heat gain, which lowers the urban ‘heat island’ effect and increases roof efficiency.
  • Watt Plaza uses a combination of 3M window film to prevent light emission from interior spaces and avoid up-lights on the exterior of the building to reduce light pollution that can cause human health and ecological problems.
  • Ongoing consumable waste inside Watt Plaza is separated on-site for recycling and disposal. By implementing a tenant and janitorial staff training programme, the building saw a 72% reduction in recyclable material being sent to landfill.
  • Electronics and durable goods are collected on a quarterly basis through qualified vendors, for proper disposal.

Watt explained that from energy savings alone, the average payback time for a green building is six years. The volatility of energy prices and the long-term trend of rising demand for finite and depleting fossil fuels means that creating green buildings has become a cost-effective risk-reduction strategy for the company. Green design not only reduces carbon dioxide emissions, at the same time it creates jobs, strengthens property values, and increases the health of those communities that live close by. Given the reality and severity of climate change, a national shift to green design is both financially and environmentally wise.

“Sustainability has been important in reducing the impact on the environment to ensure livable cities in the future and increase investment value,” said Watt. She concluded her address to the Summit by saying that “ultimately, green buildings demonstrate a higher average occupancy level, and increased occupant satisfaction over the general market. They also show higher rental rates.”

Watt was able to prove her hypothesis to her grandfather, that “doing good for the environment has been a great business decision.”