Agribusiness: CEOs of NZ's largest exporters to China talk strategy (NZ Herald)

Agribusiness: CEOs of NZ’s largest exporters to China talk strategy (NZ Herald)

Miles Hurrell

Miles Hurrell is chief executive of Fonterra, the world’s largest dairy exporter.

This year marks 50 years of diplomatic relations between New Zealand and China, a significant milestone in the relationship with our largest trading partner.

Fonterra CEO Miles Hurrell says the dairy co-operative also entered the China market 50 years ago and it continues to be a strategically important market, receiving around one-third of its milk.

The dairy giant’s strategy in China is to meet the growing need of customers and consumers for high-quality nutrition and provide premium dairy to its people both online and in-store.

“China is an important part of the global industry supply chain. Innovation, sustainability and efficiency have seen us succeed over the past 40 plus years and we firmly believe these will underpin our future growth,” Hurrell told the China Business Summit which took place earlier this month.

Despite some softening due to Covid-19, Fonterra continues to see firm demand in China in the medium to long term.

China Business Summit 2022: Opening up panel – Education & Tourism

China Business Summit 2022: View from on the ground in Shanghai (panel moderation)

Surviving the Bears: Optimism in venture capital

Surviving the Bears: Optimism in venture capital

At the recent US Business Summit, Rocket Lab’s Peter Beck told the audience that the number one problem New Zealand entrepreneurs have is they don’t think big enough.

“Think bigger. Way, way bigger,” he urged. “If you’re starting a company, it is a hard painful thing to do. Don’t start a company with the aim of building a $100 million dollar company — build a $100 billion company and set your sights high.

“I was born at the bottom of the South Island in Invercargill, and if I can build a space company then anyone can do anything. There is no barrier.”

This view was shared by the local venture capital (VC) community at a recent panel event on venture capital, organised by the Angel Association New Zealand and NZ Private Capital. The panel said that while the differences of five years ago between the US and New Zealand VC firms are starting to coalesce, kiwi startups still need to learn aspirations from the United States.

However, some of this may be attributed to another difference the panellists identified – NZ companies tend to be much more capital efficient than US venture-backed startups.


“The US is probably looking for unicorns more,” said Movac partner David Beard, referring to startups valued by investors at more than $1 billion.

“Sometimes the decisions you have to make as a founder to be a unicorn require you to introduce significant risk to your business. In New Zealand, we are a little more balanced where we want our entrepreneurs at a fundamental level to succeed and work out what the measured risk is instead.”

The state of the economy

Given the current economic climate, operating as a VC in a bear market inevitably took centre stage at the panel discussion.

Beard explained that the nature of VC investing means that the current climate is negligible since investments, whether they were made over the past two years or will be made in the coming years, would not be realised until an initial public offering (IPO) or sale in a bull market.

“We might have a two-year hiccup, which will see a shift in mode setting from ‘growth at any cost’ to ‘growth with some efficiency around it’,” he said. “Founders and venture capital firms will need to make sure that they are making the best use of the money they have for the next couple of years — it’s about being a bit more sensible.”

A lot of big funds have been raised in recent years in the US, which has seen investors look worldwide for deal flow. Pitchbook data shows that VCs raised more money for new funds in the first quarter of 2022 than in the entirety of 2019.

But these new funds haven’t translated into more investments into startups, with VCs keeping ‘dry powder’ — uninvested capital — aside for existing portfolio companies in case they need more support than they have in the past.

Beard has started to see global funds retract. “We need to make sure we have companies we can fund in New Zealand through co-investment, and make sure the good ones get the resources and money they need over the next few years,” he said.

“Expectations of wildly growing high valuations and selling in three years might have been possible recently, but now we need to be more pragmatic.”

Punakaiki Fund’s Nadine Hill told the audience that the inflationary environment will provide fuel to help accelerate change.

“We saw in Covid how important technology solutions were for people. With inflation, it has never been more important to take costs out of business, and do business and life better,” she said. “We are not traders, we’re not trying to buy low and sell high, we are trying to build companies over the longer-term.”

GD1’s founding partner Chintaka Ranatunga shared this sentiment. While the next three years will likely see a higher failure rate among early-stage startups than in recent years, he also expects to see the creation of exciting new companies.

“This kind of environment is a great time to start something, we will see companies become stronger and have better access to talent,” he said. “Despite the doom and gloom, I am optimistic about the three-year outlook — remembering that for most of us it is a 10-year game, rather than a short-term one.”

ESG focus ever-present

An important aspect of a deep-tech VC’s role is to consider: “what is life going to be like in 2030?” — a world that might be without petrol and plastic.

To a certain extent, this means that ESG (environmental, social, governance) principles are naturally incorporated into decision-making.

GD1 continues to see significant demand from its institutional, private wealth and other investors to closely consider ESG metrics.

“We have a bunch of exclusionary criteria around sectors, along with ESG and diversity clauses in our term sheets,” said Ranatunga, with GD1 actively working on requirements for companies to report back.

Pacific Channel’s Kieran Jina said that investors in his deep-tech VC ultimately want to invest in things that will make them feel good.

“If you have a company that adheres to ESG principles, it is more likely to meet that requirement.”

But he acknowledges the increasing concerns of greenwashing and accurate reporting of ESG metrics.

“Measuring is always going to be problematic, and it can become very subjective,” he said.

“The harder aspect has been in the governance area.

“A lot of companies that come to us haven’t necessarily thought about that — if we applied a negative filter to our decision-making then there wouldn’t be a pipeline left.”

US Business Summit 2022: MC conference close (video)


Prize draw courtesy of Air New Zealand

Mat Bolland Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Air New Zealand with Auckland Business Chamber General Manager Events and Marketing Natalie Woodbridge

Conference close Tim McCready

US Business Summit 2022: New Zealand Story’s David Downs with Q&A (video)


David Downs CEO New Zealand Story

New Zealand Story Group was established to enhance New Zealand’s reputation beyond natural beauty. In a competitive global economy, reputation matters. And it’s important for a country like ours, with an economy that relies on the strengths of its exports, to continue to grow and diversify.

The more we can do to ensure we’re all telling a broad, compelling and aspirational story about New Zealand, that’s grounded in our values and resonates with the world, the greater chance we have of attracting people to all that we offer.

Moderator: Tim McCready

US Business Summit 2022: Aerospace panel discussion (video)

Speakers canvassed the exciting space frontier that Kiwi companies are leading, the work of the New Zealand Space Agency, and developments in aerospace that are helping to build strong links between New Zealand and the United States.
  • Catherine MacGowan Asia Pacific Regional Director, Wisk
  • Andrew Johnson Lead Space Policy and Regulatory Systems New Zealand Space Agency

Moderator: Tim McCready

US Business Summit 2022: Rocket Lab’s Peter Beck with Q&A (video)

PETER BECK Founder and CEO Rocket Lab

Founder and chief executive of Rocket Lab, Peter Beck, gave the opening keynote for the New Frontiers session at the US Business Summit. Peter is a pioneer in New Zealand’s accession in the space industry, growing to become a leading player in space, redefining the industry with the rapid and cost-effective delivery of innovative, high-quality technology.

Rocket Lab has deployed 110 satellites, with its Electron rocket the second most frequently launched US rocket annually, delivering mission success for commercial and government satellite operators.Speaking on the eve of the launch window for the CAPSTONE mission to the Moon, Peter shared with Summit attendees how his business has launched New Zealand into the forefront of deep space.

The year ahead is packed with missions, including the first launch to the moon from New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula. Through this collaboration, Rocket Lab is demonstrating the strong partnership between New Zealand and the United States in this new frontier, as well as the leading role private business can play to forge bilateral relationships and pave the way for new areas of government collaboration.

Peter discussed how Rocket Lab has helped pave the way for New Zealand businesses to think bigger than our own backyard. Last year it listed on the Nasdaq Composite Index and has demonstrated that there is nothing holding New Zealand business back from becoming significant global players in new and exciting industries.

Moderator: Tim McCready

US Business Summit 2022: MC conference opening (video)

Tim McCready, MC