I’m never one to say no to a crazy new adventure, so when the opportunity to join Wellington startup Wipster came up, I of course said yes. But I was not without my reservations. How could this tiny little city compete with startup powerhouses Silicon Valley and New York and rising stars Tel Aviv, Stockholm and Singapore? My previous job took me all around the world and I’ve been lucky enough to live in Melbourne, Sydney, Prague and Bangkok (all amazingly creative cities with so much heart and soul). In comparison Wellington felt like a tiny town on the edge of the (Middle) Earth. How very wrong I was…
The fact that Forbes has ranked New Zealand as the best place for business is only one of the reasons, here are five more:
- Government and local business support
Did I mention Forbes ranked New Zealand as the best place in the world for business? Taking advantage of the influx of creative talent from the film industry, New Zealand has implemented the Seed Co-investment Fund, which provides $40 million of matched investment on a 1:1 basis for high growth start-ups and Creative HQ are building Wellington’s startup community by giving entrepreneurs the tools and resources to move from idea to an actual business. These are just a few government initiatives designed to attract international talent and encourage local talent to build their companies here.
- Work/life balance
Startups are popping up all over the place and the talent is flocking to the money but for some people there is more to the world than money. I’m not saying there aren’t boatloads of it to be made here; you just have to look at companies like Trade Me and Xero. It seems to me it’s a US mentality that says a start-up has to an all-encompassing beast. While I believe that starting a business requires a lot of sacrifice, immense dedication and passion I also believe that great work comes from having balance in your life. Time away from the fluorescent light prison allows you to compose your thoughts and think clearly and this stunning city offers up beaches, hiking through some of the most beautiful nature reserves in the world, community meets ups, events and a great restaurant and bar scene. There is a passion for work/life balance here and I have seen first hand how much more productive our team is because of it.
- The film industry
A couple of hobbits and a ring have brought so much to this little city. Since the release of Peter Jackson's 'The Lord of the Rings' 12 years ago there has been a surge of creative talent with many of Hollywood’s great behind-the-camera talents now residing here and a lot of big budget films are being made here (insert 'Avatar' and James Cameron name-drop). This has created a great local passion for the arts and the birth of an amazing creative scene.
- Community and a passion for great ideas
I’m not sure how many of you out there have had the pleasure of spending time with Kiwis, but they certainly are a friendly lot. The sharing of ideas and willingness to help in any way has created one of the most amazing creative and collaborative communities I have seen anywhere, there are meet-ups for nearly every area of interest. This city almost functions as a small country town; you can’t walk down the street without bumping into at least three or four people you know. Personal success is secondary to the success of great ideas that help build New Zealand’s reputation so there is easy access to people very high up in the tech and VC echelons.
- Coffee and craft beer
One should never underestimate the power of great cafes and bars. Think about how many great businesses have been drawn up on a cocktail napkin. I’m from Melbourne, one of the world’s great coffee cities (many Melbournians will claim it’s the best in the world), so these words don’t come lightly: Wellington has great coffee! Anyone who has ever attempted a startup will know that great coffee is one of the keys to success. The other key is great beer, which is something Wellington does very well. Craft beer and microbreweries are the big buzz here so there is no shortage of great establishments for your ‘creative brainstorming’ sessions.