New Zealand emerges as an entrepreneurial powerhouse


NEW YORK – New Zealand has begun the 2011 year as one of the most entrepreneurial countries on the planet. It is “an entrepreneurial powerhouse,” according to The Economist. The World Bank ranked New Zealand #1 for starting a business in 2010 and Forbes pegged New Zealand at #3 on its new “Best Countries for Business” list in 2010, up two notches from the year before.

With a recent study by The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation finding that net job growth in the U.S. is now driven primarily by start-ups, many are taking a closer look at why New Zealand has been so successful in fostering an entrepreneurial culture.

“Entrepreneurs are the life blood of New Zealand’s economy. We have more than 470,000 small businesses run by smart, inspired Kiwis with mindsets that operate without boundaries,” said Marta Mager, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE), Regional Director, Americas. “New Zealand is one of the most innovative, creative, technologically advanced and internationally competitive countries in the world.”

Mager said the following five factors encourage entrepreneurship in New Zealand:

1. Drive Ingenuity – The government nurtures entrepreneurs in New Zealand, providing 45% of all R&D funding. Much of the money is directed through the country’s universities and Crown Research Institutes, which are required to generate revenue through commercial successes. New Zealand incubator Icehouse was named one of the top 10 start-up incubators in the world by Forbes magazine.

2. Focus on Natural Niches and its Science Base – New Zealand has used its agrarian and maritime heritage as a springboard to become a leader in sustainable food and wine, aquaculture, biotechnology, agribusiness and more. One example of a global game changer is CLIMsystems, a company that has created software to help predict the impact of climate change. Another cutting-edge company is Baker No-Tillage, a finalist at the World Technology Awards, which offers a credible way of providing sustainable world food production. Just last month, New Zealand wine brand Mobius Marlborough became the first in the world to display a carbon footprint label adjusted for each export market.

New Zealand is also on the cutting edge in renewable energy and clean technology, with nearly two-thirds of all electricity in New Zealand coming from renewable sources. By 2025, that figure is projected to rise to 90%.

3. Remoteness Spurs Innovation – As a far-flung Pacific island nation, New Zealand spawned generations of entrepreneurs and natural-born engineers whose problem-solving “tinkering” has evolved into world-class innovation. Case in point: Auckland-based Rex Bionics who have developed the world’s first commercially available robotic exoskeleton, providing a groundbreaking new option for the physically disabled. Other examples include New Zealand companies Sealegs and B2P who were recently featured in Popular Science Magazine’s ‘Best of What’s New’. Sealegs makes an amphibious boat built for demanding all-terrain conditions and B2P offers a web-enabled, easy and fast bacteria detection system. Both innovations, applicable world-wide, were creative solutions to geographic challenges.

4. Break Down Barriers – There are few tariffs or trade barriers in New Zealand. The government’s philosophy is to connect international buyers and investors with New Zealand industries that have long-term, sustainable advantages and high-growth potential. The companies, however, must compete on an international playing field. It’s truly survival of the fittest.

5. Perform on a World Stage – The New Zealand creative industry burst into international consciousness following the phenomenal box-office and award-winning success of films such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Visual effects for the world’s highest grossing film, Avatar, which received accolades at the 2010 Academy Awards®, BAFTAs® and Golden Globe® Awards, were the work of Weta Digital whose accomplishments over the past ten years have changed the way movies are made.

For more information on New Zealand’s entrepreneurial culture, visit