Tina Jennen, a prominent member of Tauranga's start-up community, and Colleen Rigby, a senior fellow at the Waikato Management School, are due to co-present research findings on Tauranga's entrepreneurial ecosystem at a business conference in Hawaii this month.

The research stems from an initial spark lit by Enterprise Angels 18 months ago, which members of the investor community say has had a significant impact in helping encourage innovation in the region.

"We've seen quite a tipping point globally in government, business and individuals recognising that innovation is really the future of economic development and growth," said Bill Murphy, executive director of Enterprise Angels, which has pulled together more than 100 local investors who take stakes in start-up companies.

"And much of that innovation comes from small start-ups. We've seen it most dramatically here because we went from a standing start."


Ms Jennen and Dr Rigby will present the paper, "Criteria for creating a regional entrepreneurial ecosystem", at the Hawaii International Conference on Business on May 22. The paper is based on research by Ms Jennen for her Waikato MBA dissertation, and will showcase Tauranga's innovative culture.

She now serves as a venture manager with Enterprise Angels and the Newnham Park technology cluster and got her start in the early-stage community by running Enterprise Angels' Plenty of Innovation programme.

Mr Murphy said that when he wanted to encourage entrepreneurs for members to invest in, 18 months ago he pulled together a group of young MBAs who had identified themselves as people who wanted to become involved in making a difference in Tauranga. "I used them to brainstorm on how we should create the programme and make it happen."

One outcome was that Ms Jennen and Jo Allum, director of Yojo Design and now one of the partners in the Venture Centre (see sidebar), initiated a major survey, which became part of Ms Jennen's MBA research dissertation.

"I was writing a dissertation on change leadership," said Ms Jennen. "Then I got invited on to the Plenty of Innovation committee, saw the opportunity, pivoted really late, changed my dissertation, started over, wrote a 240-page document about the ecosystem and got the job to run Plenty of Innovation."

Ms Jennen noted the market testing done with new entrepreneurs last year has since been fine-tuned into several improved services including the StartupKit#1 training programme, run in conjunction with the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce and Venture Centre. These and other initiatives had their germination in the original Plenty of Innovation committee.