American venture capitalist Dave McClure had some advice for entrepreneurs pitching their businesses at an event in Auckland on Tuesday night - talk about your customers, if you have any.

"If you have traction lead with traction," said the founder of Silicon Valley-based business accelerator and seed fund 500 Startups.

"If you're telling me a long story I'm probably going to be a little less interested."

McClure is leading a group of international investors and technology entrepreneurs on a visit to New Zealand this week as part of the Geeks on a Plane tour.


The geeks - including Living Social co-founder Aaron Batalion, TechCrunch writer Ryan Lawler, Silicon Valley investor Charles Hudson and prominent US angel investor Andrea Zurek - visited rich-lister Alan Gibbs' farm north of Auckland on Tuesday and Weta Workshop in Wellington yesterday.

As part of their visit, local business incubator The Icehouse held a "rocket pitch" competition at The Cloud on Tuesday night, during which a number of Kiwi start-ups including LanzaTech, Manuka Health, Klickex and TranscribeMe got a chance to pitch their business plans.

The judges included McClure, Sir Stephen Tindall, Batalion, Lawler and Phil McCaw, managing partner of Wellington-based investment group Movac.

The winners - Klickex, EcoFibre and Outpost Central - received a month's free use of the Kiwi Landing Pad in San Francisco as a prize.

Speaking to the Business Herald before the rocket pitch event, McClure said New Zealand was still considered a bit off the beaten track.

"It'll take us a little bit of time to get a sense of what's going on here," McClure said.

"I don't know if we'll write a cheque as soon as we hop off the plane but maybe as we get to know some of the investors and entrepreneurs here we'll see how it goes."

Hudson said New Zealand's start-up and innovation scene seemed healthy and vibrant.

"I've met a lot of interesting entrepreneurs."

Rocket pitch winners:

Outpost Central: Real-time water monitoring system.
EcoFibre: Carbon fibre alternative manufactured from flax.
Klickex: Low-cost foreign exchange service.