Andy Hamilton - the head of New Zealand's largest and highest-profile business incubator - is to move on from the top job after 18 years.

Hamilton, the founding chief executive of The Icehouse and its first employee, will stay on as CEO for the next nine months while the board looks for his replacement.

But he will remain involved with the organisation moving into a role on the board of Icehouse Ventures - the venture capital arm which it launched in April with investment from KiwiSaver provider Simplicity, Sir Stephen Tindall's K1W1 and investment broker Jarden.

Hamilton said the decision to move on from the top job had not been made lightly but after nearly 20 years in the role he believed it was time for someone else to take the reins.

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"The Icehouse is an amazing cause to be a part of, especially when we see the impact, the results and outcomes on not only the businesses, but also the livelihoods of the people involved.

"What we have learned is the incredible impact that improved mindset and confidence can cause when you get in behind the owners, leaders and founders of Kiwi businesses to help them realise their potential."

Under Hamilton's reign The Icehouse - which is owned by not-for-profit charity The International Centre for Entrepreneurship Foundation - has helped businesses grow revenue by $15.5 billion of which $3.7 billion has come from international markets and create more than 27,000 jobs.

It has focused on helping privately owned businesses and high tech, high-value start-ups expanding its support into the regions through a partnership in the Hawke's Bay and will establish operations in the Bay of Plenty later this year.

"Since 2001, we have built our ecosystem on partnership and interdependence. From our founding group of partners including the University of Auckland Business School and the BNZ, to our facilitators, coaches, advisors and investors – all focused on enabling Kiwi business owners and founders to reach their potential.

"It is an extraordinary resource for generations in the future to build on."

Icehouse chair Chris Quin said Hamilton had made an "exceptional impact" on the New Zealand business community.

The board will begin recruiting for a new chief executive next month and will transition the next candidate in with Hamilton's help.

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