For two days last week the Black Barn Winery in Havelock North was the focus of the world's venture capital and angel investor communities.
Entrepreneurs and investors from New Zealand, Canada, North America, China and Europe spent last Thursday and Friday at the 2016 NZ Angel Summit discussing investment strategies, sharing their expertise and creating opportunities for innovative Kiwi start-ups in need of early stage finance.
These were some of the most successful investors in their field. People like North American business and equity finance consultant Ross Finlay, who has come to New Zealand with the support of Callaghan Innovation to help local businesses understand what Angel Investors expect from them, to show them how to establish relevant relationships and introduce them to North American and NZ Angel networks.
Ross has secured 35 Angel investment deals in recent years and has assisted in the development and review of countless business plans for start-up companies.
He has extensive networks within the world of international finance and he knows how to leverage them for the greater economic good.
Hawkes Bay's stunning environment was a bonus for local and international financial high flyers like Ross but they weren't here primarily for the scenery. These were all seasoned and experienced business people who have made their money in a range of sectors.
Naturally, they're looking for a return on their investment but they're also motivated by a desire to help others with the same drive and ambition they have and, crucially, to do their bit to grow the New Zealand economy.
Government ministers and officials, colleagues from Callaghan Innovation and the nationally located business incubators also attended the summit.
They came away with re-enforced enthusiasm and confirmation of the optimism and dynamic evolution in this fast growing sector of our economy.
Last financial year was a record breaker in terms of deals made with Kiwi start-ups and dollars invested.
Deals worth a total of $61.2 million provided 92 creative and passionate New Zealand entrepreneurs with the kick start they needed to get their great idea off the ground. In addition to this investment, Callaghan Innovation supported 152 start-ups through incubators.
That's an unprecedented deal flow and a strong indication that NZTE's Investment Showcase events and Callaghan Innovation's incubation funding and accelerator programmes are bearing fruit.
New Angel regional networks are forming. Syndicated Angel funds are proliferating and long standing networks are experiencing a surge of interest. Wellington's Angel HQ, for example, has gained 30 new members in just the last six months.
Increasingly businesses are successfully exiting the start-up phase of their journey but still face challenges in accessing growth capital and appropriate commercialisation expertise. International capital exists but the New Zealand eco-system is looking at how it can work better together to facilitate the access to it.
We're doing great but we can do better. Investment in research and development in New Zealand still lags behind OECD countries. Areas like SaaS, FinTech, AgriTech and other areas of the digital sectors are doing well but there are also great ideas brewing in MedTech, BioTech and food and beverage production.
A few of those could well be the disruptive industries we need to take New Zealand and the world into a healthier and wealthier future.
- Simon Brown is general manager accelerator services of Callaghan Innovation