New Zealand Building Bridges to Silicon Valley

New Zealand Building Bridges to Silicon Valley

The global race for entrepreneurial and investment talent is heating up, and New Zealand is making moves to be a leading contender. 

This week New Zealand immigration officials are seizing the opportunity to explore how immigration can help grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem, by visiting Silicon Valley and sharing the New Zealand Story with top entrepreneurs and investors.

Nigel Bickle, Chief Executive of Immigration New Zealand (INZ) and Matt Hoskin, National Manager for Skills and Investment, in collaboration with KiwiConnect and the New Zealand Consulate in Los Angeles, are meeting with Silicon Valley leaders, investors and entrepreneurs, to better understand how to attract and retain talented individuals who can disproportionately help New Zealand prosper. They will also be visiting high-tech companies, including Google, Inflection, and Y Combinator (the world’s top startup accelerator). While it is Nigel Bickle’s first visit to Silicon Valley, the Immigration New Zealand team has been targeting Silicon Valley talent for several years, and has been working closely with the KiwiConnect team to get deeper exposure in that community.

We’re here to explore how we can use immigration in a smart way to boost New Zealand’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and position ourselves as an innovation hub.
— Nigel Bickle, CEO, Immigration New Zealand

As New Zealand is actively investing in innovation, technology, and R&D, it is evident there is a strong government desire to boost technology exports. To achieve that aim, it is essential to have visa policies that attract and filter in active entrepreneurs and investors with potential for significant impact.

New Zealand has the right foundations to be a global innovation hub, with fertile grounds to incubate projects that can have meaningful and transformative impact on the world.
— Yoseph Ayele, KiwiConnect
Nigel Bickle (left), CEO of Immigration New Zealand, speaks with entrepreneurs and investors in Palo Alto, CA

Nigel Bickle (left), CEO of Immigration New Zealand, speaks with entrepreneurs and investors in Palo Alto, CA

New Zealand introduced categories for investment visas in 2009, and entrepreneurship visas in 2014, to bring high-tech talent and capital into the country. These visas are a good start, but do not cater to all types of entrepreneurs, particularly the early stage, high-potential young entrepreneurs that make places like Silicon Valley thrive. Existing visa categories also miss out on investors whose contributions extend beyond the capital they bring, including mentorship, access to networks, and global expertise.

Our role is to open doors for investors and entrepreneurs and to let the market do its job and that’s why we are here - to see if we can find a way to use immigration policy as an entrepreneurial enabler. Is there anywhere better in the world to help us understand how we might do this?
— Matt Hoskin, National Manager for Skills and Investment, Immigration New Zealand

As New Zealand’s economy expands beyond just commodity agriculture, there is a growing recognition of the high economic growth opportunities that technology entrepreneurs and investors can offer. Coupled with the advantage of Kiwis’ resilient spirit and multi faceted skills, we can benefit from working with talented early-career individuals to develop and expand new industries. With a beautiful nature backdrop, top notch lifestyle, educated population, open government, and R&D investments, New Zealand is the perfect place to nurture a globally connected innovation hub.

We need to leverage our natural advantages - a strong economy, diverse, open society, transparent government and an unmatched lifestyle - and we have found that these are all qualities that really resonate with investors and entrepreneurs from the U.S.
— Nigel Bickle, CEO, Immigration New Zealand

As Forbes reported this month, other countries are also experimenting with immigration policies to be more competitive in the global race for top talent. The article also highlights the advantages of private sector partnerships to better attract top entrepreneurial and investment talent.

The core mission of KiwiConnect is focused on strengthening the New Zealand entrepreneurial and investment ecosystem to be a platform where globally impactful ventures can thrive. Our current efforts to attract international talent and impact capital extend into inviting high impact individuals to New Zealand and introducing them to the local ecosystem, facilitating government connections, telling the stories of innovation opportunities in New Zealand, and hosting events including our recent New Frontiers festival. We've been working closely with Immigration New Zealand, New Zealand Consulates, and Trade & Enterprise offices to nurture a two-way bridge between New Zealand and innovation hubs such as Silicon Valley.

The appetite for new ideas, experimentation and progressive thinking coupled with strong and stable institutions with low corruption, is a unique combination that gives New Zealand a huge advantage.
— Yoseph Ayele, KiwiConnect

This visit to California by top Immigration officials is a step in that direction, and helps ensure future programmes are designed to truly attract the best people for New Zealand. In a time when powerful economies like the United States are struggling to get beyond the politics of immigration reform, New Zealand can use its size and speed as a huge advantage, and position itself effectively in the global race for talent.

We use our size to our advantage by being collaborative, nimble and if we see an opportunity, we go for it.
— Matt Hoskin, National Manager for Skills and Investment, Immigration New Zealand
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