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morgo 2016

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I was lucky enough to attend the Morgo conference in Queenstown last week.

The speakers were great – mostly Kiwi entrepreneurs talking about the tribulations and trials of building high growth companies with international impact.  I particularly enjoyed talks by Timely founder and CEO Ryan Baker, and Loomio co-founder and chair Vivien Maidaborn.  Both companies have some unconventional features (Timely staff all work from home and Loomio is a co-operative making decisions by staff consensus) but are nevertheless making their mark in NZ and overseas,

Just as interesting this year was the number of tech investors in room.  These included most of the Movac partners, Lance Wiggs from Punakaiki and Robbie Paul from Tuhua Ventures who between them have raised close on $100m that will be invested in NZ tech and growth companies over the next year or so.  Add GD1’s Fund 2 to the mix (which made its first investment recently, leading a Series A round in Spotlight Reporting), and this is starting to look like a meaningful amount of new capital flowing into the tech sector in the near term.

I left the conference excited about the new money entering the system.  NZ’s tech investment scene has been buoyant so far this year, and new funds can only add to the momentum created by formal and informal angel groups, high-net-worths, corporate investors and crowd funding platforms who have been getting deals away at (in our experience at least) a record pace. This is before considering outlier deals like ASX IPO’s and investments by international VC’s.

While the number of investment deals underway, and the amounts being raised, are greater than I can recall in any prior year, there are still some gaps in the funding landscape.  The most obvious issue is that there are no NZ venture capital firms backing startups wanting to pursue aggressive customer acquisition strategies ahead of the revenue curve.  Entrepreneurs with these sort of strategies have to get creative with their fund raising or adopt a different growth strategy.  The recent 9 Spokes ASX IPO is a great example of the former, a story which was recounted at Morgo by 9 Spokes COO Brendan Roberts.

Of course, finding funding for startups with aggressive growth strategies is not an issue just in New Zealand.  Silicon Valley VC’s are reportedly much less willing to invest in these types of company.  However, in some ways, this is a plus for NZ startups since it means less competition for customers from cash rich US startups willing to buy market share.

Overall, Morgo confirmed my feeling that the NZ tech scene is in great shape, and is going to continue its strong growth in coming years.

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