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Scaling up NZ's COVID-19 recovery

This article was published on 30 June 2020

In a little more than a year, Scale-Up NZ has become a vital tool in connecting the country’s innovators and investors.

Never has connectivity and networking been more important in business than right now.

As New Zealand shifts its attention from an immediate, urgent COVID-19 response to economic recovery an inter-connected and self-supporting innovation ecosystem will be vital.

Just as COVID-19 was leaving its swift and widespread impact on our business landscape, Callaghan Innovation’s Scale-Up New Zealand virtual networking platform marked its first anniversary. It is well-placed to be an important tool in building necessary connections between businesses in the new environment.

Scale-Up NZ enables businesses to find and connect with the people, capital and other help they need to support and grow, here and offshore. As of March 2020 customers can apply a ‘coronavirus’ tag to their business listing on the platform indicating that they have the capability to contribute to a COVID-19 response.

“We already have close to 200 business using that tag. That’s going to be incredibly helpful as businesses mobilise towards recovery and need to connect with the right expertise,” says Rosie Spragg, strategic platforms and operations manager at Callaghan Innovation. 

Many of these businesses have deployment-ready solutions across a range of sectors including healthtech, software, industrial technology, agritech, food and beverage and clean tech, as well as capabilities including clinical workflow, patient engagement, assistive devices, diagnostics and social and mental support. 

“We surveyed our customers at different stages of lockdown and one of the messages that came through from a lot of them was a desire to pivot their operations or R&D to be a part of a COVID-19 response. Adding that ‘coronavirus’ tag to Scale-Up NZ makes it that much easier for those businesses to find each other, to share expertise and resources, or source investment.”

Scale-Up NZ receives about 4000 visitors per month, has more than 1600 listings making it a great place for businesses to start looking for the help, skills or knowledge they need. 

A total of more than $560 million has been invested in companies on the platform in their lifetime, indicating the good health of businesses listed. The platform also currently has 90 listings for investors.

There are also listings for more than 140 hubs, including entrepreneurship accelerators, corporate accelerators and co-working spaces.

“Scale-Up NZ is focused on innovative businesses and innovation support, so it’s a useful tool that businesses can turn to as they think of innovating within their businesses, whether that’s in response to the crisis or with an eye on the future,” Spragg says.

“Even outside of a crisis, businesses that grow their networks are proven to be more successful and profitable.”

Aside from ‘coronavirus’, tags are used on Scale-Up NZ to identify businesses from a large range of sectors and with all kinds of expertise. For example about 250 business users tag themselves in ‘software-applications’, and another more than 180 are ‘cloud-based’. Other tags range from ‘artificial intelligence’ and ‘agtech’ to ‘industrial chemistry’ and ‘reporting and analytics’.

“The point is startups and innovators can’t be experts in everything. This platform connects them with the expertise they need, that others already have,” Spragg says.

The 2018 Genome Global Startup Ecosystem Report found that startups with high rates of local connections had more than two times the revenue growth compared with those with lower levels of local connectedness. In its annual reports Startup Genome factors in the connectivity levels within startup ecosystems as a key measure of an ecosystem’s strength and potential. The ability of Scale-Up NZ to “allow investors to form connections with investors, incubators, regional advisors, multi-nationals and other collaborators”, has been identified as a strength of the NZ ecosystem in the 2020 Global Startup Ecosystem report. 

Scale-Up NZ users are already discovering the benefits.

James Simmonds, director of Webfox Investments says: “When I first got on Scale-Up I was looking for some key contacts. We needed clever people in a really specific area.

“Scale-Up helped us find Daniel from Spark 64 to come in on a project and form that partnership to do some really clever AI stuff with our product. 

“We love this space. Technology changes so fast, the world’s changing so fast and we are keen to get in there and be part of that ride.”

For his part, Spark 64’s Daniel Xu says Scale-Up NZ has played an important role in spreading the word about the business aiming to be New Zealand’s premiere AI agency.

“Scale-Up NZ is really helping businesses like ours with more exposure and connecting us with similar businesses. It’s powering a lot of the back end. 

“Scale-Up NZ is definitely helping New Zealand through connecting the ecosystem, finding investors, finding customers and finding other partners.”

Another major advantage of Scale-Up NZ compared with other connection tools is that the platform screens every connection request, to ensure all parties stand to benefit. If both sides are likely to gain from the potential partnership, Scale-Up NZ will set up an initial virtual introduction.

The team also reviews every profile on the platform at least twice a year to check information is up to date and relevant.

Keane Lee, business development manager for Tectonus - designers and manufacturers of earthquake dampers, says the platform simplified and sped up the search for investors. 

“The quality of investors listed on Scale-Up NZ is really, really good. They have the resources and the network to carry us through to our next journey - which is in the global sense.”

Rosie Spragg says it is exciting to see success stories coming through even though the Scale-Up NZ platform is still relatively young.

“The stories that businesses have shared are inspiring. Some have secured an investor, others have found partners with unique technical abilities to help them innovate, and have gained useful insights into the NZ innovation ecosystem.

“Our key focus is to help New Zealand businesses build those all-important local and global connections, so they can grow, innovate and help to boost the New Zealand economy.

“That is more important now than ever.”

Below is a summary of businesses using Scale-Up NZ's 'coronavirus' tag. Click the image to enlarge.

PDF icon ScaleUp NZ COVID-19 company connection infographic​

ScaleUp NZ COVID-19 company connection infographic