Startups plug into Silicon Valley

Tauranga is about to increase it’s profile, and exposure, in the fast-moving world of information and communications technology (ICT) with the launch of Wharf42, established by Pingar chief executive Peter Wren-Hilton.

Wharf42 will help the country’s smart, start-up software businesses set up in the home of technology, California’s Silicon Valley.

Mr Wren-Hilton and his wife, Jacqui, spent six months last year setting up their own operation in the famous valley full of entrepreneurs – and they now want to pass on their experiences and support for other ambitious ICT companies.

“New Zealand has an active technology sector but the start-ups don’t grow because they don’t go out of the country and they are restricted by the size of the market here and access to capital,” said Mr Wren-Hilton.

“Wharf42 will be creating a system and process to fast-track some of New Zealand’s most exciting start-ups and become a connector/conduit to get them into Silicon Valley.”

In the valley, the bright New Zealand companies will become involved with “an ecosystem” of other start-ups from around the world, angel investors and venture capitalists, and potential large technology partners such as Apple, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, Intel and Oracle.

“We want to see more $100 million New Zealand software companies rather than hundreds of $1 million businesses,” said Mr Wren-Hilton. “You cannot grow on to the international scale by keeping your business here.”

Wharf42 will organise the companies to be located in the Plug and Play Tech Centre, already home for 300 start-ups in Redwood City and Sunnyvale, which is in the heart of Silicon Valley.

A number of venture capital and angel investor groups are also based at the centre, aiming to invest in the smart software companies.

Mr Wren-Hilton said 180 venture capital networks had raised US$650 million ($780 million) in four years for the start-ups in the tech centre.

Companies would retain their research and development and intellectual property in New ZealandBut in the valley they could forge ahead with business development and sales and marketing teams to grow their businesses. The owners can catch Air New Zealand NZ7 on Friday to San Francisco and rock up to work in the Plug and Play on Monday.

When they first arrive in Silicon Valley, the Kiwi companies will become part of a 10-week Plug and Play programme, known as start-up camp.

They will be introduced to every aspect of the valley, and will be encouraged to fine tune their technology and their presentations.

At the end of 10 weeks, they will participate in the Plug and Play Expo and present to an audience of 400 Silicon Valley representatives, including 80 venture capital companies.

The Kiwi companies will be given every opportunity to shine.

The Plug and Play centre also organises 120 events a year and the start-ups can attend free of charge.Andy Hamilton, chief executive of Auckland’s Icehouse, said Wharf42 provided a great conduit for Kiwi technology start-ups to get to Silicon Valley in a timely and efficient manner. In the past, this had been a somewhat complex process and Wharf42 would be a great partner for organisations such as Icehouse, which is constantly working to identify and grow the next generation of entrepreneurs in New Zealand.

“Their innovation centre will be a physical building and we can provide the tenants,” he said. “I believe a significant ICT beachhead can be established in the city and the region.”

First published in the New Zealand Herald on Wednesday March 21 2012

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