Record angel spend great omen for economy

New numbers from NZ Venture Investment Fund (NZVIF) show a record $60 million of angel investment seed funding was invested in 2015 up from $56.4 million the year before and just $21 million in 2006.

Since 2006 some $414.7 million has been invested in angel stage companies, according to the NZVIF Young Company Finance Index.

The 94 young companies that received funding in 2015 represent the future of the New Zealand economy so it’s good news to see growth here.

It might even be anecdotal evidence of a diversifying economy.

Critics will point to the difficulty in tracking the long-term success of these investments and the ever-present risk that they are sold offshore without contributing big gains to the local economy.

The New Zealand economy, with its reliance on agriculture and tourism, is a big ship to turn around and the companies at the early stage of their growth aren’t going to save us in this economic cycle.

But they are creating jobs at the smart end of the economy.

Could it be we are actually heading in the right direction?

In the past 10 years 39 per cent of angel investment has gone into software and services, 15 per cent into pharmaceutical and life sciences, 11 per cent into tech hardware and just 8 per cent into food and beverage.

These percentages reflect the economy we could one day be.

Economic development minister Steven Joyce was last week also keen to trumpet statistics that showed business spending on R&D has grown by more than 15 per cent in one year, from $1.25 billion in 2014 to $1.44 billion in 2015.

Technology is now our third largest export sector – after tourism and dairy – worth $6.5 billion according to last year’s Technology Investment Network (TIN) 100 report.

Over the past year the sector has had record growth of $609 million, or 7.3 per cent, with the combined revenue of the top 200 technology companies surveyed by TIN reaching just under $9 billion.

Our economy is clearly handling a commodity slump in more robust fashion than it has in the past. We’ve still got GDP growth above 2 per cent and our dollar is back near US70c.

This slump isn’t done yet and it looks set to provide a significant stress test for the economy over the next 18 months.

We’ve still got immigration gains propping things up and the prospect of increased government spending to come.

But if there is an upside to the dairy downturn it might be the economic incentive it provides for New Zealanders to try new things, explore different land uses and smarter investments.

Let’s hope the trend continues.

First published on 11 April 2016

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