Entrepreneurs blown away by Tauranga’s tech scene

Tech entrepreneurs who visited Tauranga this month as part of the Foundation's entrepreneurship programme say they were blown away and inspired by the innovation they encountered.
A man chatting to a small group standing in a carpark

Lee Timutimu (far right) briefing the group on Arataki Cultural Trails app before the they set out on a walk around Mount Maunganui

Auckland-based Ang Nayyar, CEO of digital start-up StrutFit, said he was so impressed with Tauranga he cancelled his flight home so he could meet more people.

“I didn’t think of Tauranga as a tech or innovator scene, but clearly I was mistaken. What I found was not only people willing to start their own companies … but people who had created companies, exited and then had come back.

“Then I went to Groundswell and I was like woah, this rivals Techweek in Auckland.”

Ang was part of a 10-strong delegation of tech entrepreneurs from around New Zealand brought together by the Asia New Zealand Foundation to learn from Tauranga businesses.

Ang’s tech start-up is not yet expanding to Asia, but says he’s still learning from tech trends in the region.

“One thing Asia is good for is seeing what the future looks like. Various countries, particularly China, Korea, and Japan – they are ahead of the curve in terms of adopting technology.”

The group visited visitor management platform SwipedOn and Arataki Cultural Trails.

Two of the entrepreneurs, Angela Lim (CEO of health tech company Clearhead and Leadership Network member) and Brandon Hutcheson (CEO of artificial intelligence company Aware Group) also spoke at a public event to share their insights on doing business in Asia.

Both Lim and Hutcheson travelled to Indonesia last year with the Foundation, as part of a programme to develop connections between entrepreneurs and business leaders in New Zealand and Southeast Asia.

three people chatting outside a mirrored building

The Tauranga visit gave entrepreneurs who had travelled together with the Foundation a chance to catch up and share notes

For Dunedin’s Elora Chang, a Google Women Techmakers scholarship recipient this year, the trip was inspiring.

“Often you only think of Auckland and Wellington as the ‘tech hubs’ so it was a pleasant surprise to be exposed to such a thriving tech scene in Tauranga.

“I always knew Tauranga had its roots firmly placed in agriculture and horticulture so expected to visit companies with technological innovations built around these sectors, but instead we visited companies ranging from interactive storytelling to [software as a service] products.”

Elora says she left with this impression of an energetic tech scene based in a small beautiful geographical location with the ability to go global.

Asia New Zealand Foundation entrepreneurship director Adam McConnochie said they’d picked Tauranga as a showcase city for its entrepreneurs because of the obvious innovation it was nurturing.

“Businesses like Arataki Cultural Trails and SwipedOn show that you don’t have to be in Auckland or Wellington to be running a cutting-edge firm with potential to be picked up in a diverse and dynamic region like Asia.”

The ASEAN Young Business Leaders Initiative is a key part of the New Zealand Government’s ASEAN Strategy.  The Asia New Zealand Foundation has been managing the initiative since 2012 on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, running sector-specific programmes for Southeast Asian entrepreneurs in New Zealand, and New Zealand entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia.