Wellington is home to a business, collaboration and tech environment supported by strong digital and manufacturing industries, events and venues.
The Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (WREDA) is working to make the capital the engine room for creatives, enhance the businesses and industries they have in the city, and attract new ones so they can help them expand with ease.
“From an economic development side of things, we’ve got a team that looks at supporting businesses here,” says Tan Huynh, the Sector Development Manager – ICT and Digital at WREDA.
“So we have a function called Business Growth and Innovation and that is about getting companies that are innovative, export focused and high growth to be able to support them so that they go to world markets, grow and create jobs.”
They are focussing on growing sectors that are strong for Wellington. The key ones are tech, screen, manufacturing, food, wine and beer.
“So our job is to really accelerate the growth of those sectors and the companies within those sectors.”
Garage Project is a company that WREDA has supported to go across to the U.S. They make craft beer but they apply a real marketing design focus to it.
“Every time they come out with a new beer it has a beautiful design to it which speaks to the creativity of the city. They’ve made craft beer creative. It’s kind of like walking into a Willy Wonka Factory for adults and they’ve produced 36 different beers in the last year. Lots of weird, wacky and wonderful flavours.”
“They are the fastest growing company in New Zealand with 600 percent revenue growth from last year. That just shows the potential of a company that’s doing something really different, having a lot of fun and applying creative aspects to be a really strong exporting company.”
Wellington has many success stories like games maker Pik Pok, cloud accounting software provider Xero, Weta Digital, R&D company Jig Lab and mobile visitor experience firm Stqry. It also hosts local events like Webstock and AnimFX.
If you look at it in terms of the whole ecosystem and region, they all coexist together. That speaks a lot to the strength of Wellington.
If you want to start or grow a business in Wellington, you still have to live says Huynh.
“We have some fantastic craft beer places, food, the hospitality side of things is really strong. We have the Wellington on a Plate festival coming up. That all makes it a really compelling place if you add it all up.”
But Huynh says that he’d like to make the spotlight bigger on this region and that New Zealand and Australia need to work together as both are small in the overall scheme of things, ”If you compare it to the other big global tech sectors like the U.S and Israel, Singapore and London, those are attracting a lot of investment from government and overseas investment. So what we need to do is say, here’s Australia and New Zealand and what are we really good at together so we can actually put a spotlight here.”
A spotlight means showcasing the strong companies and working together to help connect those sectors together and drive investment and talent.
“Melbourne is also a thriving game development industry there’s some real commonalities to Wellington,” says Huynh.
“We welcome game developers and technical talent and companies into Wellington. If they want to come here and expand or relocate that’s one of our functions to do that. We’re like the local guide for companies coming in and try to grow the scale of the sector here.”
As a region and within the tech sector space, connectedness to global sectors and other markets is absolutely critical. From a business point of view, if you’re a business that’s in tech or wanting to go global, WREDA has access to networks that can help companies into other markets.
“So we work closely with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) on a national level so we can facilitate market entry outside of New Zealand.”
“A good example – if there was a tech company that’s been going for a while and they wanted to enter Australia then there are people from NZTE in Sydney and Melbourne to help. So we create the connection between Wellington companies that are here and then some of the networks and recourses that are offshore as well.”
The other way WREDA can help other organisations go global is with research and development (R&D) funding. They navigate businesses through the funding process with Callaghan Innovation, based in Lower Hutt.
“In the end it’s about ease and what that means is that we have a really collaborative culture here of entrepreneurs and it’s really compact. You can walk from one end to the other in half an hour. The other thing is that even companies that are competitors here, they are really willing to share ideas and help people try to problem solve because tech and business are hard particularly growing a small business or going global.”