The truth about New Zealand's startup scene

A prominent US busiiness journalist gives New Zealand a boost - and offers some advice about our cultural cringe.

US businesss journalist Nicholas Carlson gave New Zealand entrepreneurs a boost this morning, and offered some advice about our cultural cringe.

Carlson is the deputy editor of the high-profile, New York-based Business Insider.

Last week, he was in Auckland for the Ice Ideas conference, hosted by the University of Auckland's Icehouse business incubator.

Ice Ideas got a lot of press locally, mostly courtesy of the ubiquitious Facebook billionaire Peter Thiel.

Mr Thiel has put his money where his mouth is, backing his pro-New Zealand spiel with anchor investments in Xero and Pacific Fibre.

But it's good to see the event getting some profile in the US too, courtesy of Mr Carlson.

Some of his rhetoric is not quite as soaring as Mr Thiel's.

But he had some good meat-and-potatoes advice, and commentary on our place in the world, and how we see ourselves.

"Auckland, New Zealand could easily become a robust, second-tier startup hub on par with entrepreneurial clusters like Boulder, Colorado and Jerusalem," wrote this morning.

Carlson also noted that New Zealand's single fibre optic connection to the outside world is not up to snuff. Not so much news there.

But he also made the intiguing point that "Auckland entrepreneurs need to build for Auckland users."


Because although there's little confidence about using the local market as a testing ground, when it comes down to it there's not much difference between Middle New Zealand and Middle America.

One reason New Zealand doesn't have any big consumer Web hits is that the locals are (mostly) afraid to use the people around them as a trial market.

So they try to build things for American consumers or for larger institutions, like governments or businesses.

The reason Kiwis do this, it seems, is that they look at the size of their market and see limited room for growth. There are 4.5 million people in the country and 1.5 million in Auckland. They also think any products built for Kiwis won't make sense to Americans.

This is a mistake. Groupon started with a group of core users in Chicago. Facebook started with a smaller group at Harvard. Dennis Crowley got all his friends in New York to join Dodgeball and then Foursquare. Twitter was a San Francisco phenomenon long before it creeped into any other markets.

Kiwis over-estimate their own foreignness. Auckland is no different from middle America than Cambridge is.

That's Cambridge, Massachusetts of course, not Cambridge, England, in our beloved Mother Country. Read Carlson's full article here.

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