The University of Auckland Business School runs a competition called the Entrepreneurs’ Challenge in which small NZ companies compete for capital funding from an endowment pool of $3 million. They are evaluated on their growth potential, especially in terms of overseas expansion.
This year, the ten finalists cover the spectrum in terms of the products or services they deliver — regenerative tissue substitutes used in plastic surgery, biomedical research tools, ‘best yoghurt in the world’, biological-based pesticides, sportswear (for boarders), on-road lighting, specialist water technology services, bio-informatics software, advanced operations research, and collaborative e-procurement networking software.
Reading through the descriptions of these companies, I found myself thinking … each of these companies could do right here in Hawke’s Bay what they now do in Wellington or Auckland (and in one case, Blenheim and Timaru). Why? Because they are knowledge-based companies.
They’re based upon brainpower, which could live anywhere … or at least anywhere with high speed internet access. Of course, if exporting is part of the picture, and face-to-face negotiation is still occasionally required, a jet-friendly airport and competitively-priced airfares would help.
None of these companies, if they were based in Hawke’s Bay, would sell much — if any — of their wares here in the Bay. Hence, they would mostly be “importing” someone else’s wealth into the Bay, while paying handsome wages as well. And their environmental footprints would be tiny.
Is it possible to attract businesses like these to the Bay? Or is their location simply the luck of the draw … serendipitous … like where the founder was born?
With the disappearance of Venture Hawke’s Bay, is this kind of question on the agenda of any public body in Hawke’s Bay? Or do we just sit and hope we get lucky?