It seems like the general trend over the last decade has been seemingly more and more people who are in the start-up "ecosystem" however are not actually starting or running businesses. It almost feels like there are more people on that side than founders now, and most of the "ecosystem" people have never actually founded, run or exited their own business. I live in Queenstown now, and there is currently a VC event happening here this week with over 100 attendees from various Australasian VC funds...and they invited 9 companies to pitch, a 10:1 ratio of ecosystem:founders!

I agree that none of these initiatives are likely to make a significant difference in the successful outcome of a start-up. If founders, investors and team members are worrying about tax obligations based on a successful exit in early or growth stage, their headspace is in completely the wrong place. There are far too many other priorities, like actually growing revenue whilst focused on margin, and establishing a team and culture that people want to be a part of for reasons other than just their rem package.

As a nation, we should be ashamed of how difficult we make it for amazing people from other countries to come to live and work here (unless you are super-rich). It needs to be sorted, but is not specific to this industry. Remote teams mitigate the visa issues anyway.

This report seems like the classic case of a solution desperately looking for problems to solve.

I get why everyone wants to be in the "ecosystem" without actually being a founder, starting and running business is hard. I describe it as playing "Whack-a-Mole" whilst sprinting on a treadmill. I am just going to keep running whilst I whack those moles, and as you said, focus on the people. Not everyone should be a founder, but if you want to be in the ecosystem, then approach this through the lens of asking how you can help, rather than deciding what problems need to be solved. There are people (like our investors) who do an amazing job in this area and should be a source of inspiration for the right approach.

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A superbly constructed and well-elucidated piece - thank you for your insights Rowan. I find myself in full agreement with you. I enjoyed your ecosystem piece, too... and loved this - "The best way to grow an ecosystem is to create one great company."

I work in a biotech startup, and I'm tasked with raising funds, amongst other things. As I'm sure you're aware, Callaghan's latest push (via Arohia Grants) is to back innovation that provides benefits to the 'ecosystem', so I've been busy sketching out the ways our potential success will do just that. It's been interesting to tease out the details here, and discover benefits across almost all areas of our business model. (This is all well and good, but of course, the bulk of our costs are R&D related, which this grant doesn't cover.)

We seem to have an obsession across government funding agencies with targeting very specific outcomes for grants. It's "impact" here, "ecosystem benefits" there, "Treaty obligations" here, and something else - "world-leading research" perhaps, over here. The worst thing for me is that, despite ticking most of these boxes and demonstrating enormous potential for health, social, economic, and even ecosystem benefits - somehow we seem to slip through the cracks on all of them. Fortunately, there are some overseas agencies can see the value in what we have developed.

I hope the Upstart Nation report ends up in the bin where it belongs.

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Thanks for your generous sharing of thought here Rowan. As a founder whoโ€™s avoided these โ€˜ecosystemsโ€™ for decades and put my head down and worked, I see most of this as cash going into an(other) echo-chamber of government back patters. Itโ€™s the same in my sector of upstart(teehee) where cash is thrown around without a plan and often disincentiveses the very outcome sought. Second time around will be faster and bigger with all the lessons learned but still without all the ecosystem frills.

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Great article. Your conclusion / point about the ecosystem towards the end totally resonates. Like myself, Iโ€™m seeing dozens and dozens of people having learnt so much working in startup to growth with investors like yourself and taking those skills to the next startup. Itโ€™s a very pleasing domino effect.

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Just wanted to drop a quick note to say how much I enjoyed reading this article and your viewpoint of the report. Though I haven't yet read the report yet, I'm now in no rush to read what could be a fruitless article. Your perspective really resonated with me, and I wanted to give you kudos for publicly sharing your views on this and for taking the time to construct such a well detailed an awesome article.

I think your take on the startup ecosystem in NZ is spot on. It's refreshing to see someone championing for what startups actually need, it's just a shame your feedback to them fell on deaf ears. I also loved reading the Derivatives article, especially your comment: "We now have too many preachers and not enough prophets. Too many people raising awareness, too few working miracles."

Thanks for injecting some much-needed critical thinking into the conversation. Your article got me nodding my head a lot & I'm looking forward to more of your insights in the future!

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"It defines our unique position in the world and our willingness to challenge boundaries, to lead globally and do things differently." When will we stop hiding behind platitudes about how 'unique' we are. I think it's part of the problem - how about we realise we are not special and just need to work hard like everyone else.

I must walk in the wrong (right) circles Rowan as most people I know share views similar to your own. The problem surely is that newsletters and Linkedin posts (humans LOVE engaging on the problem, must less so when solutions are offered up) can't change anything when up against an 'ecosystem' with people employed to justify the ecosystem's existence. Everyone else is not even 'part time' in wanting to see change. We'd need an ORGANISED groundswell, not just people agreeing with each other on 'what needs to happen', to give the govt reason to choose a different path.

As much as your observations are right in my eyes, it'd be equally weird if they took one or two investors views as the way forward.

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