More than 2,000 entrepreneurs, investors, policy makers and community leaders are headed to the annual Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) in Melbourne next week, and a delegation of 56 New Zealanders are set to make the most of such an incredible opportunity.

“The GEC has never been so close, providing us a forum to not only take our unique flavour of entrepreneurship to the world, but to also leverage a significant networking event, with representatives from over 130 countries,” says Pascale Hyboud-Peron, GEC2023 Delegation Builder and Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) NZ Trustee.

And what’s particularly compelling about the contingent of kiwis heading over is that there is a thorough cross-section of the New Zealand entrepreneurial ecosystem represented, which Pascale hopes to further foster cohesion and collaboration in the space.

“Our delegation ranges from entrepreneurs to investors, to policy makers from various government departments and those involved in startup programmes across the board, and that’s exciting for a number of reasons.

“We often hear that the structure of our entrepreneur environment is quite siloed in NZ, so this is about contributing to a platform of unity and community. Then after the GEC, there will be opportunities to ensure delegates stay connected to one another and we can continue these important conversations – all for the growth of entrepreneurship in Aotearoa.”

Established in 2009, the GEC has taken place around the world, and the reason it’s coming ‘down under’ this year was due to considerable growth of Melbourne’s entrepreneurial environment.

“Melbourne has established itself as a very active city, with the second largest ecosystem value in Oceania. And because of this, it was able to attract the GEC as the location for 2023. Which is very beneficial for us, due to its proximity to New Zealand, as well as the learnings we will be able to gain from such an event,” explains Pascale.

The New Zealand delegation boasts six confirmed speakers, all offering their own experience and expertise to the line-up – but with a real quintessential Kiwi approach to their topics – covering areas such as recovering after a natural disaster (referencing the Christchurch Earthquakes), deep tech, venture capital, space entrepreneurship and diversity in entrepreneurship.

Pascale says that one of the things NZ entrepreneurs have a very firm grasp on is their ability to do a lot, with not a lot.

“We work in quite difficult situations when it comes to accessing knowledge, capital and talent. But we’re still making our mark, so it’s our resilience that really sets us apart from the rest, and something that is noted by our global counterparts.

‘We are also very much at the forefront of doing business for good. Many of our initiatives and innovations are focused on the betterment of people and the planet – it’s a willingness to make an impact.”

The third focal point of the New Zealand entrepreneurial sector is the growth of opportunities for those who traditionally haven’t had access to mainstream entrepreneurship – in particular, indigenous cultures. A tangata whenua representative and GENNZ member is a part of the contingent and will be sharing learnings with other indigenous communities about how to support entrepreneurship in marginalised cultures.

While there is a full programme at the four-day congress, many ‘fringe’ gatherings allow for natural connections to take place between individuals and organisations. And this is often where a lot of the magic happens, says Pascale.

Post-GEC, Pascale is encouraged by what the future holds for New Zealand entrepreneurs, while remaining philosophical about the work needed to level-up entrepreneurship in our country. The GENNZ Awards on the 26th of October will provide the chance for delegates to come together and share feedback, as well as continuing to build on relationships established at the congress.

“Our role here at GENNZ is to help align all the ‘players’ who can help create favourable environments for entrepreneurs to prosper and succeed.

“This includes but is not limited to investors, academia, researchers, policy makers and the entrepreneurs themselves. It takes deep cohesion and a bias to action – more than just ideas and capital – to move forward together, and we’re hoping that the GEC provides a ‘catalyst’ of clarity and energy to work together in order to nurture our emerging ecosystem.

“And with 56 representatives of our unity, it’s already a demonstration of our collective willingness to unlock this for New Zealand.”

Story by Erin Harrison

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