Massey University business incubator ecentre celebrated its 10th anniversary last week, with chief executive Steve Corbett setting an ambitious five-year goal of tripling its revenue from alumni companies to $100 million.
The past decade has brought sweeping changes, he says – when the ecentre was established, New Zealand had no venture capital economy. There were no universities keen to help startups on the commercialisation journey (today, on the other hand, every one has its own commercialisation arm) and there was a general lack of understanding about the requirements of early-stage funding.
"We have a far more sophisticated attitude now to starting businesses," he says.
"I see students coming who've thought through the issues and understand the concepts of markets and products."
Corbett says attitudes have changed, too, and he's observed a new "quiet confidence" among entrepreneurs.
The ecentre primarily focuses on export and he believes New Zealanders are doing tech particularly well.
"We can now build world class software."
The rise of SaaS means distance from customers no longer matters, Corbett says, and companies often start exporting from day one whether they like it or not.
One of the centre's biggest success stories is proof of that. Unleashed Software, which provides inventory management solutions, has integrated with Xero and is rapidly expanding into new countries.