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How Sir Ed’s legacy is helping bring the world’s best to Aotearoa

Immigration is as hot-button an issue as any in the Land of the Long White Cloud today, but many business and political leaders know that, sometimes, to get the very best talent, you have to import that talent.

That’s why the Edmund Hillary Fellowship (EHF) is thrilled to be named the implementation partner of the new Global Impact Visa programme, announced by Minister of Immigration Michael Woodhouse on Wednesday, 28 September.

“EHF offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for high-calibre entrepreneurs, investors and startup teams to come to New Zealand to create scalable, global impact,” says EHF chief executive Yoseph Ayele. “Aotearoa New Zealand has a unique opportunity to be a world leader in developing transformative solutions for humanity’s most pressing economic, social and environmental issues. Visionary entrepreneurs with fresh new ideas and different ways of doing business can help New Zealand get there.”

EHF is a three-year fellowship programme being offered to up to 100 high-calibre international entrepreneurs, investors and startup teams, along with 20 Kiwi s, to incubate and support innovative businesses that have the potential for a global impact. The organisation will work alongside Immigration New Zealand, which will process and issue Global Impact Visas (GIVs. The new GIV category was announced by the Government in April.

Providing Fellows with connections to mentors, investment opportunities and settlement support for new migrants, EHF aims to work with key players in entrepreneurship across New Zealand, research and development institutions, business leaders, and innovation communities across New Zealand’s regions. “More than 200 international and Kiwi entrepreneurs, investors, and innovation experts have contributed valuable insights into the design of EHF,” explains Ayele. “We’ve also incorporated what we’ve learned from leading offshore programmes such as Endeavor, Y Combinator and the Unreasonable Institute that have succeeded at identifying and supporting exceptional entrepreneurs.”

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BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope says the need to attract high-calibre talent and innovators to New Zealand calls for a creative approach to immigration. “Having the Edmund Hillary Fellowship implement the Global Impact Visa programme is an innovative answer to New Zealand’s pressing need for more highly developed products, more technologies and higher-level skills.”

Julie Fry, co-author of Going Places: Migration, Economics and the Future of New Zealand, is another supporter. “The Edmund Hillary Fellowship’s end-to-end approach is a smart innovation that gives New Zealand a real chance to compete in the global race for entrepreneurial talent.”

Nano-scientist and tech educator Dr Michelle Dickinson, popularly known as Nanogirl, is also a supporter. “Imagine the mentoring, experience, knowledge and creativity that could take place in local businesses if New Zealand brought in a few highly talented entrepreneurs and investors who already wanted to live here,” she says.

Icehouse chief executive Andy Hamilton is on board as well. “The GIVs initiative is a really important milestone of opportunity for New Zealand,” he says. “We all know and recognise how great a place New Zealand is to live. We also know that we need to increase our global earnings to maintain this lifestyle and to care for our community. What we lack often is connection to global markets and also connection to expertise.”


Abbie Reynolds, executive director of the Sustainable Business Council, agrees. “We need business leadership and innovation to deliver our shared Sustainable Development Goals.”

Then there’s the views of Enspiral founder Joshua Vial. “The future of entrepreneurship is a focus on impact and this is a field which we really want to be at the front of,” he says. “The future is being created and shaped by entrepreneurs everywhere and with this programme I believe we will see the amount of that future (and the jobs that go with it) being created in New Zealand increasing.”

EHF is the result of a partnership between Kiwi Connect and the Hillary Institute for International Leadership. After launching in Antarctica with Sir Edmund Hillary and former prime-minister Helen Clark in 2007, the Hillary Institute has spent the past 10 years identifying and celebrating exceptional mid-career leaders working on significant global challenges through its international Hillary Laureate programme. “After a decade’s work on the global stage with our ongoing Laureate programme, the Institute is delighted to now also look directly homeward, adding further value to New Zealand,” says Institute founding director Mark Prain. “We bring to this unique partnership the spirit and values held by our namesake, Sir Edmund Hillary, including authenticity, audacity, humility and the relentless pursuit of accomplishing the extraordinary.”

Kiwi Connect works to promote and connect high-impact entrepreneurship in New Zealand. The organisation was founded by a group of entrepreneurs and investors who moved from Silicon Valley and settled in New Zealand, bringing experience in building and scaling technology companies. It regularly brings together international and Kiwi entrepreneurs, investors, innovators, government leaders and creative minds to create new opportunities for New Zealand and share lessons with the local startup community. In the past two years, the organisation has hosted high profile entrepreneurs and investors such as Sam Altman (president of Y Combinator), Jason Green (managing partner at Emergence Capital) and Scott Nolan of Founders Fund.

EHF will officially launch in early 2017, with its first group of fellows being selected in the second half of the year.

Ayele certainly thinks the programme has potential. “EHF is designed to be accessible to visionary candidates who often don’t fit inside a box, but have huge potential,” he says. “We want to find them from all corners of the world, and offer them a platform to succeed from New Zealand.”

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