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7 weeks in: MiBiz at the R9 accelerator

Read part one here

We’re well over halfway into the R9 Accelerator programme and demo day is looming. We regularly run into people who ask us how many months/weeks/days we have left and while it’s always a bit of a horrible moment to do the maths on the calendar, it also keeps us focused on the elements we need to validate and the things we need to pull together.

Going into an accelerator environment like R9, everybody always tells you how intense and fast-moving it will be. While that’s true, it’s also true that things will only happen as quickly as you push them to happen. So in some ways there is always a feeling that you’re not moving fast enough.

The opportunity we’re working on has a real global perspective. The movement of people between countries is probably more fluid than any time in history. The United Nations estimates 250 million people are international migrants, that is, are living in a country other than the one where they were born.

What does this mean for business and government? For one, it means that increasingly people born in quite different business and social environments will be running businesses here. This will present lots of opportunities to learn and innovate, but we’ve also heard from many business owners that running a business in a new country is really hard.

We certainly don’t have all the answers so every person we’ve met has added another perspective to the story. In the last few weeks we’ve met more than 50 business owners and recently ran a Meetup where people shared their experiences. We’ve been told loud and clear the challenges people new to New Zealand experience in business. Besides the language barrier, they lack the context for how business is done in New Zealand and the networks to help them navigate this. It’s simply very different doing business in New Zealand than it is, for example, in China, with different markets, different tastes and a very different scale.

We are now working to create a network that can connect business owners to the right advice at the right time to help them be more successful in the New Zealand business environment. We know that communities of trust are really important; we’re thinking about how these could function in a way that scales to help the number of people who we believe may benefit from such a service.

Our team of three were all born in New Zealand so we’ve got an advisory group of people with an overseas perspective to help us keep that front and centre. We have a similar group from government helping us understand different agencies’ perspectives and the initiatives which might already be in play.  

The conversations we have with these groups and with business owners are really important and keep us energised and focussed on the opportunity. Recently I spoke with a member of the refugee community. His experiences trying to find work and start a business were tough to hear, but – like many business owners we’ve met – he was an inspiring character who reminded me that community and opportunity are universal human values. When people new to New Zealand can reach their potential, all of us win.

The R9 Accelerator, a Better for Business initiative delivered by Creative HQ, brings together a mix of public and private sector people to work on opportunities to make it easier for businesses to interact with government.

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