The Right Time, The Right Place & The Right People

February 8, 2024

Our inaugural Channel Insights event (our take on a traditional fireside chat) featured Cather Simpson, Kieran Jina and Pacific Channel chair, Dr Gary Pace, sharing their deep tech investment experience to answer the question “What does it take to grow the number of deep tech startups in New Zealand?”.

Here are a few key takeaways which our Channel Insights panel provided:

The right time:

While scientists are quite good at identifying the ‘next big thing’, without a commercial element, that’s all it is and the lab is where it will stay. We often talk about 'commercial pull' and 'commercial push' – the first concept is probably best exemplified by our investment in Engender.  In 2011, we approached the University of Auckland, Professor Cather Simpson in particular, to resolve what we believed were some ‘big problems facing the dairy industry’. What eventuated out of this commercial pull was Engender Technologies, a sperm-sorting technology that helps address the challenge of unwanted male dairy calves.

Investing in commercial-push technologies typically comes from visiting Universities and Institutes and seeing what research is taking place. Gary explained this concept using ResMed, a US-based respiratory product company as an example.

The right people:

The key to getting technology out of the lab and into the real world is having the right people involved. From an investment perspective, it is critical to have individuals involved who can drive the project and have the capability to execute growth strategies.

As Gary eloquently said, “people must understand that they are smaller parts of bigger pies”, which means if the end goal is making a real-world impact through commercialisation, the right person starting the business may not have the necessary skills to scale the business and achieve this goal.

The right place:

With a population of 5 ½ million people, a favourable regulatory environment and some very clever people, New Zealand is a great place to develop deep tech. However, making a real-world impact means implementing a global commercialisation pathway and that requires looking at being in the right international markets, but not at the detriment to NZ because in our experience, success abroad has benefits for our home-based deep-tech sector.


Thanks to Caffeine Daily for coming to our first Channel Insights event. We’re looking forward to holding a regular series of panel sessions covering a wide range of topics during 2024.