Callaghan catalogues multibillion dollar unicorns

Kiwi entrepreneurs have created at least nine businesses worth more $1 billion each over the past 15 years

Callaghan Innovation has released a report detailing the achievements of New Zealand tech startups, saying Kiwi entrepreneurs have created at least nine businesses worth more $1 billion each over the past 15 years.

The report says it has been 15 years since one of NZ’s largest tech companies, Navman, was sold to a US buyer for around $100 million.

The report, Growing The Pie, lists some of the country's most innovative businesses, such as A2 Milk, Xero, LanzaTech and Rocket Lab, as well as some that are less well-known.

According to the report another eight technology businesses are estimated to be worth more than $500 million each, and over 20 are worth more than $100 million each.

It estimates these NZ ‘unicorns’ (startups valued in excess of $1bn) have between them created more than $34 billion in value, but Callaghan Innovation CEO Vic Crone says their total value to New Zealand is much greater because of their contribution to other start-ups, and to philanthropic causes.

“What most of these businesses have in common is they are helping to grow the innovation ecosystem in New Zealand,” said Crone. “We have come a long way since the sale of Navman 15 years ago, and we are starting to see an explosion in entrepreneurialism in Aotearoa.”

In the report seven of New Zealand’s innovators and investors, including Sir Stephen Tindall, Bridget Coates, and Rod Drury, share their thoughts on how entrepreneurs are creating a better New Zealand.

The report also includes comments from Navman founder Sir Peter Maire saying he has no regrets about selling the company 15 years ago.

"With Navman, we figured we would never be able to scale to compete with companies that already had a multibillion-dollar market cap in that industry," he says.

Instead, the report says, "the profits and experience gained from the formation of Navman have since been ploughed into many more ventures, which now collectively employ thousands of people all over the world."

A plague of unicorns in the US?

A Guardian report in the wake of ridesharing company Lyft listing on US stockmarkets last week said there were now 334 unicorns around the world worth more than $US1tn and some of the biggest are preparing to go public.

"[Lyft] expected to be joined soon by Airbnb, Palantir, Pinterest, Slack, Uber, WeWork and more than 200 other companies, largely in tech, that could raise over $[US]100bn between them – more money than was raised by the dotcom bubble at the turn of the millennium," it said, adding: "…if ever there was ever an animal born to burst a bubble, it’s the unicorn."

 

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