Wellington, New Zealand’s Startup Capital

8 05 2014

I was invited to Auckland last week to The Project: Digital Disruption to discuss what’s happening in the Wellington startup scene.

Here are my slides:

Key points:

  • Wellington’s key advantage is its scale.  Everything is accessible within a 20 minute walk – but you need to plan for 30 minutes because you will bump into so many people on your way that are doing cool stuff.
  • We have a high density of tech startups, and a great culture to back it up
  • The weather is conducive to getting sh!t done
  • We have a rich startup ecosystem, which is becoming increasingly antifragile
  • Accelerators, incubators, investors, tertiary education providers, “big” tech, events, and support organisations all play their part
  • Promising trends:
    • Government “gets” it
    • Talent, capital, ideas and expertise are being continually recycled and refined to help us level-up
    • We’re attracting amazing people, and achieving critical mass
    • Things just keep getting better in a cambrian explosion of startups
  • The future is awesome, thanks to the hard work put in by many over a long time – we’re really starting to reap the rewards, and this seems certain to continue.
  • It’s all about the people

Bright Ideas Need Scintillating Teams

22 06 2011

I was invited to speak for five minutes at the Bright Ideas networking event last night. Here’s what I said:

You’ve heard of them before -

Orville and Wilbur
Hewlett and Packard
Jobs and Wozniak
Page and Brin
Mitchell and Youens

Even Zuckerberg had a team behind him, even if he screwed most of them along the way.

So you have a bright idea. I’m told there are some really interesting ones here tonight, ranging from geeky Internet plays to innovative service offerings through to novel contraceptive devices.


Ideas on their own are nearly worthless.

It’s your ability to execute that will determine your ultimate success.

It’s unlikely you’ll be able to do it all on your own.

Are you an inventor, engineer, sales person, strategist, customer support, company director, financier, and janitor all rolled into one? It’s not impossible, but it’s pretty unlikely.

If you don’t have the vision, passion, drive and charisma to get a team around you, you’re unlikely to have the charm to sell your first unit. So get a team around you.

Investors are far less likely to invest in an individual than in a great team.

I don’t know if you’ve seen Matt Ridley’s TED talk entitled “When Ideas have Sex”, but he posits that the engine of human progress has been the meeting and mating of ideas to make new ideas. It’s not important how clever individuals are, he says; what really matters is how smart the collective brain is. Bottom line: you can’t do it on your own. Sharing ideas is fun, and results in better and stronger ideas that naturally select and adapt to the environment.

So that’s why you’re here tonight – to meet other people and – well – share your ideas with them in the hope that you can improve your ideas and more importantly get together and put some real capability to execute behind those improved ideas. And when you can do that – you start looking a lot less like a pipe dream, and a lot more like a business.

Summer of Tech: Building great businesses from Wellington, New Zealand

16 03 2011

In January 2011, I spoke to a Summer of Tech event about why Wellington and New Zealand are great places to start an online venture, and the importance of keeping your exit in mind.

Tech Entrepreneurship with Dave Moskovitz from SummerOfTech on Vimeo.

The Bright Ideas Finale – Inspiration, Courage, and Stamina

17 11 2010

The Bright Ideas Challenge was born out of a conversation that I had almost exactly a year ago with Nigel Kirkpatrick, the CEO of Grow Wellington at an event designed to address the problem of how to better commercialise IP coming out of our region.  Mark Clare helped whip the original concept into something that might have a chance of working, and Mary-Anne Webber and her team at Grow Wellington turned that bright meta-idea into a great competition that brought out the best in just about everyone who was involved.

I was invited to give a keynote speech at the finale event, in which the winners were announced.  A number of people have asked me for a copy, so here it is for your reading and viewing pleasure.

Inspiriation, Courage and Stamina
Speech to Finale of Bright Ideas Challenge
16 Nov 2010
Dave Moskovitz

Thank you to everyone who has been through the Bright Ideas Challenge cultivating that rare mix of INSPIRATION, COURAGE, and STAMINA to take your bright idea from just being a vague notion in your head to something you’re willing to expose to others, and ultimately build a business around.

My name is Dave Moskovitz, and I’m the Chairman of WebFund, a seed investment company and incubator for online businesses. We aggregate ideas, people, and resources to build online businesses that are ready to scale globally.

Many of you have come a long way, a very long way from where you started, and have begun to explore the limitations as well as possibilities in your bright idea, in the environment around you, but most critically within yourselves. For it is you, in the final analysis, who will ultimately win the accolades of success, or bear the stigma of failure for your own ideas and their ensuing businesses.

So good on all of you for having a go, taking risks, putting yourselves out there, and strutting your stuff to your friends, strangers, and anyone who might listen. In my experience, people can find it hard to take risks – after all, if you take a risk, it means you might fail, and if you fail, you not only lose something, but you end up looking silly as well. Right? Well, not necessarily.

That depends on the type of risk your taking. If you’re taking a blind risk against enormous odds, then that’s probably just plain stupid, unless the potential payoff is enormous or the likely outcome of not taking the risk is as bad or nearly as bad as the outcome of failure. On the other hand, if you’re taking a calculated risk, and you have an “unfair advantage” or can somehow manipulate the odds in your favour, then taking that risk can be the smartest move you’ll ever make. The best and brightest ideas have the best chances of beating the odds.

But failure is not necessarily a bad thing, if it is the result of a calculated risk and you’ve given it your best shot. In fact, at WebFund, one of our criteria for investing in an entrepreneur is that they’ve experienced failure as well as success – we want to work with people who know how to recover from setbacks. Walter Brunell is attributed to have said that “Failure is the tuition you pay for success”. And often, a failure is really success in disguise. Take the examples of Post-It Notes (glue that failed to stick very well), Penicillin (a contaminant that caused bacteria to fail to grow quickly), or Columbus’s failure to find India – he got America instead. The trick is to be able to pick yourself up from failure, and recognise the lessons that failure is attempting to teach you.

Now in tonight’s finale, there will be only one winner. The last thing we want is for everyone who didn’t collect the grand prize to think that they’re a failure. Far from it. The real winners in this game are not the people who win awards and prizes, and the real judges in this game are not in this room tonight. No. The real judges are collectively called “The Market” – your customers, and the real winners are the ones who can build their ideas into thriving businesses that bring benefits to themselves, their shareholders, their employees, to our region, and to the whole country. It’s too early to know who the real winners are, so even if you didn’t take out a prize tonight, you still have the stunning opportunity to show everyone how great your customers think you are, and win the real game. So how well you can please your customers will ultimately determine your success. And you are the only ones in control of that!

As entrepreneurs, you’ve taken a really important first step – transforming your idea into a business. So to paraphrase Winston Churchill, tonight is not the end, nor even the beginning of the end, and it’s possibly not even the end of the beginning. It’s another step along the hard-slog road to success. You’ve already demonstrated INSPIRATION, COURAGE, and STAMINA to get you this far, and you’re going to need a lot more of all three to get you through the forthcoming roller-coaster ride that is running a start-up. I know that many of you have what it takes, and where you take your Bright Ideas from here will speak volumes about the people behind those ideas. Ie You.

One of the best things about living in Wellington is our highly connected community; we have huge amounts of “social capital” here. People in Wellington go out of their way to help each other. There are so many different groups involved with helping people bring their bright ideas to fruition, and many of them will be working with you in the future to help take you to the next stage, and make your ideas successful. Guy Kawasaki describes a word in the Yiddish language, farginen, which is the exact opposite of envy, what happens when you can celebrate others’ accomplishments as though they were your own. Rabbi Nilton Bonder further explains that “every time we are able to celebrate someone else’s happiness, we will, by definition, have greater reason to celebrate ourselves. In this way, we can widen our chances for enjoying life, freeing ourselves from the imprisonment of our own luck. Farginen sets up networks of confidence that enrich life.” Wellington has these networks, in spades, and it’s an excellent substrate on which to build the society of the future, right here. Big ups to Grow Wellington for leading by example. We know the end result will be a region that we want to live in as we contribute to and draw strength from its success; a region from which we can have global influence for good, through farginen.

So this, then, is the job of everyone in this room: to come up with bright ideas, to develop them, to try them out, to not fear failure and learn to recover from things that didn’t go the way we wanted them to, to be generous when we ourselves are successful, to rejoice in the success of others, and no matter what, to keep on trying. And with our individual and collective INSPIRATION, COURAGE, and STAMINA, we can bring success to ourselves, and those around us.

My advice to budding entrepreneurs

24 10 2010

A couple of months ago, the great people from MyFirstCompany.co.nz interviewed me to collect my sage advice for budding entrepreneurs.

Here is what I told them:

What is WebFund all about?

What’s the difference between a good idea and a good business idea?

What should I think about before approaching an investor?

How important is scalability for a business idea?

Are investors looking for individuals or teams?

You really need a team around you, and there’s no shame in sales!

How do I find the right business partners?

Start small, and talk to potential investors as early as possible.

What are investors looking for?

How do I test out my business idea? What if I fail?

Summer of Code (XSSS) – Building great businesses

16 06 2010

Earlier this year, I was invited to a Summer of Code panel session with Melissa Clark-Reynolds, Lance Wiggs, and Glenn Andert on building great businesses.  This YouTube clip neatly summarises my philosophy.


Bright Ideas Challenge

5 05 2010

Here I am talking up the Bright Ideas Challenge, and why innovation is important to Wellington and New Zealand.

Creative Destruction in the Music Industry at Ignite Wellington

7 04 2010

Ignite Wellington was part of Global Ignite Week, and I was invited to do a talk as part of this exciting and (as a presenter) nerve-wracking endeavour.  Each presenter is given exactly 5 minutes to present, and allocated 20 Powerpoint slides which are automatically advanced every 15 seconds; the presenter has no control over the pace.  My Twitter and Facebook friends helped me decide to do a talk on Creative Destruction in the Music Industry, which you can watch below.