More than two dozen New Zealand companies, many startups, have moved to the Denver and Boulder subways in recent years, making the region a launching pad for their American ambitions.
New Zealand has around 900,000 fewer people than Colorado, leaving it with a limited domestic market even with the addition of customers from neighboring Australia. Although small, the country is a hotbed of innovations with global reach. Increasingly, these startups are choosing Denver over Silicon Valley and other rivals when it comes to setting up operations in the United States.
“Colorado’s mindset suits New Zealanders very well,” said Andy Burner, vice president of human and business operations at Xero, a provider of cloud-based business accounting software. “I was blown away by the welcome and the openness of the city.”
Xero, a rapidly growing competitor to QuickBooks, moved its US headquarters from From San Francisco to the Denver Metro in 2017. From around 80 local employees before the move, Denver is now home to more than 200 of the company’s 300 U.S. workers.
The company is a leader in New Zealand’s tech community, and its decision to move out of northern California, the typical landing place for tech transplants, has helped put Colorado on the map. Burner and other Xero executives are actively promoting Denver, which makes their compatriots more comfortable landing here.
Most of the New Zealand companies that come to Colorado are tech-focused, and some focus on aerospace, an industry where Colorado is a leader. Agriculture and energy are other areas of overlap. Some of the Kiwi companies moving to Colorado include AD Instruments, Adeption, Auror, Cin7, FileInvite, Fingermark, Holmes Solutions, Medtech Global, TracPlus, and Vend.
Burner and other New Zealand leaders have listed similar reasons why they chose Denver over northern California, and why Denver beat rivals like Salt Lake City, Austin and Chicago.
Access to capital, customers and talent are the fundamental reasons Denver won over alternatives, said Ky Hacker, vice president of revenue and operations at FileInvite, a document-sharing platform that has chose Denver for its North American base in June, a move that should ultimately bring about 140 jobs to Denver.
Denver and Boulder have a strong base of technological expertise, and skilled workers are ready to relocate here, which is helpful for foreign companies trying to understand US labor markets. Denver’s interior location and variety of domestic flights make it easy to reach other markets.
When it comes to connecting with the home office in New Zealand, the Rocky Mountain time zone also works. And entry costs are lower than more expensive coastal markets.
“What really sealed the deal for Denver for us was a quality of life and a culture that fits well with our business and New Zealand culture,” Hacker said. “We both want to work hard and make things grow fast, but to do it in a human way. “
A concerted effort
Although recruiting efforts have now taken off, a key accelerator has been the active outreach of Denver Economic Development and Opportunity and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, which led a trade mission to New Zealand and Australia. two years ago.
Stephanie Garnica, director of global business development at DEDO, said Denver recruited foreign companies through trade offices until the Great Recession forced it to downsize. In 2018, the city relaunched its international influence with Garnica and two other employees, reaping a large return on investment in interest and relocation.
“New Zealand and Australia are big stars. These are two of our target markets because of the success we’ve had and the existing community here, ”she said.
Programs like Denver Startup Week and Global airstrip help established and start-up businesses in other countries connect with the local business community. New Zealand and Australia have become so important as home countries that DEDO dedicated a Global Landing Pad program to them in the spring.
“We also know that a positive experience with Colorado, starting with a preliminary investigation of one company and continuing with the inauguration and hiring here in the state, will lead to introductions to other companies. . We’ve seen a lot recently with companies in New Zealand and Australia referring companies in their networks to us to explore how they too can successfully grow their businesses in the state, ”said Michelle Hadwiger, Deputy Director. world affairs of state. development, in an email.
Hadwiger said Australia ranks third among sources of foreign direct investment in Colorado, tied with Germany. Despite its small size, New Zealand is the sixth largest provider of foreign direct investment, alongside France and Switzerland.
A cultural adjustment
Although the Bay Area is the mecca for tech startups, doing business there is expensive and the competition for talent is fierce, Garnica said. And with so many options available, employees tend to be less loyal.
“You want to do interesting work and you want to work hard, but you also want to enjoy the outdoors,” said Tom Batterbury, co-founder and co-CEO of Auror, pronounced “ora”, of the shared ethics which aligns New Zealand more closely with Colorado than the hard-driving Silicon Valley culture.
Oceans aside, New Zealand and Colorado both share majestic landscapes and many recreational opportunities.
“There’s the cliché place, San Francisco, and we quickly shut it out. We had watched Portland, Oregon, but it didn’t suit us, ”he added. Chicago, another city on the shortlist, lacked an outdoor vibe, leaving Denver and Austin.
Auror provides criminal intelligence software that helps retailers track and report cases of theft to authorities, leaving them better equipped to capture repeat offenders and dismantle criminal networks. Early on, the company realized that it had to work with retailers around the world to be successful. Although Denver’s operations currently consist of six people, including Batterbury, rapid growth is expected as the North American market opens up.
“Realistically, 90% of our business will probably take place outside of North America in the next few years, and we expect that we will have over 100 people on this team,” he said. declared.
One thing that helped influence Batterbury was a conversation he had with Burner about the merits of Denver compared to other cities. Batterbury is now recruiting additional executives in New Zealand. And he noticed little changes that made life more comfortable here.
“There are a few places that serve New Zealand and Australian style meat pies and there are now two New Zealand style ice cream shops, including one next to Sloans Lake,” he said. stated, noting that English meat pies are not a substitute. “We feel close to home. “
Another confirmation that he had made the right choice came when he and his wife had their second child and neighbors came to support them, acting as surrogates for family and friends they had left behind. .
For Hacker, the presence of other New Zealand companies was not as important a factor as the reception he received from the Denver business community.
“We could tell when we had conversations that we could tell there as a feeling of welcome and a tight-knit community. People were comfortable making referrals, ”he said, adding that one of FileInvite’s hopes is to access local sources of venture capital to help fund its growth.
The New Zealand Board of Trade and Business, the country’s economic development agency, has a representative in Denver, stressing the importance of the connection. And in another sign, New Zealand appointed Burner as Colorado’s Honorary Consul this summer.
“Colorado is an increasingly important market and a growing US hub for New Zealand businesses, especially those in the information technology and aerospace industries,” said the consul general of New Zealand to the United States, Jeremy Clarke-Watson, announcing the appointment of Burner.
More than restaurants serving their favorite cuisine, one thing New Zealanders who have moved to the state have said could cement the relationship is a non-stop air link between Denver and Auckland. The more than 7,200-mile route could cut current connections through Los Angeles by two or three hours and better align with sleep schedules, Batterbury said.
For him, confirmation that Denver could handle a non-stop flight came when he saw many people flying with him between Auckland and Los Angeles jump on the flight he was taking to Denver.
Laura Jackson, vice president of airport flight services development, said Auckland is a target market for future non-stop service.
“The fundamentals of our business case are strong, supported by continued corporate investment between Colorado and New Zealand, and we expect efforts to pick up steam as travel restrictions grow. ‘will loosen up,’ she said.