Venture Downunder 2019: That’s a Wrap!

Terrace Downs clubhouse and surrounding vistas outside of Christchurch, New Zealand


Last week the Innovation Bay team ‘ventured’ across the Tasman to New Zealand to host our annual conference for the VC community, Venture Downunder. We love this event and its mission — to build better relationships within the VC community, and create a place to share the triumphs and tribulations of working in venture — because we believe it will lead to better outcomes and more opportunities for startups.

A few highlights: We brought together over 60 VCs, for 3 days of community building, heard from 8 outstanding Kiwi startups, survived nearly 40cm of rain, drank 321 cups of coffee, and handed out 1 very special unicorn trivia trophy

Getting the partners from over 40 funds to take a few days out of their busy schedules is no easy task. They are busy working with their portfolio, meeting with LPs, and sourcing new deals — but that’s exactly why it’s so important that they take time out to get together to learn and grow with their peers. ANZ has a relatively nascent VC community and the success of any fund has outsized ripples across the community. Even though it’s fiercely competitive, we know it needs to be equally as connected and supportive.

2019 Australian VC Survey

Ahead of this year’s event we surveyed the partners at 35 VC firms in order to gather some baseline data on the state of the Aussie VC industry. One of the challenges with an industry in its infancy is the lack of measured data, and we hope the results will help provide a benchmark for the industry going forward. So what did we learn?

Key takeaways from our Aussie VCs:

Please email [email protected] for the complete survey.

Aussie VCs in New Zealand

This year at VDU2019 we hosted a special pre-conference investor panel for the local Christchurch startup community. It was a great opportunity to talk all things VC and bring together the Aussie and NZ ecosystems. Our panelists included: Tim Heasley (Artesian Capital), Andrea Gardiner (Jelix Ventures), Tip Piumsomboon (Blackbird Ventures), and Garry Visontay (Right Click Capital). They each shared their experiences as VCs, their expertise about the industry, and why the timing is right for VCs to open their doors to more NZ startups — the best example being Blackbird getting ready to launch a fund in NZ.

Key takeaways from the event:

Startup Showcase

We kicked off the conference on (a very rainy) Wednesday as VCs flew in from across Australia, New Zealand, and China to Christchurch. This year’s Startup Showcase featured eight stellar Kiwi companies who, out of 85 applications, were selected to present their businesses to a room full of VCs.

Startup Showcase hosted at Vodafone Xone

The room was electric as people enjoyed the pitches, asked questions and shared feedback, chatted in special one-on-one sessions, caught up with old faces, and met new ones. We would like to say a huge thank you to Vodafone Xone for hosting us.

The Kiwi companies who pitched included:

If you’re interested in learning more about the companies, feel free to contact them directly.

Inside VC Day

Kicking off VDU with our first panel discussion

After being shuttled up to Terrace Downs (a beautiful venue at the foot of Mount Hutt), the entire group was up bright and early for a jam packed day of talks, panel discussions, and breakouts all focused on the VC ecosystem. We covered everything from growing the VC community to the ins and outs of VC legal.

At a macro level we looked at growing the VC community, tackling the lack of diversity in the industry, adding value for founders beyond money, understanding the early stage investing landscape, and knowing where exits will come from

Several key takeaways included:

We also tackled the nitty gritty of fund mechanics and operations, the IPO process, how to hire talent for VC teams, and the ins and outs of VC legal

Several key takeaways included:

Thursday evening continued with dinner and a highly competitive VDU Trivia Night, which included a VC round: Do you know who the founder of Sequoia Capital is? (Bonus point if you can guess the year it was founded). Congratulations to the High Priestesses on their victory and for taking home the coveted trophy for this year.

VDU trivia unicorn trophy signed by the winning team

For our final full day of VDU, attendees were focused on team building activities. Combined with the power of unstructured time, attendees were able to develop relationships beyond job, title, and a Linkedin connection. We wrapped the conference with one last meal together, a rocking band, a costume party, and a little competitive poker tournament — nothing says relationship building like a few lost bucks to your mate.

Summary Learnings

VC industry is healthy and growing

Funds are maturing and offering founders much more than money

There is more choice than ever for startups to find a VC that’s aligned with their ambitions

Diversity is still a challenge, but one the community is interested in addressing

Special Thank You to Our Partners

We could not do this event without the support of fantastic partners, so we’d like to thank New Zealand Trade and EnterpriseKPMG High Growth VenturesGilbert + Tobin, and ASX for being involved in this year’s event.

The team is already thinking ahead to VDU2020, if you would like to be involved or find out more information about the conference email [email protected]