The daily for
New Zealand’s Startups

Support for Auckland’s startup community goes up a notch

Caffeine talks to Marissa Brindley, Head of Tech and Innovation at Tātaki Auckland Unlimited, on a new partnership between GridAKL and Stone & Chalk and the first year of Tech Tāmaki Makaurau.


Mary Hurley

Inside GridAKL

GridAKL, Tātaki Auckland Unlimited’s innovation campus in the Wynyard Quarter, has signed an agreement with Australia’s largest startup community, Stone & Chalk.

The partnership is aimed at providing startups in Auckland and across Australia with resources, improving cross-border collaboration, access to expertise, investor connectivity, desk and office space, and innovation events.

Tātaki Auckland Unlimited chief executive Nick Hill says the partnership is an important part of the economic and cultural agency’s work to establish and grow the region’s innovation network.

Stone & Chalk has hubs in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, and Hill says the partnership will be a good addition to Auckland’s existing innovation network, which includes GridAKL at Wynyard Quarter, Click Studios in the west, Reserve in the east and GridMNK in the south.

Stone & Chalk Sydney

“By connecting Australia and New Zealand’s innovation ecosystems through a landing pad for startups, together GridAKL and Stone & Chalk can help drive growth, and support the long-term sustainability of our respective tech and innovation communities.”

Stone & Chalk CEO Chris Kirk says expanding into New Zealand through the agreement is a significant step in building a robust innovation bridge across the Tasman.

“We believe that by connecting Australia and New Zealand’s innovation ecosystems, we can collectively drive the growth of startups and emerging tech companies in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Imche Veiga, former CEO and co-founder of deep-tech VC firm and startup hub Outset Ventures, recently joined Stone & Chalk as group executive of ecosystems, although the partnership was in development prior to Veiga’s move.

Trans-Tasman horizon  

The partnership will broaden support for startups in both countries, says Tātaki Auckland Unlimited head of tech and innovation Marissa Brindley.

It will provide a trusted partner to help Kiwi companies looking to expand into Australia, which often serves as a first export market. Australian startups who use New Zealand as a testbed for their products can also now integrate into an established community more easily, she says.

A 'landing pad' will offer Australian startups from Stone & Chalk three months of free desk space at GridAKL. Conversely, Auckland businesses expanding to Australia can access Stone & Chalk benefits for up to four weeks, with an option to become permanent residents afterward.

“If you’re looking to expand globally, you want that horizon,” says Brindley.

Tātaki Auckland Unlimited head of tech and innovation Marissa Brindley

Mentoring will also be offered through the partnership, with opportunities available at the GridAKL community – which provides both a startup hub and a scaleup hub of about 1200 people across 140 companies – and across Stone & Chalk's sites.

“Our founders mentor each other. One set might be six months further along in a journey than another one. That is the beauty of the community – that they support each other [with] that peer-to-peer mentoring. This partnership allows us to really extend that mentoring even further,” she says.

Investment advice for founders is also available at GridAKL through angel investment group Flying Kiwi Angels, which assists startups in securing initial investments. Stone & Chalk also has an extensive investor community that will complement GridAKL, says Brindley.

The recent The State of the City report, an annual global benchmarking project launched in partnership with Committee for Auckland and Deloitte, highlighted the need for an increased focus on knowledge and innovation across Auckland.

Says Tātaki Auckland Unlimited’s Nick Hill: “Findings from The State of the City 2023 report show that Auckland has great momentum for producing startups with an ambition to grow internationally.” 

“However, the report also points out we need strong outreach and visibility in international markets and wider enablers to innovate, including access to incubators, mentorship, and seed and early-stage funding.” 

The first year 

Brindley says the new partnership is also a pivotal step in the work being undertaken by Tech Tāmaki Makaurau. It is currently one year into a three-year strategy aimed at fostering Auckland’s technology sector, generating employment opportunities, and attracting both national and international talent and investment to the region.

Tech Tāmaki Makaurau was launched last year by the Auckland economic and cultural agency in collaboration with industry, government and partners. It identifies opportunities for the tech industry to spur economic prosperity within Auckland communities and establish the region as a globally renowned ‘tech city’.

GridAKL precinct

Brindley says community is central to the initiative. Importantly, it recognises and empowers the many cultures underpinning Auckland’s tech sector, which she describes as “booming” – and not just economically.

“We’re the fourth most diverse city in the world. We have 180 different ethnicities here in Auckland, and that diversity is great for innovation. Our uniqueness is really harnessing that diversity and then also harnessing our mātauranga Māori approach to innovation,” she says.

“The future of Auckland’s workforce will be Māori and Pasifika. So what we really focused on in Tech Tāmaki Makaurau was how to increase pathways for our future workforce and support our tech firms to be ready to receive that.”

Tech Tāmaki Makaurau revolves around two core elements: understanding and overcoming the barriers Māori and Pasifika face when entering the tech industry, and creating a thriving migrant tech community. The latter is vital, says Brindley, because while Auckland is good at attracting tech talent, newcomers are often left to navigate the city’s tech landscape on their own.

“You have to remember, these people have left families, they have left communities where they’re really well connected, and they’ve landed here, and it’s new, and it’s different”.

A sense of belonging is pivotal for both attracting and retaining talent, she says, and is being fostered through Tech Tāmaki Makaurau resources and support programmes, such as Migrants in Tech

Open to those either new to Auckland or the tech industry, the programme provides attendees with a basic understanding of Kiwi culture and our tech scene.

Brindley says while it’s still too early to quantify the achievements of Tech Tāmaki Makaurau in its first year, she’s pleased with results so far. She also underscores a commitment to prioritising tech despite significant cuts as part of Auckland Council’s recent annual budget.

The State of the City report also indicated Tech Tāmaki Makaurau is going in the right direction, she says.

“It affirmed to me that we need to keep going hard on tech; we need to keep building innovation, communities, and lifting entrepreneurial capability.” 

“As an economic development agency, we want to widen that funnel of startups. The wider you can get the funnel, the more likely you are to get to either unicorns or just businesses that are growing great jobs, high-skilled jobs, that’ll then employ local people and support our local economy.”

Year one for Tech Tāmaki Makaurau

  • Te Au Hangarau: The Wave of Technology research
    Commissioned by Tātaki Auckland Unlimited and Spark Foundation, the Te Au Hangarau research examined the participation gap of Māori in the Tāmaki Makaurau tech sector.
  • Ambicultural Kickstart Pilot
    In partnership with Amia, Tātaki Auckland Unlimited launched the Ambicultural Kickstart Pilot, a cultural capability-building programme for Auckland tech industry employers.
  • Tech23
    Tātaki Auckland Unlimited, NZTech, the Ministry of Education and Media Design School partnered to host Tech23, an event designed to inspire year 11–13 ākonga (learners) to consider technology as a career path.
  • Auckland is Calling
    Auckland is Calling was a global tech talent attraction campaign that targeted international senior tech talent, in particular Immigration New Zealand’s Green List of hard-to-fill, highly skilled roles that provide a priority pathway to residency.
  • Migrants in Tech
    Migrants in Tech is an initiative designed to build a support network for recent newcomers to Auckland in the tech industry. Over the past year, four events and one webinar have been held, with 100 participants at each event.
  • TIN Tech Insights Report
    The 2022 Auckland Tech Insights Report was commissioned from Technology Investment Network (TIN), focusing on the 112 Auckland-based companies that featured on last year’s TIN200 – the annual list of the country’s top 200 high-tech export companies by revenue earned.
  • Aerospace Auckland
    Tātaki Auckland Unlimited is one of the founding members of Aerospace Auckland, an independent industry body to advance the city’s aerospace sector.
  • Medtech-IQ Tāmaki Makaurau
    Tātaki Auckland Unlimited was one of many partners in establishing and supporting Medtech-IQ Tāmaki Makaurau, a virtual collaborative ecosystem for the medtech sector.
  • Cleantech Mission
    Tātaki Auckland Unlimited is one of several partners behind the New Zealand Cleantech Mission and in October 2022, facilitated the Cleantech Mission to Singapore with 12 Auckland companies participating.
  • Finnish trade delegation
    Tātaki Auckland Unlimited hosted a trade delegation from Finland, including the Prime Minister of Finland and its Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade.
  • Digital Manufacturing Light pilot
    The Digital Manufacturing Light pilot supports SME manufacturing firms to take their first steps towards digital transformation and was delivered by Tātaki Auckland Unlimited in partnership with the University of Auckland.
  • Tech Connect
    Tātaki Auckland Unlimited hosted two Tech Connect events to facilitate connection and collaboration in the industry. 


Mary Hurley

Mary Hurley brings three years experience in the online media industry to the Caffeine team. Having previously specialised in environmental and science communications, she looks forward to connecting with founders and exploring the startup scene in Aotearoa New Zealand.

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