New Zealand startup founders are coming to SXSW Sydney – here’s what to expect

- October 5, 2023 3 MIN READ
Christina Houlihan
Christina Houlihan CEO and Co-founder of NZ clean hydrogen startup Bspkl
As anticipation for SXSW Sydney builds, all eyes are on the vibrant lineup of innovators, entrepreneurs, and creatives set to grace the event.

Described as a ‘premier destination for discovery’, SXSW which offers a unique blend of music, film, entrepreneurship and innovation, is for the first time being hosted by Sydney.

Among the trailblazers, the Kiwi contingent stands ready to showcase the ingenuity that New Zealand is known for.

With a point to prove and a global stage to do it on, Kiwi startups, entrepreneurs, and innovators are not just attending but are aiming to be one of the highlights of the event.

SXSW Pitch: Ideas Take Flight

Ideally's Joshua Nu'u-Steele, James Donald and Brendan Cervin. Photo: Supplied

Ideally’s Joshua Nu’u-Steele, James Donald and Brendan Cervin. Photo: Supplied

The SXSW Sydney Pitch Competition isn’t just a contest; it’s a revered platform where innovation meets opportunity, a space where startups unveil revolutionary solutions to a global audience. 

The coveted award has been a stepping stone for many. For the contestants in Sydney, SXSW Pitch represents an opportunity to mark their indelible imprint on the world of innovation.

Finalists in the SXSW Pitch event have together raised over US$23.2 billion in funding and exited to Google, Apple and Meta to name a few.

Sydney-based startups dominate the finalists (12 out of the 20 shortlisted companies) but two Kiwi startups have not just earned their spots but are ready to dazzle the esteemed panel of judges with their innovative solutions.

Ideally, an on-demand insights platform, allows clients to rapidly test concepts, ideas and messages with their target audience, receiving robust answers overnight. . The platform has built-in generative AI to discover patterns and reveal opportunities. Its founding team includes Previously Unavailable and TRA Labs who were able to launch Tracksuit into stardom, and are aiming to do the same with Ideally. 

Also competing at SXSW Sydney Pitch is Equotee, an equity management platform, that aims to make co-ownership of homes effortless.

Earlier this year, the startup won funding from the Westpac NZ Government Innovation Fund. Its mission is to empower shared ownership of homes efficiently while leveraging its equity for sustainable home improvements.

Deep-tech Innovators & Investors Changing the World

While Ideally and Equotee prepare to make their mark in the pitch competition, other Kiwi innovators are gearing up to share their inspiring journeys with two SXSW panel sessions.

On 18 October, a panel session titled ‘New Zealand Innovators Changing The World’ dedicated to the journeys of Kiwi ‘deep-tech’ entrepreneurs. New Zealand entrepreneurs including Tijs Robinson of cleantech horticulture scale-up, Hot Lime Labs and Christina Houlihan of a clean hydrogen startup Bspkl are sharing their unique insights into the inspirations behind their innovations and the trials and triumphs of scaling companies from  New Zealand to the global arena.

Carl Jones

Carl Jones from WNT Ventures

The following day, Carl Jones of WNT Ventures and Cather Simpson, a partner at Pacific Channel, and others led a session illuminating the venture capital landscape in New Zealand titled ‘Funding the Next Generation of Innovators’.

The session promises to delve into the intricate dance of investing in science and engineering companies, the art of translating research into commercial ventures, and the captivating narratives of investors backing ambitious Kiwi founders.

A Story Unfolding

As SXSW Sydney nears, the excitement is steadily growing. The event promises a glimpse into the future of innovation, with entrepreneurs and investors ready to showcase their contributions.

The blend of pitches and panel discussions will offer a multifaceted view of New Zealand’s innovation ecosystem, proving that innovation knows no borders.

SXSW Sydney is more than an event; it’s a narrative of innovators making monumental strides on the global stage.

The Kiwi contingent, armed with a potent mix of creativity, technology, and business acumen, is not just attending but is set to pivotally contribute to the global dialogue on innovation and creativity.


  • Rod Macfarlane is cofounder of photo and retail specialist MEA, whose products include innovative photo print services.