Venture Partners

Hursh Shah, Investment Manager at NZ Growth Capital Partners

Childhood dreams of playing football for Manchester United were eventually kicked into touch, however Hursh Shah, Investment Manager at NZ Growth Capital Partners (NZGCP) has had a really interesting career that has led him to work in multiple continents.

Now settled in New Zealand, Hursh is part of the team that helps manage two funds that invests into early stage kiwi tech startups. When speaking with Hursh you can see he has a clear passion for the New Zealand startup ecosystem that goes beyond making sure businesses are financially supported.

Hursh shares his thoughts on what excites him about working in the space as well as challenges people to keep an open mind when considering working in a corporate setting against working for a startup. Thanks for sharing your story, Hursh.

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“... my dream as a kid was simply to play football for Manchester United!”

What did you dream of doing when you were younger and how did you end up at NZGCP?

I have grown up in an entrepreneurial family that has been running their own businesses for 50+ years but my dream as a kid was simply to play football for Manchester United!

Once I woke up, I realised I wasn’t quite cut out to be a professional athlete. And so, I have spent the last ten years traversing the deal-making space across Europe, East Africa and New Zealand.

I joined New Zealand Growth Capital Partners (NZGCP) in 2020 as part of a new team to help develop and manage our Aspire NZ Seed Fund (Aspire) – investing directly into early-stage Kiwi tech start-ups.

Can you tell us a little bit about NZGCP and what you love about working there?

NZGCP manages one of New Zealand’s largest seed funds (Aspire) with almost $100m invested in early-stage Kiwi tech companies.

We also manage the Elevate NZ Venture Fund (Elevate) a $300m fund of funds program that invests directly into venture capital firms; aimed at filling the Series A and B capital gap for high-growth NZ tech companies.

I love the freedom of working with inspiring entrepreneurs and co-investors, the positive impact we have across the country by being in a position to support brave founders, and the continuous learning opportunities that motivate me to push myself and aim higher each day.

“... I am excited by the calibre of startups that have the belief of being able to take on the world from Aotearoa.”

What gets you excited about the New Zealand tech ecosystem and why should more people be considering it as a career path?

New Zealand has always punched well above its weight, with an illustrious history of global success from Sir Edmund Hillary to the America’s Cup.

In the tech space, this is increasingly becoming more frequent, with high-profile exits including Aroa Biosurgery, Vend, Seequent and Ninja Kiwi alongside large capital raises for Rockit Global, Sharesies, Mint Innovation and Halter.

All of this in the last 12 months!

With this backdrop in mind, I am excited by the calibre of start-ups that have the belief of being able to take on the world from Aotearoa.

This view is backed up not only by the ever-increasing amounts of seed and venture capital funding available locally, but also new funds that are setting up to target specific verticals.

The last 30 years has seen an unprecedented technological evolution that is increasingly shaping almost all areas of our lives, and startups have been at the forefront of leading this change.

This trend, in my view, will become mainstream and push students towards STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects and pull more non-technical experienced hires into our ecosystem.

To be a part of such a journey, working with brilliant minds and inspiring teams, can be one of the most fulfilling and also rewarding career pathways.

What are the key things you look for when investing in a company and how can that apply to people deciding where they might like to work?

Three fundamental pillars commonly used by investors in assessing deals are the team, product and market. Purpose is an additional quality I like to understand.

Applying Simon Sinek’s theory around what drives people and why they are motivated is important for me to get a better understanding of the founder(s).

It helps me assess how they will react to hardships (which most start-ups will face at some point), motivate their team, and leverage their investors and advisors to find a way through difficult situations.

“... a candidate should try to remain open-minded and give equal consideration to either startups or corporates...”

Lastly, why should our brightest talent be looking towards our startup ecosystem instead of the tried and true corporate path?

I’d reframe the question to instead suggest that a candidate should try to remain open-minded and give equal consideration to either start-ups or corporates at any time in your career as it can be possible to obtain job satisfaction and career development through both pathways.

While there are benefits and drawbacks of either route, having worked in both ecosystems, startups will no doubt provide an incomparable learning curve and more opportunities for personal development as a result of having lean teams often taking a novel approach to solving complex problems and attempting to do so at an exponential growth rate!

A lack of financial security is also one of the misconceptions relating to start-ups where people are not fully aware of or understand the pay-out profile from an employee share scheme relative to the yearly bonus structures at larger corporates.

Yes, it may be the case that there is a portion of salary or bonus foregone today at a start-up in exchange for share options but the potential value uplift possible through this incentive scheme is difficult to replicate in more mature companies.

“ The views expressed in this interview are Hursh’s personal views and unless directly stated do not represent the views of NZGCP Limited.”

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