Google employee #43 and Venture Capitalist, Jeremy Wenokur, meets with NZ entrepreneurs

The Ambassador and Jeremy down at the GRID talking with some of the start-up residents. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State..

By Mike Cousins, Public Affairs, U.S. Embassy Wellington.

Google employee #43 (and now Silicon Valley entrepreneur/investor) Jeremy Wenokur was in New Zealand earlier this week to listen to and give startup advice to some of New Zealand’s young entrepreneurs.

Jeremy’s NZ program included a roundtable (the kitchen table to be exact!) discussion with GRID Auckland startup residents, a Project Connect fireside chat with U.S. Ambassador Gilbert to an audience of 130, a catch up with startup residents at BizDojo Wellington, and a dinner hosted by Nancy and Ambassador Gilbert with some of Wellington’s top creators and innovators.

The Ambassador and Jeremy on stage at Project Connect. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
The Ambassador and Jeremy on stage at Project Connect. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.

As well as being a partner and co-founder of Lightbox Ventures and an active angel investor, for the past ten years Jeremy has been a business advisor and startup mentor in the consumer technology space in the United States. From 2000-2005, Jeremy was the Director of Corporate Development for Google and joined Google as its first Corporate Development person and participated in every acquisition, investment, and corporate development initiative during his tenure. Most recently Jeremy had been active in developing Google’s international presence, including leading Google’s investment in Biadu, China’s leading search engine. Prior to Google, Jeremy co-founded Newhoo/ODP, which he sold to Netscape/AOL. Newhoo/ODP has become the largest directory of websites in the world and fundamentally changed Internet media business models.

So with this comprehensive knowledge and experience in the business world, Jeremy had some sound advice to the start-up community while in New Zealand.

On Monday down at GRID Auckland, the Ambassador and Jeremy met with the startup residents and discussed how NZ companies can creatively position themselves for offshore investment as well as cultivate potential USA buyers, especially within the high-tech sector. Jeremy highlighted the advantages of using New Zealand as a test market for startups and said there is large amounts of investment funds available from Silicon Valley for NZ startups that can demonstrate a proven/field-tested concept. Similar advice was given by Jeremy the next day down in Wellington with some of the BizDojo startup residents.

The Ambassador and Jeremy down at the GRID talking with some of the start-up residents. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
The Ambassador and Jeremy down at the GRID talking with some of the start-up residents. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
The Ambassador, Jeremy, and BizDojo Co-Founder, Jonah Merchant down at GRID Auckland. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
The Ambassador, Jeremy, and BizDojo Co-Founder, Jonah Merchant down at GRID Auckland. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
Jeremy talking to a few start-up residents at BizDojo Wellington. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
Jeremy talking to a few start-up residents at BizDojo Wellington. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.

This year’s Project Connect series kicked off with a very special interview with Jeremy moderated by U.S. Ambassador Mark Gilbert down at the Sir Paul Reeves Building on the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) campus. The Ambassador and Jeremy were introduced by AUT Vice-Chancellor, Derek McCormack, to the audience of over 130 entrepreneurs, students, private business owners and public sector representatives.

The audience at listening to Ambassador Gilbert and Jeremy during the Project Connect event at AUT. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
The audience at listening to Ambassador Gilbert and Jeremy during the Project Connect event at AUT. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.

During the fireside chat, Jeremy and the Ambassador shared stories and answered audience questions related to business insights, offshore investment, what’s hot in the tech sector, and where we are heading. Some of the Twitter commentary below from attendees:

On stage at Project Connect. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
On stage at Project Connect. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.

To coincide with Jeremy’s visit, the U.S. Embassy held it’s first drop-in session at BizDojo Wellington, where Mani and Janet from the U.S. Commercial Service talked with BizDojo residents on how the USCS can help – including how to enter the U.S. market and what SelectUSA is and does. SelectUSA is a Federal agency housed within the Department of Commerce, that focuses on assisting international businesses of all sizes to establish and grow in the U.S market. They work with Economic Development Organizations (EDOs) from all 50 states, including many at county and municipal level, to assist new firms set up in their chosen market.

U.S. Commercial Service representatives Mani and Janet speak with a few BizDojo residents about SelectUSA in a drop-in session. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
U.S. Commercial Service representatives Mani and Janet speak with a few BizDojo residents about SelectUSA in a drop-in session. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.

Jeremy finished his New Zealand program at the Ambassador’s residence in Wellington, where Nancy and the Ambassador hosted Jeremy, his wife Hila, and some of Wellington’s leading innovators. The night was full of diverse, interesting and thought provoking discussions, with many new connections made.

Great conversations and food with some of Wellington's leading creators and innovators. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
Great conversations and food with some of Wellington’s leading creators and innovators. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.

Related:

To find out more about the U.S. Commercial Service and how they can help, visit our USCS page.