U.S. tech investment duo Steve Meller & Larry Howell visit NZ to discuss Govtech

Friday night saw Consul General Melanie Higgins host Silicon Valley #GovTech entrepreneurs and venture capital specialists Larry Howell & Steve Meller, and leaders in the New Zealand innovation field, for a robust discussion on the future of technology in the government sector. Photo credit: U.

By Public Affairs staff, U.S. Embassy Wellington.

The U.S. Embassy and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) welcomed U.S. tech investment duo Steve Meller and Larry Howell to New Zealand last week for a series of events and meetings in Wellington and Auckland. The area of focus for the week was the GovTech space – the area of digital transformation within the public sector – and ended with a dinner hosted by the U.S. Consul General, Melanie Higgins, in Auckland.

The week started in Wellington where Steve and Larry gave a talk at the CreativeHQ Startup Garage – a Meetup event where Wellington’s startup community learn from fellow entrepreneurs, designers, engineers and industry professionals. Steve and Larry spoke specifically around the creation of funded and globally scaleable businesses in and around the GovTech sector in New Zealand.  Thanks to BizDojo and CreativeHQ for putting this event together.

Steve and Larry at Bizdojo for teh Creative HQ Startup Garage. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
Steve and Larry at Bizdojo for teh Creative HQ Startup Garage. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.

After a series of meetings in Wellington, Steve and Larry attended the R9 Accelerator Demo Day – with Steve on the judging panel. The R9 Accelerator is a three month  program that turns government project opportunities into innovative and impactful solutions by having public and private sector innovators working alongside each other to create GovTech startups. The teams use the Lean Startup methodology to create a Minimum Viable Product for their chosen solution, test, validate, and iterate before finally pitching their solutions as fundable projects to a public/private sector panel on Demo Day – the last day of the program.

(R to L) Larry Howell, Rob Tate (U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Officer), Nick Gerritsen (Creative HQ), Demian Smith (U.S. Embassy Acting Deputy Chief of Mission), and Mike Cousins. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
(R to L) Larry Howell, Rob Tate (U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Officer), Nick Gerritsen (Creative HQ), Demian Smith (U.S. Embassy Acting Deputy Chief of Mission), and Mike Cousins. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
Hon. Simon Bridges talking at the R9 Accelerator Demo Day. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
Hon. Simon Bridges talking at the R9 Accelerator Demo Day. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.

Various New Zealand Angel Investors and New Zealand Ministers attended the R9 Accelerator Demo Day – including Finance Minister Steven Joyce, and Communications & Economic Development Minister, Simon Bridges.  They all witnessed quality GovTech pitches from the demo day teams, with problem solving ideas from revolutionizing access to grants to simplifying the steps for caregiver recruitment.

Finishing their time in New Zealand, Steve and Larry met with a range of parties involved in the GovTech and innovation space, wrapping up their time in New Zealand’s commercial hub with a dinner hosted by Consul General Melanie Higgins and leaders in the New Zealand innovation field.  An arena for robust discussion on the future of technology in the government sector, the dinner provided a great opportunity to discuss the perspectives, opinions and opportunities highlighted during the trip.

More on Steve and Larry…

Dr Steve Meller

After 18 years at Procter and Gamble in leadership roles focusing on Innovation, including as P&G’s Chief Innovation Catalyst, Dr. Meller moved to Silicon Valley to focus on entrepreneurship tackling some of the world’s biggest problems. Since 2013 he has founded four companies in the healthcare, technology, sustainability and design sectors. He also sits on a variety of Board of disruptive start-ups and also consults on innovation strategies for more than 25 Fortune 100 companies and also with Governments, including working with the Australian Government national R&D agency, CSIRO.

Larry Howell

A financier turned good, Larry had a 25-year tenure at Goldman Sachs in the US, until 1996 when he turned his experience to backing startup and scale-up technology and consumer-goods focused companies. His time since then has been advising and helping run various entities from a leading US ISP NorthPoint Communications to Oakland-based sustainable packaging manufacturer Ecologic Brands. 

The breadth of his expertise from the niche arts of investment banking to helping startups expand, IPO and get acquired puts Larry in a unique position as a key advisor on the crossover of private capital and a healthy startup to multinational ecosystem.