Olivia Wensley: My big, fat audacious goal

by Olivia Wensley - Apr 22, 2020

Olivia Wensley is CEO of Startup Queenstown Lakes and a key member of the Project Phoenix expert panel. She's an experienced lawyer and entrepreneur.

Queenstown is experiencing unprecedented disruption - a “black swan” event - everything has now been tipped on its head, and the future is uncertain.

One of my favourite quotes is by John F Kennedy - who said “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word 'crisis’. One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger - but recognise the opportunity”.

Yes, we’re in a crisis. But we need to get excited about the opportunities that will come out of this crisis.

Olivia Wensley - Project Phoenix panel member and CEO of Startup Queenstown Lakes

It is time for Queenstown 2.0 - a reboot. The time is now to reinvent ourselves, time for us to “pivot” towards a new normal, one that isn’t overly reliant on tourism. It is time to re-build our economy in a smart, sustainable way.

I have always championed Queenstown as being ideally positioned to have a thriving community of startups, in tech, and those who work remotely.

It’s no secret that Queenstown is a highly desirable place to live - I left a job in Investment Banking in Singapore to relocate - and haven’t looked back since. We have a great community of expats who have chosen to make Queenstown their home.

What makes Queenstown a unique place is the amazing diversity of the community. Very few people are lucky enough to be born here - most of us are here by choice.

We need to be promoting Queenstown as a place to work and live - instead of only promoting it as a place to visit short-term. I hope to see increased affordability in housing - so that those who want to move to the region, can make it a reality.

My big, fat, audacious goal - is to see Queenstown become the silicon valley of New Zealand. Attracting a rich plethora of talent from within the country - and from overseas too. We have the opportunity to be New Zealand’s most modern city - by focusing on making it a tech hub.

I want to see an explosion in high-paying jobs in the region, and for remote workers - to be encouraged to create companies of their own, thereby creating more jobs.

Now is the perfect time to attract talent to the region - many companies have now realised that remote working is possible - having been forced to adopt it. I expect to see the numbers of remote workers increase as people will increasingly live where they want to - as opposed to where they have to.

I want to see a rich diversity of industries based in our region - Queenstown’s over-reliance on tourism has long been its achilles heel - and unfortunately, its heel has now been struck by the poison arrow of Covid-19.

It’s time to end Queenstown’s cycle of boom and bust. It is exhausting and damaging. We need to focus on stability and sustainability. Stability will come from diversity, and this is one of the key focuses of Startup Queenstown Lakes.

In the 8 years since I relocated here, the Queenstown tech and startup scene has flourished. I was involved in the Gigatown competition back in 2013, when the aim was to create such a community.

Our startup community has some amazing success stories. We have vibrant co-working spaces, and events where the community can meet and network.

Startup Queenstown Lakes has just launched the Mainland Angel Investors network - as a way of attracting more investment to the region - and to get locals to think about investing in local startups.

It’s time to get excited about entrepreneurialism - those who are thinking about starting a business need to be supported, because small businesses are the lifeblood of our local economy.

I want to see diversity in local business - it’s not just the realm of wealthy white men. It is important to encourage women to explore their business ideas, and set them up for success. I’m determined to see more female entrepreneurs in our region.

Entrepreneurship is for everyone - Project Phoenix is a great platform to launch your business idea - an opportunity to get feedback from the panel of experts. The barrier to entry has never been so low - now is the time to seize the opportunity.

I see a huge amount of fear holding people from reaching their full potential. Fear of failure is massive. However, Project Phoenix is a great way to test the waters before you leap - an opportunity to build and develop your business plan - a chance to win more than $50,000 of prizes which will propel your business idea into a reality.

If you’re on the fence about committing - I say just do it! What have you got to lose? Absolutely nothing.

I’m excited to be working with those of you who win the competition - and I hope to work with others who may not necessarily win, but have great ideas which my team can work with to take them to the next level.

Business is for everyone - and Startup Queenstown Lakes is here to help you turn your idea into reality.

If you would like to learn more about Startup Queenstown Lakes, visit www.startupqueenstownlakes.com

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