Edmund Hillary Fellowship: supporting world-changing ventures

by Evan Veza, BNZ’s Head of International Business Development

In a quiet valley in Upper Hutt, a select group of global entrepreneurs and investors have spent the past week together, connecting and sharing their plans to change the world.

Front and centre will be the second cohort to join the Edmund Hillary Fellowship (EHF) – a New Zealand-based programme that’s aiming to build a global community of people creating ventures with positive social and environmental impact.

A few examples from this latest cohort will give you an idea of the people and ventures involved: it includes a couple of Kiwi entrepreneurs focused on the edible insect market; two Fellows from Azerbaijan with a venture aimed at empowering women entrepreneurs in Eastern Europe; and a US-based investor whose CV includes turning the struggling eHow into the most popular ‘how-to’ site on the internet.

Launched in early 2017, EHF was founded by CEO Yoseph Ayele and brothers Brian and Matthew Monahan – all successful offshore entrepreneurs who are now permanent residents in New Zealand. The trio saw New Zealand – with its focus on the environment, and a small and nimble business culture and population – as a great place for other global entrepreneurs to grow businesses with strong social and environmental drivers. So they set up EHF as a mechanism to help make that happen.

Each EHF cohort is welcomed to the programme at New Frontiers – a three-day event held twice yearly that brings together innovative entrepreneurs from New Zealand and offshore, and will this month be held at Trentham Racecourse. Fellows spent most of last week being inducted and welcomed to New Zealand out at the Monahan brothers’ rural Upper Hutt property.

Around 80 percent of each EHF cohort hails from overseas. Through the programme they can access Immigration New Zealand’s Global Impact Visa, created specifically to attract entrepreneurs and investors focused on building ventures with world-changing potential, and providing them a pathway to permanent residency. In turn, New Zealand gains the many benefits of connecting to the Fellows’ networks and incubating their innovative ventures.

BNZ has been engaged with EHF from its inception, through the bank’s long-standing relationship with Immigration New Zealand. The bank is now an EHF Catalyst, delivering banking support and services to Fellows, as well as helping them integrate into New Zealand by opening up our local networks.

However the relationship goes deeper and wider. As an organisation committed to sustainability, supporting our communities and Māori economic development, our relationship is based on aligned values and a shared commitment to enable a higher achieving New Zealand through entrepreneurship and innovation. EHF brings global networks of entrepreneurial and investment leaders, with BNZ helping NZ Inc capture their value. And as operators in an industry undergoing transformational change, BNZ’s people will be able to learn from the innovative and different ways of thinking these global thought leaders are bringing to our shores.

An EHF Working Group, for example, recently published a white paper on the opportunity blockchain presents to New Zealand, and how our country might lead the way in regulation in this area. One of its authors, Fred Ehrsam, is co-founder of one of the world’s leading Bitcoin exchanges, Coinbase, and an inaugural EHF Fellow.

The white paper explores ideas that are particularly relevant to the future of our business in the financial services industry. However it also outlines opportunities for New Zealand more broadly to benefit from blockchain on a range of levels – economic, social and environmental – and as another way our country could blaze a trail on the world stage.

EHF Fellows, and others in the EHF community, gather at New Frontiers from 8 April.