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The Government has joined with Facebook billionaire Peter Thiel to create a $40 million venture capital fund aimed at getting Kiwi tech firms exporting, according to the NZ Herald.

While the cash is good news, industry insiders say the real prize is Thiel throwing his weight behind New Zealand.

Crown-owned New Zealand Venture Investment Fund (NZVIF) announced yesterday it had joined with Thiel’s local investment vehicle, Valar Ventures, to form the new fund.

Thiel himself has sunk $15 million into the new fund, while NZVIF and other private investors put in $20 million and $5 million respectively.

Although NZVIF has fronted half the money, Valar Ventures will manage the fund’s investment decisions.

Thiel, who co-founded e-commerce service PayPal and was an early investor in Facebook, said yesterday New Zealand had attractive investment propositions.

“Over the last several years, New Zealand has been nurturing more early-stage tech companies. I’m delighted that the Government’s [NZVIF] is partnering with Valar Ventures to enable more of them to expand and compete on the global level,” the Californian resident said.

Andy Hamilton, chief executive of business incubator The Icehouse, said Thiel’s establishment of a New Zealand-based fund was a “significant milestone” for the local technology industry.

“Why this is so good, without the co-investment side, is because you have an incredibly high-profile international investor choosing to invest here,” Hamilton said.

“In most places in America they say ‘you’ve got to get here and we’ll look at you’. Now what Thiel has said is that he’s prepared to invest in companies in New Zealand to help them get up to America.”

NZVIF chief executive Franceska Banga said Thiel would provide the fund with important links to the US market.

“Peter Thiel is one of the world’s most successful technology investors. He and his team bring a considerable track record of expertise and resources. For young New Zealand technology companies, Valar Ventures’ presence in the New Zealand market is a significant opportunity,” she said. More at NZ Herald

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