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Staff Profile: Vanessa Ronan-Pearce, Manager

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21 May 2022

The University of Auckland Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) is dedicated to helping the University to develop savvy, entrepreneurial graduates to ensure New Zealand’s longer-term economic, social and environmental prosperity. Newly appointed CIE Manager Vanessa Ronan-Pearce has a portfolio that encompasses strategic projects as well as managing the Programmes and Unleash Space teams.

Q: Tell us a little about your background and how you ended up at CIE?

After transitioning from my first career in the performing arts to a corporate career, I searched to find a ‘real’ job that provided the opportunity to combine my creative flair, entrepreneurial nouse, marketing/communications skills and strategic insights. Many years in senior corporate roles across industries taught me strategy, teamwork, processes and scale, but no role ever felt like quite the right fit. 

In 2016 I was the 2nd hire at FinTech Australia and I discovered a community of kindred spirits, working with start-ups, and supporting founders and entrepreneurs at the cutting edge of technological innovation. I ended up working to uncover and craft founders’ stories, developing pitch decks for investors that ignite excitement and drive investment, building programmes that add value, lobbying to create the best policy environment for start-ups, developing and delivering incredible partnerships to drive engagement. I discovered the startup world is part improvisation, part creative agility, part strategy and part brilliant execution. 

So when the role with CIE came up it felt like the world of start-ups was calling me home. 

Q: What drew you to this role at CIE?

I’m relatively new to New Zealand, having moved here at the beginning of 2020, and during my first year here I was working remotely for Antler Australia (a global early-stage Venture Capital firm and startup generator). But, as the ability to travel back and forth to Australia quickly evaporated, I felt I needed a role on the ground in New Zealand. I spent the last 12 months working for The Salvation Army driving Corporate Partnerships, which was incredibly rewarding, but my true passion lies in promoting, developing and supporting start-ups, innovation, and entrepreneurial thinking. This role has a broad focus with the opportunity to influence and grow across many areas. I’m excited about the opportunities on the horizon. 

Q: What do you believe is the biggest value CIE offers to students and staff of the University?

CIE is perfectly positioned to inspire and support technology-enabled entrepreneurship. The centre facilitates engagement with University of Auckland students, staff and the public, helping them understand what is happening at the cutting edge of innovation and technology, and inspiring a few more people to take their first steps as entrepreneurs. Also supporting student-launched start-ups and nurturing them to grow and expand beyond the university surroundings and start to build sustainable, commercial businesses. 

I’m very passionate about New Zealand and Australian start-ups, and believe there are significant amounts of untapped talent here. In the words of Murray Hurps from UTS in Sydney “Universities are uniquely positioned to move the entrepreneurial needle in the right direction.” And I believe the University of Auckland has a significant opportunity to become the leading institution in New Zealand to harness, facilitate and enable the growth of entrepreneurial thinking and build the next wave of world-enhancing start-ups.

Q: When you’re not working, what would we find you doing?

I’ve been very fortunate to have a very diverse working life with my first career in the performing arts working as a musician and dancer so this is still a big love of mine. When not working with start-ups I will be at a dance class or at the piano or forcing friends to belt out a tune at a karaoke bar!

Q: If you could give some advice to your 18-year-old self, what would it be?

Learn to be kinder to yourself. Don’t wait until you are in your 40’s.

That the most important thing to focus on is accepting and loving yourself. Don’t get caught up in the opinions or expectations of others. Figure out what your passion is, what gives you joy, and what makes you feel fulfilled, and simply do that. 

Q: What are you most looking forward to in your role?

All of it! Getting to know the team, gaining a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities specific to the University of Auckland, working out how I can best add value, reconnecting with the startup ecosystem here, in Australia and globally, and showcasing New Zealand innovation to the world.

University of Auckland wins international award for entrepreneurship education
University of Auckland wins international award for entrepreneurship education

social media

21 May 2022

The University of Auckland Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) is dedicated to helping the University to develop savvy, entrepreneurial graduates to ensure New Zealand’s longer-term economic, social and environmental prosperity. Newly appointed CIE Manager Vanessa Ronan-Pearce has a portfolio that encompasses strategic projects as well as managing the Programmes and Unleash Space teams.

Q: Tell us a little about your background and how you ended up at CIE?

After transitioning from my first career in the performing arts to a corporate career, I searched to find a ‘real’ job that provided the opportunity to combine my creative flair, entrepreneurial nouse, marketing/communications skills and strategic insights. Many years in senior corporate roles across industries taught me strategy, teamwork, processes and scale, but no role ever felt like quite the right fit. 

In 2016 I was the 2nd hire at FinTech Australia and I discovered a community of kindred spirits, working with start-ups, and supporting founders and entrepreneurs at the cutting edge of technological innovation. I ended up working to uncover and craft founders’ stories, developing pitch decks for investors that ignite excitement and drive investment, building programmes that add value, lobbying to create the best policy environment for start-ups, developing and delivering incredible partnerships to drive engagement. I discovered the startup world is part improvisation, part creative agility, part strategy and part brilliant execution. 

So when the role with CIE came up it felt like the world of start-ups was calling me home. 

Q: What drew you to this role at CIE?

I’m relatively new to New Zealand, having moved here at the beginning of 2020, and during my first year here I was working remotely for Antler Australia (a global early-stage Venture Capital firm and startup generator). But, as the ability to travel back and forth to Australia quickly evaporated, I felt I needed a role on the ground in New Zealand. I spent the last 12 months working for The Salvation Army driving Corporate Partnerships, which was incredibly rewarding, but my true passion lies in promoting, developing and supporting start-ups, innovation, and entrepreneurial thinking. This role has a broad focus with the opportunity to influence and grow across many areas. I’m excited about the opportunities on the horizon. 

Q: What do you believe is the biggest value CIE offers to students and staff of the University?

CIE is perfectly positioned to inspire and support technology-enabled entrepreneurship. The centre facilitates engagement with University of Auckland students, staff and the public, helping them understand what is happening at the cutting edge of innovation and technology, and inspiring a few more people to take their first steps as entrepreneurs. Also supporting student-launched start-ups and nurturing them to grow and expand beyond the university surroundings and start to build sustainable, commercial businesses. 

I’m very passionate about New Zealand and Australian start-ups, and believe there are significant amounts of untapped talent here. In the words of Murray Hurps from UTS in Sydney “Universities are uniquely positioned to move the entrepreneurial needle in the right direction.” And I believe the University of Auckland has a significant opportunity to become the leading institution in New Zealand to harness, facilitate and enable the growth of entrepreneurial thinking and build the next wave of world-enhancing start-ups.

Q: When you’re not working, what would we find you doing?

I’ve been very fortunate to have a very diverse working life with my first career in the performing arts working as a musician and dancer so this is still a big love of mine. When not working with start-ups I will be at a dance class or at the piano or forcing friends to belt out a tune at a karaoke bar!

Q: If you could give some advice to your 18-year-old self, what would it be?

Learn to be kinder to yourself. Don’t wait until you are in your 40’s.

That the most important thing to focus on is accepting and loving yourself. Don’t get caught up in the opinions or expectations of others. Figure out what your passion is, what gives you joy, and what makes you feel fulfilled, and simply do that. 

Q: What are you most looking forward to in your role?

All of it! Getting to know the team, gaining a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities specific to the University of Auckland, working out how I can best add value, reconnecting with the startup ecosystem here, in Australia and globally, and showcasing New Zealand innovation to the world.


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09 923 4526

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