My Journey to The Land of The Long White Cloud - Oncoming General Partner to Hillfarrance VC
After months of waiting, I am glad to finally have this post out into the world - my journey to the Land of The Long White Cloud is truly underway.
Andrew and Brianna, at a special event in downtown Auckland, announcing Andrew as the new General Partner to Hillfarrance Venture Capital.
My name is Andrew Stewart Leahy, son of David and Barbara Leahy, and I am proud to announce that I am joining Hillfarrance VC in Auckland after six years of building Hawke Ventures in the United States. Previously, I founded two tech companies between 2007 and 2014 and operated at several other high-growth startups in product and marketing (Grooveshark, Mobile Roadie (exited), Fullscreen (exited).
So, who am I? My heritage and lineage are something I do take careful pride in. My father is an engineer turned software sales manager turned custom home builder. My mother, a wonderful singer and stay-at-home Mum, volunteered with special needs children my whole life. I most strongly identify with my Irish heritage and the challenges they faced pioneering in a new land - much like entrepreneurs face on a daily basis. My own ancestors travelled mostly from Ireland and Scotland, embarking on an inspiring yet difficult long journey by boat to quickly become underdogs in America. My fathers’ great great grandfather worked in coal mines in the Midwest, with my great-grandfather owning a grocery store. Grandfathers on both sides of my family joined the military services in the United States during World War II and the Korean War, serving in the South Pacific. All of my family backgrounds and experiences have shaped my understanding of hard work, migration and cultural exchanges.
As an American entrepreneur and musician turned VC, I bring over 18 years of experience building companies - focusing on where creativity and innovation meets culture and technological scale. Although a long-time businessman, music has always been at the core of my soul, as it is a universal language that helps people connect and come together. Through my time as a classically trained singer and a recording producer, I have gained an understanding of harmony, rhythm, and when things are flowing well or falling off track.
Andrew singing a tune, playing some piano.
My background in music and entrepreneurship allows me to assist startups in defining their product visions and customer targets and, afterwards, scale through my venture capital experience. However, VC is about more than just cash - it’s about shaping future culture through the products and companies built through planning and governance. Entrepreneur and investor-driven innovations, when crafted with the intention of improving people’s lives, can truly change the world for the better, as we’ve seen with companies like Instagram, Tesla, PayPal and Uber. This combination of capital and expertise is where we find harmony with entrepreneurs and company building.
I am truly excited to bring this breadth of experience to New Zealand and the Oceania region. Kiwi entrepreneurs are pioneering exciting innovations and companies with relatable, transportable New Zealand values like Xero, Rocket Lab, TradeMe and many more. Aside from meeting and asking a Kiwi to be my wife, what initially drew me to New Zealand was a business opportunity in this emerging frontier market, which continues to “surprise and delight” me with every entrepreneur I meet in the region. I’ve been continually impressed by New Zealand’s unique culture and impact on the global stage.
As the Māori whakataukī states:
He aha te mea nui o te ao
(What is the most important thing in the world?)
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
(It is the people, it is the people, it is the people).
I am coming to Aotearoa, New Zealand, because of its remarkable people, their ingenuity and resourcefulness. I am looking forward to beginning my understanding of the Te Ao Māori lens and how it has shaped the land and its people.
As a venture investor, I want to assist Kiwi entrepreneurs to scale their businesses globally while emphasizing sustainable practices and their Kiwi authenticity. I hope to strengthen business and tech relationships between the US and New Zealand through programming and ambassador initiatives. New Zealand’s natural beauty is beyond words and aligns with my upbringing, having grown up around bountiful lakes and trees in the Midwest near major industrial hubs like Detroit and academic hubs like Ann Arbor, home to my alma mater, The University of Michigan (Go Blue!). Here, there’s strong care for sustainability, ample drive and work ethic, and mutual respect for outdoor spaces comparable to places near and dear to my heart, like Queenstown.
Andrew in Waiheke Island, at his fiance’s multi-generational family home.
As a newcomer myself to New Zealand, I strive to impart entrepreneurial knowledge while maintaining a deep respect for indigenous cultures and deep ways of thinking. There is still so much for me to learn. As my Kiwi fiancé has introduced me to parts of the culture, I recognize there are so many facets I have yet to discover. In particular, I want to understand Māori culture and history, its teachings, and how it is woven into the tapestry of this country. In this first year, I am committed to listening, asking questions, and gaining perspective from those living here to comprehend what truly makes New Zealand thrive. My goal is to contribute to this community through socially-minded investing and knowledge transfer while maintaining cultural humility as a visitor in this land. I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn from - and hopefully, give back in some small way to - this special place.
I met Managing Partner and Founder of Hillfarrance, Rob Vickery, in 2016 when I was pitching my second technology startup. Our relationship has blossomed from Los Angeles to New Zealand, where we find ourselves today. Flash forward to 19 days, where I am to be joining my Irish and Scottish heritage with my Kiwi fiancé and family. This is a very special time in our lives as we say our marriage vows and embark on our epic journey down under, where we hope to raise our future family and generations to come.
We embark in October to Auckland, where we will be living on the North Shore. I am looking forward to meeting many more cultural and business leaders in the upcoming months.
Brianna’s family house in Oratia, where her grandfather operated a vineyard and winery.
Connect with me here!