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A remarkable story of beating the odds

You can’t always choose your room, but you can choose your attitude.

David Downs is a business leader, public servant, consultant, board director, speaker - and genetically modified organism.

David is currently the CEO of the New Zealand Story Group - an organisation who helps New Zealand to tell our story to the world, building the brand of Aotearoa on the global stage. Prior to this, David was a General Manager at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) for 10 years, working with the Technology sector to help fast growing tech companies grow internationally, and leading a cross-government project for the Agritech sector. David has held various roles at NZTE, in the Services, Customer and Corporate Services teams, and currently consults to NZTE and MBIE on Technology in NZ.

In 2021, David was appointed to the Board of BEIA (Business Events Industry Aotearoa).

At the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown, David co-founded - a not-for-profit initiative to help bars, cafes and other small businesses sell vouchers. It quickly became a huge hit and to date has sold over $1.5 million in vouchers for over 2500 small businesses. All the money goes to the businesses. Based on that experience, he published a book about the innovation that happened during covid-19 in New Zealand, ’Silver Linings’, published by Penguin Randomhouse.

David spent 13 years at Microsoft, in New Zealand and as regional director for South East Asia, and he has set up and run successful businesses of his own. David is a published author on New Zealand Innovation, with two highly successful books - ‘No.8 Re-wired’, and ‘No.8 Recharged’.

In January 2017 David was facing a terminal diagnosis and given less than a year to live, but managed to beat cancer in a remarkable series of lucky breaks. After a year of chemotherapy, and staring a terminal diagnosis in the face, David got a literal lifeline, with the chance to get on to a clinical trial in the USA. Now a genetically modified cancer-killing machine, David’s reflecting on the lucky series of events that saw him beat cancer, and on his new approach to life.

Down with Cancer helps raise funds to make the revolutionary CAR T-cell therapy available in New Zealand for those who need it.
He’s an ex-comedian, TV and Radio actor, semi-finalist for New Zealander of the Year, and a genetically modified optimist who documented his battle with cancer in the book A Mild Touch of the Cancer.

David regularly presents and gives talks on his cancer journey and on the power of positive thinking and optimism.

Talking Points

Personal resilience - surviving terminal cancer

David had a public battle with terminal cancer and ultimately won, thanks to luck, science and personal resilience.

New Zealand innovation

David is an expert in the history of NZ innovation with 4 books on the topic - from NZs earliest innovations, to today.

Silver Linings - The positive stories and lessons from Covid-19 in NZ

International business - how to really screw it up

Bad board meetings and how to avoid them

NZ’s place in the world of Agritech

He was hilarious! So engaging and really gave off such a strong message to the power of positivity. Amazing story, amazing guy. Chartered Accountants ANZ

David is an extremely engaging speaker. He offered insight into his own personal experience, the practical and emotional skills he used while he and his family were going through this time and offered hope and a process as to how he managed to live his life to be able to stand in front of us today. David is an amazing man with an inspiring story.

NZ Groundspread Fertiliser Association

David was brilliant to work with!! All our guests commented on his speech being the highlight

Moloney Moloney

Thought he did well, appreciated his honesty and the personalized twist, as well as understanding the nature of our team and throwing in the awesome T-cell display at the end. Just what our team needed to start thinking about mindset!

London Green
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