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Driven by passion and purpose, David Downs

David Downs joins Purposely to share his story. David is an optimist, driven by purpose who is dedicated to serving others.

Nominated for 'New Zealander of the Year' he is the ultimate multi-tasker and over achiever.

David is a cancer survivor who overcame the odds to beat a form of blood cancer that had affected his lymphatic system. A terminal prognosis from his doctor had given him only a year to live, however, ‘a series of lucky breaks’ gave him access to a drug trial in the USA. The treatment, revolutionary CAR T-cell therapy, saved his life . David has always talked freely about his cancer and wrote a column in a newspaper sharing details of his journey. It was this publicity that helped him to access the life-saving drug trial. He has written a book on his cancer (A Mild Touch of the Cancer - now a documentary film) and he spends many hours supporting and advocating for people with the disease.

We look back at the start of his career and how his Irish roots played a fundamental role in shaping his beliefs and values, as well as his career. Humour and performing played a significant role in his household growing up, he starting out as a comedian, then actor and eventually opened his own venue, The Comedy Club in Auckland.

David is now CEO of The New Zealand Story, an ambitious government-funded organisation marketing New Zealand to the world. Previously, 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.

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 $2 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 Random House.

David studied at Massey University, the University of Auckland and Stanford University, and regularly presents and gives talks on his cancer journey and on the power of positive thinking and optimism.


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