New Wellington business accelerator to focus on product startups

“Hutt City Council has a strong reputation for fostering the science and technology sector."

In a first for New Zealand, the Wellington region will host a business acceleration programme designed to give startups with a physical product the opportunity to grow their companies faster through the combination of seed funding, intensive mentoring and focused business and product development.

Creative HQ, the team behind the popular Lightning Lab digital accelerators, supported by Callaghan Innovation, Hutt City Council, and Grow Wellington is going to give the manufacturing sector a dose of start-up mojo.

Now a fixture in the world of software start-ups, accelerators take early stage businesses and equip them with the tools and advice to make the next step in their growth.

The product accelerator will provide eight startups an intensive course of business skills training, introductions to mentors and manufacturing industry leaders and connections to the investor community.

At the completion of the 12 week programme, the participants will present their business proposition at a ‘pitch-day’ event.

The two digital Lightning Labs in 2013 and 2014 saw a total of nine new startup companies receive $4.4 million in early stage ‘angel’ funding between them.

“Accelerator programmes are a proven method for giving small companies with great ideas the momentum they need to make the next step in growth” says Stefan Korn, CEO, Creative HQ, the founders of Lightning Lab.

“But what you hear in Silicon Valley is that “hardware is harder” so companies with a physical product find it even more difficult to start up successfully.

“This programme will use all our experience from the digital accelerators, but adapted and augmented to meet the challenges of hardware.

"We see a few good examples of these hardware programmes happening in the USA and UK, so it’s time that we gave that same opportunity to New Zealand.”

The accelerator pilot is currently scheduled to run from August to October 2015 and will target startups who are already producing in small numbers, or have a well-developed prototype. Applications to join the programme will likely open in May.

Ray Wallace, Mayor of Lower Hutt, is proud to be supporting the manufacturing sector and promoting new talent.

“Hutt City Council has a strong reputation for fostering the science and technology sector,” he adds.

“We support local business and encourage our young people to take up STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and keep New Zealand competitive.

“Supporting successful product design and manufacturing means supporting career options for graduates in their home town, which builds on our strong history of manufacturing in the Hutt Valley.”

Callaghan Innovation, the Government’s business innovation agency, is also supporting this project.

“As the lead organisation supporting the commercialisation of science and technology-led innovation in New Zealand, we are pleased to be involved in this inaugural hardware accelerator,” adds Cath Hopkin, Callaghan Innovation Business Acceleration Manager.

Read more: Grow Welly to launch strategy doc for high-tech manufacturing sector

“This programme also fits well with Callaghan’s commitment to the Lightning Lab digital programme, our support for businesses through the expanded nationwide business incubator network, and the R&D services, advice and funding we provide to the high value manufacturing and services sector.”

Grow Wellington CEO, Gerard Quinn, sees the program as playing to the region’s strengths.

“The Wellington region is home to two of this country’s best design schools, great engineering schools, and the Hutt Valley in particular punches well above its weight in terms of medium-high technology manufacturing,” he adds.

“We look forward to seeing innovative new manufacturing businesses grow and connect with the wider manufacturing base across the region.”

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