New Zealand’s first business accelerator for Māori entrepreneurs has
finished, and its graduates have goals much wider than just making profits.
The ventures range from:
· medicinal cannabis; to
· a digital tool for millennials to learn te reo Māori; and
· technology that can turn didymo into paper and plastic.
While many of us have just been trying to stay warm this winter,
some of our country’s most promising Māori entrepreneurs have been
dreaming up ways to make Aotearoa a better place.
Twenty entrepreneurs from around New Zealand have been working
alongside each other for the past four months on 10 ventures as part
of Kōkiri, the first business accelerator programme focused on
speeding up the development and representation of Māori founders.
The ventures range from medicinal cannabis, to a digital tool for
millennials to learn te reo Māori, and technology that can
turn the invasive algae didymo into paper and plastic.
And, in its first year, the government-backed accelerator has
finished with more than half of the companies on the programme
Kōkiri programme director Ian Musson says he is “thrilled” with the result.
“Māori entrepreneurs have long been looking for ways to
create socially sustainable businesses – and Kōkiri has helped them do
Musson says the first-of-its-kind accelerator is redefining how
entrepreneurs traditionally view success.
“Kōkiri is not just about attracting investment or growing a
business to a point where it can be sold for a profit.
“For our Māori founders, success can also mean nurturing a
sustainable business, solving social problems, bringing income into a
community or employing local people,” says Musson.
Take, for instance, young entrepreneur Logan Williams.
In 2016, the 22-year-old from Timaru noticed didymo growing in the
waters of the Tekapo River, and since then has sought to find a solution.
“Initially it was just about cleaning up our waterways, but then I
realised there was a business opportunity beneath the surface,” he says.
“I started experimenting with didymo and, after several years of
research and development, found it can be used to create biodegradable
plastics and fabrics.”
The innovative idea earned the University of Canterbury student a
spot on Kōkiri, making Williams the youngest entrepreneur to have
participated in the programme.
Williams is also known for his Polar Optics invention – contact
lenses that help sufferers of photosensitive epilepsy – and was one of
the 10 shortlisted nominees for the 2018 Young New Zealander of the
Kōkiri is funded through the Māori Innovation Fund He kai kei aku
ringa and is run by Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in partnership with
Callaghan Innovation and Creative HQ. It provides start-ups with
business mentoring, initial funding and connections to potential
investors during the Waikato-based programme.
Mr Musson says Kōkiri has been specifically designed to recognise
Māori have strong links to place, which has been a barrier to their
participation in mainstream accelerators.
“Instead of being based full-time at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, the
local entrepreneurs have remained in their regions and travelled in
once a month for intensive on-site sessions.
“That way they can carry on their whānau responsibilities,” he
After 16 weeks of participating in the accelerator, the Kōkiri
entrepreneurs pitched their ideas at a “showcase event” in Auckland
last month in the hope of attracting funding.
Five companies secured investment with the remaining waiting for
deals to close.
Te Wānanga o Aotearoa innovation development group director Aisha
Ross says there was an “overwhelming amount” of positive feedback to
the various ventures and the [showcase] evening itself.
“This related to the growth and development of the ventures, the
execution of the event, the Kōkiri Business Accelerator kaupapa, Te
Wānanga o Aotearoa and its partner organisations,” says Mr Ross.
The showcase, which was held at Air New Zealand’s headquarters on
June 15, attracted more than 120 guests – including Callaghan
Innovation chief executive officer Vic Crone and New Zealand First
deputy leader Fletcher Tabuteau – and marked the culmination of the
start-ups’ four-month participation in the accelerator programme.
Mr Musson hopes that, as this first round of Kōkiri was successful,
Callaghan Innovation and others will commit to funding a second
programme later this year.
“We’ve tried to make that inevitable,” he says.
The Kōkiri programme also has support from MYOB, Air New Zealand,
Spark, and more.
MYOB general manager Carolyn Luey says the company is delighted to
team up with Kōkiri to help Māori entrepreneurs get market and investment-ready.
“Aotearoa has shown its ability to grow start-ups that can foot it
with the world’s best, but the challenge is ensuring our local
entrepreneurs can build on that success.
“We see Kōkiri improving the breadth of our country’s start-up
sector at the same time as supporting Māori-based businesses and
entrepreneurs to scale up.
“The programme introduces more Māori worldviews into our start-up
communities and give Māori-based businesses the tools they need to succeed.”
Ms Luey says while it is difficult to measure the total economic
contribution of start-ups to New Zealand, the opportunities they
provide in terms of diversification, employment and long-term global
potential make them a vital part of our local economy.
“Our nation has no shortage of ideas – and entrepreneurial people
with the potential to make them really successful.
“There is an opportunity to introduce more Māori worldviews into our
start-up communities and give Māori-based businesses the tools they
need to succeed.
“However, we need to keep developing the conditions that nurture and
develop the start-ups coming through, and couple those ventures with
frameworks, like Kōkiri, that can help turn a good idea into a great
business,” she says.
Last year, more than 100 budding entrepreneurs across New Zealand
applied to take part in the programme, with just 10 businesses making
Kōkiri business accelerator – class of 2018
Moving Pros (Tauranga, Auckland)
A company that makes it easy to compare multiple moving quotes from
Prototyping the world’s first digital Interactive Sign Language
Game, a virtual game-based experience of learning sign language
through means of interaction and movements in front of digital screens.
Turns didymo, the pest algae, into a range of practical materials.
These high-quality materials are produced sustainably and strive to
improve the New Zealand environment.
Origins (Whangarei, Auckland)
A cloud-based platform that provides complete visibility of the of
the food and authentic products supply chain from supplier to end consumer.
Papa Taiao Earthcare (Wellington)
Papa Taiao works with rangatahi across Aotearoa and across Iwi to
guide them into a life focused on social, ecological, economic and
cultural regeneration through enterprise in rural and urban communities.
The Realness (Auckland)
The new way to find owner-operated providers across multiple sectors
without having to rely on review sites, advertising platforms, opinion
sites, magazines and mainstream media.
A mobile app that enables users to receive information about sites
of cultural significance using a custom mobile application and
Providing millennials with the digital tools and resources they need
to learn, practice and grow in te reo Māori.
Hikurangi Enterprises (Ruatoria)
Creating sustainable futures for the East Coast of New Zealand
through the development of a regional business growth hub to support
their mission of a healthy and wealthy whanau and whenua.
Akudos (Whangarei, Auckland)
Making people feel valued through a cloud-based awards management
system designed to streamline the awards process from beginning to end.