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Callaghan Innovation kickstarts Kiwi companies

Posted: 26 July 2017
Disappointed not to have made it through to the C-Prize finals? Our Start-up Manager, Elena Higgison gives you the low-down on other ways Callaghan Innovation can help.

Elena Higgison (centre) with some of the 2017 Flux Accelerator cohort


Now that we’ve selected our ten finalists for C-Prize 2017, our focus has shifted from identifying exciting, new wearable innovations, to supporting them through from project to product. But with so many fantastic entrants, and a limited number of finalist slots, we’ve unfortunately had to leave some great ideas behind. But that doesn’t need to be the end of your story, as Callaghan Innovation Startup Manager, Elena Higgison, explains….

It is often said that it takes a village to raise a successful startup, and in my experience, that is absolutely true. But New Zealand is a particularly vibrant village, thanks to the combination of our smallness and our collaborative spirit. I doubt there is anywhere better prepared to ride the next wave of technology entrepreneurship.

New Zealand recently participated in the Startup Genome Ranking Report for the first time – this is a global overview of those cities deemed to have strong startup ecosystems. That analysis showed that NZ’s startup ecosystem is still in the activation phase – an early stage of ecosystem maturity – but that we’re going in the right direction. Understanding how we fit into a global context was not only useful for those of us working in the sector; it also validated our plans to step up activities further.

But we’re keen to avoid the most common pitfall of the activation phase – fragmentation of activity. It’s fantastic to have lots of people engaged in the startup sector, but we need to be really cognisant of keeping it clear and easy-to-navigate, and avoid repeatedly reinventing the wheel. As NZ’s national innovation agency, our role really is that of the connector. As I see it, we should be the first port-of-call for any NZ startup – a place they can come to for help in navigating the who, what and where of startup 101.

This year’s C-Prize contest was a milestone in NZ’s wearable technology journey, and the variety of entrants demonstrated just how rich the pipeline of ideas is here. We are keen to bring as many of them to market as we possibly can. But if you didn’t make it to the final ten, you might be wondering what’s next. 

Well, I’ll start by saying that it doesn’t matter what stage you are at. If your idea is good, we can connect you to individuals and organisations that will help grow your business. If you’re still working on your idea or design, we can provide you with the tools you’ll need to navigate the (occasionally-stressful) initial market validation phase. If you already have a prototype, and have perhaps started on beta tests or sales, then we can connect you with an incubator to get you in front of investors. If an accelerator programme is more suitable, we can also advise you on the best one to apply for.

And it’s important to say that we can support you regardless of your location. Our incubator network is expanding reach into regions that haven’t previously been on the grid. And we have Regional Business Partner advisors in 14 regions that are the front door to business support, which includes Callaghan Innovation services, NZTE and Business Mentors, and well as specific regional programmes. We know that it takes resilience, determination and all those other ‘x-factor’ qualities to get an idea over the line, so, supporting founders and their team is a key priority of ours.

Take Spalk, for example. They came out of Auckland University – a group of friends who turned a hobby into a great business idea. Their technology allows sports enthusiasts to live-commentate their favourite events, and for sports broadcasters to offer multiple audio channels for different audience demographics. Spalk got their first break when they participated in the Vodafone Xone accelerator program, which we’re a partner in. They were then supported to develop their prototype further via an R&D project grant with our Regional Business Partner Network. They travelled to the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year as part of our NZ start-up delegation, where they met with some of the biggest names in sports broadcast. On arriving back, Spalk connected to the Icehouse, who helped them secure another round of investment. They’re doing fantastically, and we are delighted to have supported them along the way.

That’s where my passion really lies – in joining the dots between the people with ideas, and the networks that can help turn them into reality. So, to anyone who hasn’t made it through to the C-Prize finals, my advice is to keep your head up, keep working, and keep in touch. We’re here to help.

For more details, visit: https://www.startup.callaghaninnovation.govt.nz/ or email startup@callaghaninnovation.govt.nz

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