For startups

Founder and Startup Support Programme

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 Accelerating the growth of quality high-impact startups through hands-on mentorship and training. 

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How and why does Callaghan Innovation support founders and startups?

Callaghan Innovation plays an important role as a catalyst for startups and entrepreneurs, by helping to fund startup support organisations, and grow the next generation of innovators. 

Callaghan Innovation’s Founder & Startup Programme is made up of a collection of startup and entrepreneurship initiatives, delivered by our partner organisations (see below). The aim is to build ‘entrepreneurial capability’ in aspiring entrepreneurs, accelerate the growth of high-quality startups through facilitating mentorship and training, and grow the number of tech startups in NZ.

The purpose of the support initiatives are to:

  • lift the productivity and performance of New Zealand startups
  • equip aspiring entrepreneurs with the mindset, skills and networks to succeed
  • create more and higher quality startups (including deep tech companies)
  • lift diversity in startups and entrepreneurship, especially Māori and female representation
  • increase the quality and scale of New Zealand’s startup support ecosystem. 

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Who is the support for?

The initiatives are geared at founders and/or early-stage ventures working to solve global problems. While not limited to sector type, participants are typically digital tech startups or deep tech startups. Ideally, businesses will already have a product or service in mind to develop. 

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How does the Founder & Startup Support Programme work?

The programme’s initiatives are delivered by our partner organisations, and offer entrepreneurial capability-building, startup development, and investment-readiness initiatives. 

Those initiatives include Accelerators, which are typically delivered over a three-month period, as well as other shorter-term initiatives, often for earlier-stage startups. Providers choose who participates in their initiatives. 

After participating in these initiatives founders should be in a stronger position to take the next steps to grow their business.


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Our Provider organisations:


Icehouse ventures logo

Icehouse Ventures is a venture capital firm that backs brave Kiwi founders building global companies. The Icehouse team invests from pre-seed to IPO and looks for founders with deep domain expertise who aspire to become global companies that can change an industry.


Creative HQ Logo

Creative HQ helps innovators around the world transform their ideas into real-world solutions. The School of Innovation offers hands-on innovation training and professional development workshops to help people approach projects in new ways, increase productivity and learn problem-solving skills. The Creative HQ Accelerator programme is a 3-month virtual programme open to  Aotearoa based startup founders looking to row quickly and scale globally.

Sprout Agritech logo

Sprout Agritech is New Zealand’s leading agritech accelerator and investor and has been working with agrifood tech startups since 2015. The Sprout Agritech Accelerator programme is a 12-week Accelerator aimed at agritech and foodtech entrepreneurs and businesses looking to turn IP into a scalable business. 


Ministry of Awesome Logo

The Ministry of Awesome is helping build Aotearoa's economy through founder-led innovation. They support ambitious, early-stage startup founders through three initiatives: Founder Catalyst, a six-month deep dive with four cohorts per year, Electrify Accelerator, a 12-week intensive accelerator once per year, and an Energy Accelerator, a 12-week acceleration programme once per year.


HTK Group logo

The HTK Group was established in 2015 to meet the growing demand for Māori-led professional services that understand the needs of Māori and indigenous organisations across the spectrum, from building startups and developing existing businesses to seeking investment opportunities. HTK offers a range of support services, capability-building programmes and innovation incubators focused on developing initiatives that create real impact. 

The Whakatū Accelerator is a 12-week founder driven startup accelerator programme designed to unleash the ambitions of Māori and Pacifica entrepreneurs. The accelerator will focus on Māori and Pacifica knowledge intensive businesses. The programme team will be based in Tāmaki Makaurau but will support founders across Aotearoa. 

Programming Māori & Pasifika Potential (PMP) is a digital technology accelerator for rangatahi Māori and Pacifica 16 - 19 years. In 2023, PMP will accelerate across Auckland, Christchurch, and Hawkes Bay, connecting 80 rangatahi into business innovation and digital technology.

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How can you sign up and how much does it cost?

The support initiatives that are delivered by our providers are free for startups and founders.

If you’re interested in joining or finding out more contact the provider organisations listed above, directly or email the startup support team  



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Friends of the programme

There is plenty of other support available for startups, beyond what is offered in the Founder & Startup Support Programme. Visit our Learning for Startups page for other Startup resources and find out more about the other programmes Callaghan Innovation offers

We also have plenty of friends in the startup ecosystem who can also offer you some fantastic support in your local area:


  • Northland
    The Orchard Business and Event Hub - a collaborative business and event space for entrepreneurs, startups and established business professionals in Northland.

  • Taranaki
    Startup Taranaki is a team of motivated volunteers passionate about growing a strong, innovative & inclusive startup scene in the region.

  • Tairāwhiti
    Startup Weekend Tairāwhiti is an annual weekend-long event where entrepreneurs, startup enthusiasts, developers, designers, marketers, product managers, passionate people and creative thinkers come together to share ideas, form teams, build products, and launch startups!

  • Dunedin
    Startup Dunedin - aims to support Dunedin-based startups by facilitating connections, capability, and community.

  • Queenstown
    Startup Queenstown Lakes - drives innovation in their region, by fostering a startup ecosystem.

  • Invercargill
    COIN South is an innovation network for Southland start-ups looking to scale beyond the region.

  • Tauranga
    Venture Centre provides the opportunity for you to learn and activate key entrepreneurial skills including how to explore, test, measure, iterate and validate ideas.

  • Manawatu
    The Factory - Turn your idea into a business with us or scale your start-up to be a business of tomorrow.

  • Hamilton
    Soda - We connect businesses of all sizes, industries and stages to the right advice, support, resources and funding, to accelerate business growth and drive innovation.

  • Auckland
    Outset Ventures - We are an early-stage investment fund and a physical space for technology incubation.

  • And more!

Contact us if you'd like your organisation added to this list.


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Founder Wellbeing

Getting an innovative new business up and running is no simple feat. Explore a range of services available to support founder wellbeing – many funded by Callaghan Innovation.

Read more about Founder Wellbeing



Updated: 14 August 2023