Retail, Innovation and Manufacturing reporter for the NZ Herald

Lightning Lab offers first female focused intake

Following five successful accelerator programmes which have helped 45 start-ups launch into the business market, Lightning Lab is turning to its female entrepreneurs, with the launch of its first female founder accelerator, Lightning Lab XX, coinciding with International Women's Day on March 8.

The programme has been running for four years. However, the Wellington-based programme is usually restricted to tech only start-ups with this year the first to be focused exclusively on women. All nine teams involved, including a Chinese-based team, have at least one female in the leadership team.

Programme director Laura Reitel said the decision had been made to try to combat the specific barriers female founders faced.

"The programme is ultimately an experiment in how we can make a solid step towards boosting the ratio of female-founded ventures in New Zealand and further enriching the start-up ecosystem," Reitel said.

"The response we have received nationwide for the XX programme has been overwhelming. Our teams are coming from across New Zealand to be part of the programme, and in many ways are more established than the candidates that have entered into Lightning Lab programmes in past years."

The programme runs for three months with the aim of fast-tracking the companies involved. The mentorship-driven accelerator provides each team with $20,000 in seed funding as well as support from partners and sponsors.

Companies work fulltime on start-up ideas with help from mentors before pitching to a room of investors at the final Demo Day.

More than 100 mentors have signed up to back the programme, including Slingshot co-founder Annette Presley, Webstock co-founder Natasha Lampard, and Kiwibank founder Sam Knowles.

Presley said she had been impressed by the companies involved and was considering investing directly in several of them.

She said the programme was important in giving companies an opportunity to get advice from people like her that had already been through the school of hard knocks.

"The mentor programme is great," Presley said. "There was nothing like this in business when I started out so we learnt through making mistakes.

"These guys will too but obviously if you can decrease the number of them and the severity then the chances of success are going to be greater," she said.

"So ... hopefully the mentors and I can help and I'm looking forward to it."

The programme is running in tandem with Lightning Lab's Auckland digital programme which is only open to software-based start-ups.

Lightning Lab has worked with 109 entrepreneurs across 45 start-ups, that have collectively raised $8.1 million on Demo Day.


Ama Balm - an after-sun balm for adventurers. Featured by adventure stores and smothered on the faces of surfers, skiers, runners and yogis throughout New Zealand and Australia.

Geo AR Games - geospatial augmented reality gaming company that creates motion games which kids can play outside.

Little Yellow Bird - ethically manufactured customisable corporate uniform company. Clothing is sourced and manufactured in India. The factories there offer equal employment opportunities for disadvantaged women and profits are reinvested into community development projects by linking corporates with projects they care about.

Music Ecademy - online music school that teaches music theory and aural skills through a variety of interactive lessons, quizzes, and games. The curriculum is relevant for music schools and teachers in Australia, NZ and UK.

NoticeMATCH - records over 98 per cent of all deaths in New Zealand daily. It holds the largest record of published death notices in Australasia, and provides world-class death data matching software and identification services for any business type or size -- including those in the legal, insurance and banking industries.

PatternSnap - digital library of products for Interior Designers, providing a beautiful tool for searching samples and creating schemes.

Sipreme - science based powdered food that delivers nutrients the body needs for optimum health. Company will be exploring ways to expand outside of convenience food product to other segments (disaster relief, refugee crisis, elderly etc). Shelf life is 2 years.

Nearby - connects people to list and fulfill local jobs instantly. Delivering a new way to obtain financial independence through community engagement.

LiangMa - Sources ethically produced poultry products and creates end-to-end authentication and certification of food items from producer to consumer, driven by Chinese consumers' continuing demand for fresh and high-quality products.

Lightning lab

• First month - mentorship, deciding on target customers and creating a basic product.

• Second month - product building, customer targeting and starting to earn revenue.

• Third month - preparing for investment, pitch practice, Demo Day.

• Close of programme - closing investment and focus on growth.

- NZ Herald

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