New funding gives SODA extra fizz

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Left to right: Nick Dromgool (Mystery Creek GM), Vanessa Clark (Acting CEO SODA Inc), and Steven Joyce (Minister for Economic Development).
Left to right: Nick Dromgool (Mystery Creek GM), Vanessa Clark (Acting CEO SODA Inc), and Steven Joyce (Minister for Economic Development).

Hamilton business incubator SODA Inc. is able to offer more support to start up businesses in the Waikato after securing three years of funding from Callaghan Innovation's Incubator Support Programme.

Group manager grants at Callaghan Innovation, Norman Evans, said the Incubator Support Programme aims to get more start-ups off the ground, which will in turn "generate employment growth, commercialise intellectual property, and grow emerging sectors".

SODA's chairman Graham Gaylard said the funding would go toward SODA's operational expenses such as administration, high quality mentors, services to high-growth and early-stage ventures, the development of investor networks, regional collaboration for early-stage company support and initiatives that build the Waikato's entrepreneurial ecosystem.

As a business incubator, SODA runs incubation programmes for start-up businesses with the aim of helping them to build a repeatable and scalable business model. SODA has a stringent process to find those with potential for high-growth.

SODA's business growth manager Petr Adamek said it had been a very busy six months, "We are thrilled to say that, this year, we have put over 170 founders, entrepreneurs and business leaders through workshops, have worked in-depth with over 60 start-ups, and have accepted four start-ups on to SODA's incubation programme. Our target at this stage is to work intensively with eight start-ups per year in our programmes so we are tracking well."

One of SODA's incubation successes is FindaTruckLoad, founded and launched by Andrew Bishop and Walter Ormsby at the end of 2011.

FindaTruckLoad graduated from the SODA Boost incubation programme in October 2013. Following 16 months of rapid growth, FindaTruckLoad's revenue tripled to just over $3 million. The company is continuing to grow rapidly and have now increased to seven staff.

Adamek said the start-ups that are most successful on SODA's incubation programme solve real problems that customers have.

"The start-ups we work with typically have a solution that can be scaled and offered globally; have begun or completed market validation; have a highly motivated founder or a team of founders; are early in their trading or close to revenues; or are entering a critical phase of development and early stage growth," Adamek said.

Callaghan Innovation's Incubator Support Programme offers support and funding to two types of business incubators: existing founder-focused incubator models such as SODA and the new technology-focused incubators.

SODA offers a variety of support services from entry-level workshops and events to intensive incubation and growth programmes.

- Hamilton News

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