Lightning Lab strikes twice for start-ups

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Wellington filmmaker and entrepreneur Rollo Wenlock raised $600,000 after going the first Lightning Lab.
Wellington filmmaker and entrepreneur Rollo Wenlock raised $600,000 after going the first Lightning Lab.

Boot camp accelerator programme Lightning Lab has announced it will run again next year, giving Kiwi digital start-ups the chance to launch into market.

Founded by Wellington business incubator Creative HQ, Lightning Lab held its first round earlier this year.

Nine teams went through the programme and four of those ended up attracting a combined $2.2 million dollars in investment.

Lightning Lab announced today that it would be running its second accelerator programme starting in March next year.

The ten digital start-ups accepted will each receive $18,000 of seed investment, office space, and intensive mentoring over a three-month period.

The aim of the programme, which culminates in a Dragons Den-style pitch to investors, is to help entrepreneurs build and launch their businesses into market.

Each Lightning Lab class is privately backed by a pool of investors who share a minority stake in the portfolio of accepted companies.

One of the investors in round one was Phil McCaw - an original Trade Me investor and founder of investment fund Movac - who said he was back for the 2014 round.

"I've been privileged to attend many start-up events around the world over the last 10 years. Hands down the Lighting Lab Demo Day was the best I've ever attended."

Founding investor Dave Moskovitz said the four companies which got investment at the end of the first Lab - LearnKo, Wipster, Expander and Publons - were all on excellent growth trajectories.

"Keep your eye on these companies because they are going to solidify Wellington's reputation as the start-up capital of Australasia," said Moskovitz.

Publons, founded by academics Daniel Johnston and Andrew Preston, attracted $350,000 in capital from more than a dozen investors.

The online platform allows academics and journal editors to share articles online, enabling the science community to review and discuss work.

Preston said Lightning Lab provided him and Johnston with the chance to focus full-time on developing a viable business plan for Publons.

"The other things I really thought was good was the ability to network with interesting and motivated people in the New Zealand tech community," he said.

Wipster, originally named WIP Videos, ended up attracting $600,000 in start-up funding and is already being used by people in 35 countries.

The cloud-based video sharing software was founded by Wellington filmmaker Rollo Wenlock, who said Wipster now had an international partner programme in the pipeline ahead of its first major product release in October.

LearnKo, which offers online English language lessons to people living in China, raised $750,000 at the end of Lightning Lab.

The fourth business to attract funding, Expander, secured investment of $500,000 and has started hiring.

Expander is a cloud-based tracking and analytics platform that gives manufacturers a weapon to fight back against counterfeits.

Three of the other start-ups have disbanded since the programme, another is seeking investment and the other has shifted its sights to the South American market.

Applications for Lightning Lab 2014 open in November and the programme runs from March to May. Investors for the class are being invited to make expressions of interest.

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