New Zealand's first business accelerator for Māori entrepreneurs has finished and its graduates have goals much wider than just making profits.

The ventures for 2018 ranged from medicinal cannabis, to a process turning the environmentally damaging didymo into fabric, and a digital tool for millennials learning te reo Māori.

While many people have just been trying to stay warm this winter, some of this country's most promising Māori entrepreneurs have been dreaming up ways to make Aotearoa a better place.

Twenty entrepreneurs from around New Zealand have been working alongside each other for the past four months on 10 ventures as part of Kōkiri, the first business accelerator programme focused on speeding up the development and representation of Māori founders.


In its first year, the government-backed accelerator has finished with more than half of the 10 companies on the programme attracting investment.

Kōkiri programme director Ian Musson said he was "thrilled" with the result.

"Māori entrepreneurs have long been looking for ways to create socially sustainable businesses – and Kōkiri has helped them to do exactly that. "

Musson said the accelerator was redefining how entrepreneurs traditionally viewed success.

"Kōkiri is not just about attracting investment or growing a business to a point where it can be sold for a profit," Musson said.

"For our Māori founders, success can also be viewed as nurturing a sustainable business, solving social problems, bringing income into a community or employing local people."

Kōkiri is funded through the Māori Innovation Fund He kai kei aku ringa and is run by Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, in partnership with Callaghan Innovation and Creative HQ.

Musson said Kōkiri was specifically designed to recognise Māori had strong links to place, which had been a barrier to their participation in mainstream accelerators.


"Instead of being based full-time at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, the local entrepreneurs have remained in their regions and travelled in once a month for intensive on-site sessions.

"That way they can carry on their whanau responsibilities," he says.

After 16 weeks of participating in the accelerator, the Kōkiri entrepreneurs pitched their ideas at a "showcase event" in Auckland last month in the hope of attracting ongoing support.

Five companies secured investment, with the remaining waiting for deals to close.

Musson hoped that, as this first round of Kōkiri was successful, Callaghan Innovation and others would commit to funding the second programme later this year.

"We've tried to make that inevitable," he said.

Last year, more than 100 budding entrepreneurs across New Zealand applied to take part in the programme, with just 10 making the cut.

For more information or to apply to take part visit