In welcoming Electrify Aotearoa delegates to Ōtautahi Christchurch last week, I was able to assure them that we had the best place for start-up entrepreneurs to come and to be inspired.
Everyone knows, our region is home to four major tertiary institutions and six of Aotearoa's seven Crown Research Institutes; that we have a strong innovation eco-system, along with the lion's share of the country's hi-tech and specialist manufacturing firms. But what they don't know is that we have something no-one else has, and that is a Ministry of Awesome.
No other place on the planet has a Ministry of Awesome.
I have told this story on international stages, and it always hits the spot – a Ministry of Awesome – everyone wants one too.
The Ministry of Awesome emerged from our earthquake crisis as many great new ideas always do in the wake of a crisis. Their original focus was to 'water the seeds of awesome' and they did that with a passion becoming a magnet for innovation and creativity – Kaila Colbin, Co-founder and Boma founder, former Mayor Vicki Buck, (who returned to serve the city as my Deputy Mayor), Sam Johnson, another emergent crisis leader from the Student Volunteer Army, and Sacha McMeeking, Te Rūnanga o Ngai Tahu.
Fast forward to today and the Ministry of Awesome stands at the forefront of start-up incubation, mentorship, and access to the investor networks, commercial partners, and professional services start-ups need to succeed. They operate four national accelerators and are active advocates for founders who want to build capability and impact the world.
Marian Johnson Chief (Awesome) Executive Officer kicked off the day with the salutary reminder that only one in five start-ups have women founders and Minister Megan Woods followed up with the maths on that – a more equitable spread of the talent pool would see a 160 per cent increase in the number of start-ups. Tapping this untapped talent would clearly 'electrify Aotearoa' the theme of the day.
The Electrify Accelerator was meant to be a big announcement at this event, and it would have been but for the pre-Covid disruption earlier this year. However, that means the accelerator is already up and running as the country's first ever whole ecosystem backed start-up accelerator made for women founders and backed by Aotearoa's leading investors, government, and start-up enablers.
Everyone taking part in this programme is focused on one success metric - the venture's growth and opportunity for success. The goal is to identify high calibre women-led start-up ventures.
So just a wee plug, if you are a woman founder of a start-up with huge ambition, then you are exactly who they are looking for! Head to www.electrifyaccelerator.co.nz to learn more.
At the conference I invited delegates to listen to the founders – the trailblazers – the entrepreneurs – no matter where they were on their journey, someone in the room had been there before them. And there are always ways to connect to their experience that will help start-up founders realise their dreams and aspirations.
The truth is, and this is the wider message, our city's innovation eco-system embraces start-ups and is a rich breeding ground for creativity and fresh ideas. We are ideally placed to take on the challenges we will all need to face – and we have room to grow.
I'm going to give you an example, Emily Blythe of Pyper Vision.
If I have a pet-hate when travelling, it's being fogged in or fogged out. For me, fog is the most infuriating reason to be stuck in an airport at the beginning or the end of a busy day.
Pyper Vision is an environmentally-friendly absorbent fog disrupter – it is dispersed by drone and clears runway fog so that pilots and air traffic controllers have the visibility required to operate safely.
For me that is a gamechanger – maybe it is a pet-hate but think of the productivity that is lost through fog.
Pyper has come through Te Ōhaka's incubation programme, recruited talent from Ara Institute of Canterbury and have been mentored by experts in the local aerospace industry – yes we have one of those too.
You couldn't ask for a better example of the ecosystem working together to grow smart ideas into commercially viable businesses.
When you think about the essentials for startups to succeed - access to talent, support, industry expertise, mentors, and proximity of other start-ups – you can see the strength of the approach we have adopted as a city and a region as we build our capacity to support innovation and creativity.
I know these delegates left Ōtautahi Christchurch, inspired, enriched and ready to take on the world; and maybe contemplating 'the power of awesome' in a supportive city, firmly focused on the future.