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MBIE unveils new digital accelerator to help seed startup companies in New Zealand
Posted on 19-Sep-2012 08:20 | Tags Filed under: News

A new programme backed by private investors and the Science and Innovation arm of MBIE will invest, inspire and accelerate New Zealand’s best digital entrepreneurs.

The Lightning Lab is the first digital accelerator programme in New Zealand and will supercharge ten digital startups within a network of 100 mentors and an intensive 12-week pathway to prove, build and launch their businesses into market.

Lightning Lab puts up to $18,000 of seed investment into elite teams of startup entrepreneurs and pushes them to make their business idea fly within three months, with support from a set of dedicated support technical and business interns, and mentorship from leading entrepreneurs and business experts from around New Zealand.

The programme is open to any team of startup founders across New Zealand and will run early 2013. Applications are open now, and close in December 2012. The top ten applicants will be selected by the founding investor group, all active and high-profile angel investors.

Founding investor Phil McCaw says fast tracking startup companies is critical.

“Having seen countless startup founders pitch their ideas, they all need cash and they all need serious sharpening up - in their understanding of the markets they're entering and having the fire in the belly and determination to succeed, fast. Lightning Lab allows us to pick ten great startup teams and ignite a fuse.

“It’s going to create a tangible pressure zone where, with resource and guidance, these companies can deliver something fantastic. Out on their own this can take years, which is what we see a lot of. We’re investing in companies we haven’t seen yet, so essentially what we are backing is the promise of the Lightning Lab programme. New Zealand needs more of this.”

A member of the Global Accelerator Network, which comprises 51 of the top accelerators globally, Lightning Lab puts startups in front of a world of knowledge, talent and connections to turn a 12-week sprint into a high-growth digital business with momentum and follow-on investment.

“My team and I have full confidence in the Lightning Lab and its management team,” said Patrick Riley, Executive Director of the Global Accelerator Network. “We know that this accelerator will be one of the best accelerators in the world. Using a proven model to propel entrepreneurs to success and with connections already made with the country’s top mentors and investors, Kiwis are lucky to have an accelerator of this calibre in their country.”

Trade Me is the first of several local cornerstone partners of Lightning Lab supporting New Zealand’s emerging digital talent.

Initiated by Wellington business incubator Creative HQ, Lightning Lab will leapfrog the best talent and ideas into an invested and supported fast-track path to market. The programme sees ten startups work full-time along the 12-week runway to Demo Day, where they pitch to a roomful of individuals from industry, the investment community and New Zealand’s innovation ecosystem. Demo Day is a central showcase to secure further capital for the next phase of growth.

Graham Smith, Acting Deputy Chief Executive Business Innovation and Investment at MBIE’s Science and Innovation Group says investing in Lightning Lab complements their support for initiatives such as Kiwi Landing Pad in San Francisco and sponsoring entrepreneurs to MIT in Boston.
“The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is supporting this initiative because we want to grow the number of innovation-based entrepreneurs in New Zealand. Lighting Lab will help fast track New Zealand’s entrepreneurial talent and give them better opportunities to succeed.”

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown recognises the proven value of the Capital’s close-knit digital community and culture and the synergies that come with it. "The Capital is an excellent location for digital start-ups. Ultra-fast Broadband, education and a collaborative culture of entrepreneurs make Wellington a place where creative digital talent wants to live, work and grow," she says.

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