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City Support for Entrepreneurs and Innovators

City Support For Entrepreneurs and Innovators – An Improved Ecosystem

By: Simon Anderson - ChristchurchNZ Regional Growth Manager.


Christchurch has long been the birthplace of innovative and technology-based start-up companies, from Tait Electronics in the 1950’s to Jade in the 1990s and recent successes including Orbica and Seequent.

Many of these companies have gained success from taking existing technology and maximising their commercial potential by solving real world problems – evoking the spirt of the iconic Kiwi number 8 wire.

With significant economic uncertainty, we are seeing people across the city popping up with innovative new ideas for a new business or for business growth.

To support Christchurch’s recovery from the economic effects of Covid-19, ChristchurchNZ is helping these entrepreneurs – by giving them leg-up in creating new start-ups and growing existing businesses in Christchurch.

Despite Christchurch’s reputation as a start-up stronghold, in recent years we have lagged, rating 8th in New Zealand for the number of start-up businesses overall, and 6th for technology-based start-ups.

There is no shortage of ideas here, many of which emanate from our three strong Universities (Canterbury, Otago, Lincoln) and a renowned Vocational Technical Institute (Ara).

But the support to turn those ideas into actual businesses has not been as accessible as we’d like.

Now is very much the time to make support more available for the traditional innovators, those with great ideas, along with the 9,700 Cantabrians who have lost their job during the Covid-19 pandemic.

For us the question has been, how do we create the system to turn those great ideas into business reality and sustainable decent jobs?

On behalf of the city, ChristchurchNZ has recently invested in Canterbury’s existing founder incubators, Te Ōhaka at Ara Institute of Canterbury and ThincLab at the University of Canterbury."

On behalf of the city, ChristchurchNZ has recently invested in Canterbury’s existing founder incubators, Te Ōhaka at Ara Institute of Canterbury and ThincLab at the University of Canterbury.

This investment will both build the number of businesses they are able to support, and the depth of support as businesses are launched out of both. Each year at least 35 businesses will be provided the best chance of success through these partnerships.Examples of business growth within ThincLab include Kea Aerospace. Kea are developing a solar-powered, unmanned aircraft that’s capable of flying continuously in the stratosphere for months at a time to collect high-resolution aerial images. Kea are investor ready and raising capital as we speak. Another example in ThincLab is Zincovery, making the galvanised steel industry waste free, who won the $100k Callaghan C prize and are capital raising right now.

Examples from within Te Ōhaka include Partly, who are connecting the world’s automotive parts networks using technology and have just raised $1.7m. Another in Te Ōhaka is Komodo Monitr, a Cloud-based service that proactively detects student wellbeing issues. Or Nearbuy, a mobile app that shows users discounts and deals around them using geo-location.At Te Ōhaka and ThincLab, businesses receive a structured educational programme to develop their concept into a business or to further scale-up their business. The education ranges from topics such as investment, monetising your idea, intellectual property and market validation including foreign markets.

We want to provide a clear staircase to success through the incubators. Early stage businesses start at Te Ōhaka, when they move to ThincLab or elsewhere after 9 months such as a shared workspace or their own offices.

Likewise, at ThincLab, businesses receive dedicated business support to accelerate their business to the next level and move out on their own or to further specialised incubation.

Christchurch’s strong and coordinated incubator network will not only capitalise on the ideas we do have, it will also inspire others to start or grow their business and position Christchurch nationally and internationally as a great place to start and grow a business.

To ignite innovation and great business ideas, ChristchurchNZ runs a series of idea generators and innovation Challenges, in our Supernode sectors of High-Tech Services, Health Tech, Food, Fibre and Agritech and Aerospace and Future Transport.

Are you looking to grow an early stage technology focused business?
Contact Te Ōhaka at Ara.

Are you looking to grow your start-up into a thriving business?
Contact ThincLab at the University of Canterbury.

Are you looking for inspiration or to turn an idea into a startup?
Look online for ChristchurchNZ’s Challenges, with both Food, Fibre and Agritech and Unemployment to Self-Employment Challenges in market right now.