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The Influencers: Marian Johnson


Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

I’m sure all of you – alongside every other person in New Zealand (and the world!) – are looking forward to a long-deserved break from the turmoil of what has been a very difficult year.

There’s no guarantee that 2021 will be easier, but the best prescription will be recovery and rest with whānau and friends.

We work with the high growth entrepreneurs at our startup hub in the centre of the city, Te Ōhaka, where 20 or so high-growth startups are building ambitious and innovative dreams.

This means is we are surrounded by optimists. And – even in this hellish of all years – it has been incredible to see how these founders have dealt with the lemons that just kept coming.

To be an entrepreneur is to be a world-class optimist. But – to be a startup founder is to be a next level optimist.

A startup founder believes that, not only have they got an idea, their idea is so good the whole world will want it.

There’s huge risk in being a startup founder and being vulnerable to the inevitable and daily twists and turns of growing a business, never mind in a global pandemic.

We are so proud of the startup founders we’ve backed this year at Te Ōhaka alongside ChristchurchNZ, Ara, Wynn Williams, and EY. All 20 startup founders here have not only successfully picked their way through the minefield of 2020, they’ve knocked the year out of the park.

Meri Kirihimete all you dreamers and stargazers of Christchurch!


 

The Influencers: Marian Johnson


Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

For the last few weeks, the Ministry of Awesome team has been working hard alongside New World to launch this year’s FoodStarter competition.

We’re so excited about getting this underway because it is the ultimate opportunity for Kiwi food and beverage entrepreneurs to launch right into national success. And – if ever there was a year to give our locals a boost – 2020 is that year!

The competition is a search for New Zealand’s food and beverage product superstars.

There are two categories; existing New World small suppliers and brand new startups who have never had their product on New World’s shelves.

There’s also a supersized prize package that includes the priceless opportunity for the winners to range their products in all New Worlds throughout New Zealand, get incredible business support, product development, and a whole new brand look.

Supporting the scale up to a national competition, Foodstarter 2021 is welcoming two new partners, Foodstuffs North Island and Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (ATEED).

These newbies add their weight to founders Foodstuffs South Island and Ministry of Awesome, and existing partners Food Innovation Network, economic development agency ChristchurchNZ and brand design agency Strategy Creative.

Last year’s Foodstarter winner Ananda Simply Wholefoods are about to feel the full effect of winning the competition with their Italian Style Vegan Sausage debuting on all New World South Island shelves just in time for BBQ season.

Love your locals all the way team New Zealand and spread the FoodStarter word to anyone you think could benefit.


 

The Influencers: Marian Johnson


Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

For the last few days, I have been helping eight finalists of the HealthTech Supernode Challenge prepare their five-minute presentations for the upcoming final Demo Night where they will compete for $340,000 of in-kind and cash prizes.

It’s been pretty interesting work hearing about the healthtech innovations of our future and meeting the researchers, students, and startup founders who are responsible for them.

From virtual reality that could repair brain damage, to artificial intelligence that detects disease, 22 of the country’s most innovative and life changing healthcare innovations were whittled down to this final eight.

The whole point of the challenge is to accelerate the future of healthcare and cement Ōtautahi Christchurch as a hotbed of healthtech innovation in New Zealand.

Sponsored by ChristchurchNZ, KiwiNet, and Ryman Healthcare, the challenge aimed to identify commercially viable solutions that address real healthcare problems.

Why does Canterbury care about becoming a hotbed of health tech innovation?

At present, New Zealand’s current healthtech companies represent $1.9 billion revenue and the average wage – at $85,000 annually, is 40 percent higher than the average across other sectors.

We have proven capability in Christchurch to innovate in this sector and proudly headquarter healthtech powerhouses such as Aranz, Orion, and Taska Prosthetics to name a few.

Congratulations to the winners of the HealthTech Supernode Challenge. Their innovations could spawn the Cantabrian healthtech powerhouses of the future.


 

The Influencers: Marian Johnson


Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

With continuing concern around the impact of Covid-19 on the job market, there is no time like the present to consider entrepreneurship as the way forward.

This doesn’t just apply to people already active in the work force. Graduating students are also entering the hardest job market since the GFC.

Entrepreneurship will be a critical driver of our economic recovery. We will rely on new start-ups to innovate new ways of meeting our country’s needs, supporting our own populations, and providing new jobs.

As Cantabrians, we are extraordinarily lucky to have what is fast becoming a dynamic community of entrepreneurs, innovators, and start-ups.

If you are new to entrepreneurship, there are excellent online resources on the Ministry of Awesome website at ministryofawesome.com and at teohaka.co.nz.

There are also a number of monthly meetups worth getting along to including Canterbury Angels’ Pitch & Pizza events (canterburyangels.co.nz); Ministry of Awesome’s well known start-up meetup, Coffee & Jam (live in October on the Ara campus); and Start-up Breakfast Club powered by the team at MYOB.

All of these events are free and just require a simple online booking. All Ministry of Awesome events are livestreamed on Facebook as well so get on to our channel and learn.

Christchurch has the red carpet rolled out for high growth entrepreneurs and innovators and there’s no better time than now to go chase that dream.


 

The Influencers: Marian Johnson


Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

In case readers aren’t aware, Ministry of Awesome enables and supports high growth entrepreneurship and innovation in Christchurch and, increasingly, across New Zealand.

Why is this important? Because our city, our country and the world are undergoing a massive period of transition, stemming from the rapid uptake of technology, globalisation and the urgent requirement to live, work and produce sustainably.

With this rapid change comes incredible opportunity to disrupt and innovate. Enter the startup.

The biggest challenge Ministry of Awesome and other startup hubs in New Zealand have had is accessing a talent pipeline of potential startup founders. COVID has changed that with a national talent pipeline of more than 260,000 capable Kiwis suddenly unemployed, grounded from OEs, and newly returned.

Imagine if each of them became founders of high growth startups with global ambition? Our startup and innovation ecosystem would explode and future New Zealand would be assured of its world-first innovations and high value jobs.

We know that startup life is not for everyone. Many of us Kiwis are entrepreneurs but only a fraction of us are startup founders.

The difference between a small business and a startup is that the latter generally has an innovation at its heart and an ambition for rapid global growth.

While small businesses contribute some 30 percent of New Zealand’s GDP, it is startups that will have a more permanent impact on the future economic landscape of our country.

Yes, COVID has thrown us a lemon but there’s no time like the present to make startup lemonade.


 

The Influencers: Marian Johnson


 

Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

What a weird month April 2020 was. By the time you read this, we are hopefully emerged from our respective bubbles.

It’s hard to think of any event as universal as this experience and there won’t be a single Kiwi amongst us who hasn’t been affected in one way or another.

Yes – economic predictions are for stormy weather ahead but there are also some incredible opportunities peeking out from behind those clouds.

Firstly, anyone at any organisation that has managed to successfully work through April now knows that remote working is entirely possible and, for many, might even be more desirable.

Think of how that realisation – once the penny has fully dropped – could redefine our workforce, our property market, our reliance on fossil fuel, our energy consumption and more.

Secondly, think of how technology and innovation enabled us.

Telehealth, tracer apps, Zoom, instant messaging, video workouts, Google Drive, Microsoft Teams.

Technology and innovation will also enable our recovery.

Tech is now New Zealand’s second largest export and this is only poised to grow with a renewed appetite for innovation across every sector.

Lastly, think of the impact April’s personal musings will have on our desire to change up our lives.

Many will not return to the status quo either because it no longer exists or because the status quo no longer feels like the right fit.

Whether it’s a career change, pursuing your dream startup, or renouncing rampant consumerism, change can be good for any and all of us.


 

Marian Johnson

The Influencers: Marian Johnson


One of the best parts of my job is getting to meet talented entrepreneurs and helping them succeed. And that’s exactly what the whole team got to do last week at the Pressure Cooker final of FoodStarter 2019 – a national competition looking for the most innovative food and beverage startups in New Zealand.

 

Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

There were five talented startups who made the cut on Wednesday night from a total of 121 entries from all over New Zealand. The judging panel got to taste some seriously delicious vegan Kiwi Dip, the creamiest sheep’s milk yoghurt, flavourful vegan pastrami, dainty pre-biotic pudding, and the most amazing vegan sausage we have ever had the good fortune to experience. And – you guessed it – the winner was Ananda Simply Wholefoods with their spicy vegan sausage that was simply outstanding.

Locally sourced, plant-based, dairy and gluten free was definitely the theme of this year’s competition, nicely summed up by one of the competitors, Paul Seymour, whose presentation began with the statement ‘Veganism is the greatest social revolution in the history of the world!”

Ananda now goes on to win the $75,000 FoodStarter business incubation package whose main prize is the holy grail for most food startups – full distribution of their product across the Foodstuffs South Island retail network, courtesy of New World. They’ll also get a full brand review from Strategy Advertising, everything they need to scale to retail production from FoodSouth, and business mentorship and commercialisation how-to from our team at Ministry of Awesome.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Marian Johnson: The Influencers


If the theme of the last few months has been startup and innovation funding, then the theme of the last few weeks has been Celebration, with a capital “C”.

 

Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

This month the business community is celebrating twice, with two phenomenal black tie events: the Westpac Champion Awards and the Deloitte Fast 50 Awards. Both awards show a nominee list replete with companies using innovation as a clear differentiator in their competitive sector.

At the Westpac Champion Awards, 15 fantastic organisations won for their category with three of those winners clearly targeting a global market with ‘born in Canterbury’ entrepreneurship and innovation.

Supreme Award winners Ethique – a zero waste beauty brand – and Taska Prosthetics – creators of the world’s first waterproof prosthetic hand, are targeting the lucrative US market.

Meanwhile, Medsaland have already had some success there; it has just opened up new markets in the US and the UK. Medsalv, the winner of the Businesses for Good category, has only recently emerged from the UC’s Summer Startup programme with their business that drives environmental sustainability in healthcare through recycling single-use medical equipment.

The second glittery business awards show set in Christchurch this month was the Deloitte Fast 50 awards which showcases the 50 top fastest-growing companies in our region. The award celebration was held at the Isaac Theatre Royal and – once again – the nominees feature recent startups and clearly underline the role that innovation is playing in our changing business landscape.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Marian Johnson: The Influencers


July saw an impressive bump of activity in the city’s startup and innovation ecosystem, beginning with a visit from Minister Megan Woods at one of our city’s young tech companies, Orbica (orbica.co.nz).

 

Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

After checking out Orbica’s location-based data platform, Minister Woods took the opportunity to announce an important update to the government’s research and development Tax Incentive scheme.

The update puts early stage startups in a better position by providing for a limited form of refunds in the scheme’s first year as well as providing a wider definition of research and development that ensures its application to tech startups.

Over at the airport, Lightning Lab’s tourism accelerator kicked into full gear with several startup teams from across the country quickly building their sustainable tourism ventures and preparing for the Demo Day on 20 August at the James Hay Theatre.

Another large scale national accelerator programme running from Christchurch is the NZ Aerospace Challenge which is looking for breakthroughs in agritech inspired by aerospace technology and data available from satellites and UAVs. The incubation programme for the semifinalists is running now and we are looking forward to seeing how far they’ve come in a few months’ time.

And – don’t forget to book your tickets now for the upcoming Canterbury Tech Summit. This year’s lineup is awesome with former CEO of Facebook Australia and New Zealand as well as the co-founder of Sharesies and Nigel Latta sharing the mainstage. See you there.

 

 

 


 

Marian Johnson: The Influencers


In support of our Government’s undertaking to invest two percent of GDP into research and development (R&D) by 2027, some excellent initiatives have emerged.

 

Ministry of Awesome Chief Awesome Officer

These include: a $300 million ‘fund of funds’ that will help New Zealand start-ups grow and scale; the research and development tax incentive scheme designed to reward innovation; and a $106 million injection into ‘green’ innovation. These changes will help drive an increasingly productive New Zealand economy.

The New Zealand Venture Investment Fund is committed to plenty of ‘fund of funds’ activity in the South Island – a commitment that we are keen to encourage and support through ongoing introduction of potential ventures and ensuring a steady pipeline of new start-ups with strong capability and focus in our city’s ecosystem.

That start-up pipeline is so important for the future of our city. Ministry of Awesome and Young Enterprise Scheme are working hard on that pipeline at a high school level while the University of Canterbury (UC) and Ara are identifying capable future start-up founders and teams through their own entrepreneurship programmes.

We are very excited to be working alongside the Ministry of Primary Industries to identify up and coming high growth ventures through our Startup Activation Sessions at Te Ōhaka in Christchurch and Blinc Innovation at Lincoln.

Check out www.teohaka.co.nz and www.ministryofawesome.com for more information on these and future sessions.